Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Sarah Prineas's The Magic Thief


What can I say? The short version of this review is: I loved it. No...I love it. This is the kind of book I strive to write: simply beautiful, with a clever plot and cleverer characters and, at it's heart: true.

This book is one that I was hesitant to pick up. I thought the cover looked a little childish, and I was uncertain that this book with wizards and orphans would stand out from the crowd.

Boy was I wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This book has an inventive of a plot as the book it will inevitably be compared to: Harry Potter. But don't get tripped up by the wizards and orphans: this book is unique and different from nearly every one on the market.

And don't forget, be sure to check out my interview with Sarah Prineas if you've not already.

Are you interested yet? Keep reading for a chance to win your own copy!!

Five sentence summary: Conn's living on the streets as a thief after being orphaned. Then he steals from a wizard--and when what he steals doesn't kill him, the wizard takes him on as an apprentice. Conn's skills as a thief (as well as some natural magic tendencies) aid him on his quest for a magical stone that will hone his abilities. And he's going to need those abilities--he and the wizard are on the path to finding whoever it is that's stealing magic from the land, even if the thief is much closer to home than Conn would like.

So what can we, as writers, learn from this book?

[as always, highlight for spoilers]

1. Voice. If any book shows voice as well as this one does, I don't know it. Conn jumps off the page at every turn. As a narrator, his voice is infectious. The story is clearly interpreted through his narrative filter, and that enriches the story even more. If you need more evidence, consider this: when I finished reading, I found myself using Conn's terms of phrase. I've actually had to eliminate phrases such as "clear as clear" from my own novel because his voice bled into my own!

2. Intrigue your audience. Sarah added a code to the wizard Nevery's coorespondence. If there's one thing I know, it's that kids love codes. And even better: when Sarah signs copies of her book, she adds code! (Do you want a signed copy for yourself? You can get them here.) The addition of the code was engaging, and certainly added a new layer of entertainment to the story itself.

But--and this is important--it wasn't integral to the story. You can read the whole book without the code. Unlike Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl, which had an implied pressure to crack the code and read it, the code in this novel is just a small aside scattered sparingly throughout the book, like easter eggs in a movie. It encouraged--but did not require--you to go deeper into the novel.

3. New perspectives. When I first saw that Conn's chapters were separated by letters and journal entries by Nevery, I wasn't sure that it would work. Actually, I felt pretty indifferent to them throughout...until Nevery started to doubt Conn at the end. That was the point where seeing Nevery's side made the whole story a bit more tragic and poignant. I don't think this would work with every novel--but it absolutely worked in this novel. It not only broke up Conn's strong voice, but added dimension to the story. Furthermore, it prevented the "As you know, Bob Conn," dialog.

Quibbles: Very few. As I mentioned above, I'm not a big fan of the cover--it makes the book feel a bit too juvenile for me (but considering it's a book for juveniles, maybe my opinion shouldn't count on that one). My only other quibble...I felt that the revelation of the bad guy/evil plot was a littl obvious. Not to the point where it wasn't enjoyable, but I did guess the ending.

Final word: If you're a MG writer, read this book. If you like fantasy, read this book. You know what? Just read this book.

ANNOUNCEMENT: So, now that you know all about the book, don't ya want a copy? OK! After I bought a signed copy from here, I found myself with a spare first edition hard cover of the book. What to do? Give it to you! If you'd like to get my spare copy of the book, just comment here with what recent MG or YA fantasy you're most excited about reading or that you most want to read right now. If you commented on the original interview that I posted (and linked to above), then you get an extra entry!

Contest ends June 15.
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