Thursday, March 15, 2018

Series Review: Mark of the Thief Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Do you have certain time periods or places that you avoid in your reading?  Settings that, for whatever reason, just don't really appeal to you?  I for sure do.  Ancient Rome being one of them, I was naturally reluctant to give Jennifer A. Nielsen's middle grade Mark of the Thief series a go.  If it hadn't been for a book award gig I'm involved in, I probably would not have bothered.  In an effort to do a thorough judging job, however, I read not just the latest and greatest book in the trilogy, but also the first two.  And you know what?  Overall, I enjoyed them.

The first installment, Mark of the Thief, introduces Nicolas "Nic" Cava, a slave who works in the mines south of Rome.  With his fevered desire for freedom, he's never been a favorite of the cruel overseer.  Thus, Nic is chosen to risk his life by entering a cursed cavern in search of a vast treasure rumored to belong to Julius Caesar.  What he discovers is wealth beyond his wildest imagination.  Despite a warning not to remove anything, Nic takes a bulla—an amulet that's been infused with the power of the gods.  With its magic thrumming through his veins, Nic finally has the power to free himself as well as his mother and sister.

Escape won't be that easy, however.  The bulla's powers are so unimaginably strong that every Roman wants them for himself.  With a rebellion brewing in the city, the amulet could be used to save Rome—or destroy it.  With traitors and villains on both sides, Nic doesn't know who to trust.  He only knows he must keep the bulla out of the wrong hands.  The more destruction he causes while trying to harness the object's power, however, the more Nic wonders if his hands are the most wrong of all ...  

With lots of action to keep readers immersed, Mark of the Thief offers an exciting story that moves along at a fast clip.  Plot twists are fairly predictable as are the characters, who definitely need more development.  Still, Nic is an admirable hero whose loyalty, honor, and compassion keep him root-worthy.  While I didn't love the novel, I liked it enough to want to know what would happen in the next book.

Grade: 


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Nic Calva is no longer a slave, but he's still very much trapped.  With the power of the gods running through his veins, he's become a pawn in the war over Rome.  The Praetors, a secretive group determined to possess Nic's magical amulet, won't leave him alone.  With his mother in their possession, Nic can't afford to ignore their threats.  Finally, he makes them an offer they can't refuse—Nic will enter a chariot race, competing against the area's best riders and using no magic.  If he wins, the Praetors release his mother and let Nic go free.  If he loses, he will give up the powerful amulet so tenaciously sought after by the Praetors.  With very little experience driving a chariot, Nic has everything to lose.  Even with loyal friends by his side, it's a race that can't be won, especially since he insists on playing fair, a vow his competitors certainly won't honor.  Does Nic have even a sliver of a chance?  Or will he lose everything on a foolish gamble he never should have taken?

As in its predecessor, Rise of the Wolf races along with plenty of life-or-death action and adventure to keep readers turning pages.  With non-stop derring-do, this installment is by far my favorite of the three.  It still lacks in character development, but the story kept me enraptured.  I cared about the race's outcome, even though I knew how it would end.  By the end of the book, I wanted more and was more than ready to see what would happen in the series finale.

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Rome's major players are salivating over three mystical objects—Julius Caesar's bulla, the Malice of Mars, and the Jupiter Stone.  With only certain people able to harness the items' power, Nic continues to be a pawn, pulled this way and that by a host of dangerous enemies.  Not all of which are human.  Exhausted by the constant battle that has become his life, Nic wants only to end it.  He'll do what he must to save the Empire, keep those he loves safe, and secure his own freedom.  Even if it means sacrificing his own life.  
After binge-reading the first two books in the series, I wanted to know what would happen in Wrath of the Storm, the final installment.  Despite the story having lots of action, though, I found myself growing bored as the tale just seemed redundant with the same ole capture, escape, threats to loved ones, surrender patterns.  With nothing really original happening, I just wanted to get to the end.  Would I have felt this way if I hadn't read the series so fast?  Maybe not.  Still.  
Overall, I liked this trilogy more than I thought I would, but I didn't love it.  It boasts lots of action, which will keep readers engrossed.  While the characters are engaging enough, they definitely need more development as, in the end, they remain pretty clich√© and personality-less.  None of them experiences much growth.  The story also felt repetitious toward the end, which made it seem dull when it should have been most exciting.  In the end, I enjoyed the trilogy, but didn't find it overly rave-worthy. 

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Wrath of the Storm from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!

4 comments:

  1. At least it got you reading about something you don’t usually enjoy? Too bad the last book was redundant. Sometimes I feel like authors are pushed into writing a series rather than a stand-a-lone and this is the result.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's true. It was definitely a different genre for me. And I really do wonder if the third book felt so redundant because I binge-read the series so quickly. Who knows?

      Delete
  2. I'm glad you liked the trilogy, even if they weren't your favorite. I want to read them. I think I'll like them more than you did. I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You probably would. MG magic/fantasy books really aren't my thing.

      Delete

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