The Thief Lord Review

Summary the thief lord

In Cornelia Funke’s children’s novel The Thief Lord, mysteries and legends come to life. 

Venice, Italy, a place of amazing structures, fantastical legends, and secrets waiting to be unlocked.  Beneath the watery city streets are unknown canals and secret passages concealing that which does not wish to be found.  It is the perfect place to hide…

Prosper and his younger brother Bo, orphaned after their mother’s passing, escape to this mystical city after running away from their horrible aunt and uncle.

Here they are taking under the wing of a young boy called the thief lord who leads a band of other runaways that steal in order to survive.  In an old boarded up theatre with their new friends they make their home.

But just as Prosper and Bo start to feel safe their aunt and uncle arrive in Venice looking for the brothers in the hopes of taking Bo as their own and sending Prosper to an orphanage.

If that weren’t bad enough a secret that the thief lord has been keeping from everyone comes to light creating a great rift between the band just as they are hired by an old Conte for their toughest job yet.  The Conte wants them to steal a wing.  A lion’s wing.

Gaining new allies in the form of the private eye hired to find them and a local photographer, the brothers will discover an ancient secret of Venice that may aid them in escaping their aunt and uncle…or pull them apart forever.

Thoughts on The Thief Lord

This book shows just as much love for the characters as it does for the city the story takes place in.  Venice itself is a character.  Like a friend it hides the brothers and their friends while also concealing many mysteries and dangers in its watery depths.

This is the book that made me fall in love with Venice.  With the immense description of the city’s buildings, back alleys, and secret canals I felt as though I had seen Venice with my own eyes.

With all its hidden passages and legends of magic around every corner Venice is truly the best setting for a story of runaways, and Prosper and Bo are the kind of runaways you route for.

I loved them immediately.  At six Bo couldn’t be more adorable, and even at twelve Prosper seems so grown up.  My heart melt at how well he takes care of his younger brother and how close they are.

Their relationship is present at every part of the story and it really makes you hate their aunt and uncle.  They are quite vile people, which is wonderful because then they make the perfect villains.

The other members of our band of runaways include Hornet, one tough girl who refuses to tell anyone her real name, Riccio, a young boy who dreams of being as a good a thief as their leader, and Mosca, a boy with dreams of getting a boat and finding his father who disappeared years ago.

And of course there is their leader Scipio also known as the thief lord.  A very charismatic teenager who really does care about looking after his friends, even though it is his secret that nearly tears them apart.

I won’t say what that secret is (you’ll have to read the book to find out) but it was timed perfectly in the story with the theft of the wing, and it really added a lot of emotional turmoil to people’s lives that were already difficult.

For anyone who thinks children don’t feel pain as much as adults just read Riccio’s reaction to the betrayal he feels when he finds out Scipio’s secret.

The private investigator Victor hired by Prosper’s aunt and uncle to find them and the photographer Ida were excellent allies to the children.

Ida gives them help and insight about the wing they are meant to steal, and Victor ends up aiding the brothers (because he can’t stand their aunt and uncle either).

Of course everything culminates with the finding of the wing and the discovery of what it is really used for.  Something that brings Prosper and Scipio together as it could give them something they both want.  But then the question becomes for both of them is it really what they need?

This story is one of friendship and love.  How family is more than just those that are related to you, and how children oftentimes understand things better than adults.

You’ll cheer for Prosper and Bo, and grip the edge of your seat as they and their friends are taken on a magical journey in an already magical city.  And at the end of it all reunite with their friends as they all find exactly what they need: a family where they are loved.

Other Details

My Recommendation: Ok so I guess this is officially a children’s book.  I didn’t know that, not that I care.  It’s definitely suited for children, though probably at least eight or nine and up.  Again my “and up” includes all ages all the way to one hundred and beyond.  Parents read with your kids!

Author: Cornelia Funke

Genre(s): fantasy, adventure

Pages: 349

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

First Released (in English; originally written in German): 2001


Snow-Walker Review

Summary snow-walker

In the land of the Jarlshold things were often cold, but ever since Gudrun, the Snow-walker, arrived from the edge of the world things have become freezing.

A soldier of Jarlshold married her after she bewitched him with her beauty, but it is her sorcery that she uses to control the people of the Jarlshold.  Before long Gudrun has convinced her new husband to steal the throne away from the rightful ruler and become the Jarl himself.  But it is Gudrun who has power here. The people of the Jarlshold live in fear.  Gudrun seems to have no weaknesses…or does she?

A young girl named Jessa and her cousin Thorkil are banished by Gudrun after their fathers are killed in an attempt to put the rightful ruler back on the throne. They are sent to Thrasirhall a ruin in the very far north where it is said another was banished years ago.  Gudrun’s son Kari.  Not much is known about Gudrun’s son, but many speak of him in whispers.  Is he like his mother?  Is he truly a monster?

Jessa and Thorkil had no choice but to find out, but when they arrive at Thrasirhall a surprise awaits them.  Kari turns out to be different than anyone thought.  With time running out for the Jarlshold and Gudrun closing in Jessa must rely on someone she never imagined to help save her home.  Kari is far more important than anyone thought he was.  In fact he may be the key to saving the Jarlshold from the Snow-walker.

Thoughts on Snow-Walker

So here’s the thing when I first got this book I didn’t realize that it was actually an omnibus version of a three book series.  I still didn’t realize that the list on the contents page, The Snow-walker’s Son, The Empty Hand, and The Soul Thieves, were not just the parts of the book until I started reading.

You can purchase all three books of the Snow-walker series separately, but I did not.  Since I read them together I am going to review them together.

I loved this book.  I just had to start there.  It drew me in from the very beginning, and I just had to keep reading.  I finished reading The Snow-walker’s Son in one sitting and then started right in on the next one.

Personally I was glad I had the entire series in one book.  Sometimes omnibus editions don’t work out, but this story slipped seamlessly from one book to the next.

Even though the book jacket’s summary only pertains in specifics to the first book, the overall theme of our heroes fighting Gudrun continues throughout the entire three volume set.  As you’ll see, even though they get her out of the Jarlshold Gudrun is not one to disappear quietly into the night.

It’s a fantasy story of a grand adventure across a frozen land, spanning several years over the entire volume.  The fantasy elements are used well and actually make sense.

A land full of snow white people with incredible powers who live in a land so far north that people in the Jarlshold believe it to be the edge of the world is the main source of magic in the story as it is Gudrun’s birthplace.

The overall setting of the Jarlshold struck me as a Viking empire (which is awesome!) in a time when Vikings would have been in control of the world (their world anyway).  Basically for this story think Vikings in an alternate reality where magic and all their supernatural beliefs are real.

I must say though I did love the many unique (sometimes quirky) characters, Thorkil and I never really hit it off.  Which turned out to be a good thing as even though he plays a slightly big part in the first book, he is literally never seen again (except very briefly in a dream).

The other merry band of rebels supporting the rightful Jarl continue to go on adventures to save the Jarlshold from Gudrun as getting her out of the seat of power was only the beginning.

I love Kari!  Really I cannot say that enough.  Watching him grow and get out of Thrasirhall is amazing.  When he’s learning to control his powers and then gets scared that he is actually just like his mother I just wanted to hug him.

His relationship with Brochael is so sweet and protective.  You can tell a strong father-son like bond exists between the two.

Jessa was a fierce heroine, and certainly not the type of girl to sit at home.  She was the first person (besides Brochael) to accept Kari and help him (for which I love her).

It is a good thing Jessa is  such a brave and loyal friend because Kari needed as many of those as he could get.  When your mother is basically the embodiment of all evil and you are the only one who can stop her, help from friends is very welcome.

From getting Gudrun unseated from power at the Jarlshold, fighting off a monster made of her magic, and finally traveling to the land of Gudrun’s birth for a final confrontation Snow-walker is an adventure you will feel a part of and never want to end.

Other Details

My Recommendation: This book can be found in the young adult section and while I do feel parts of it might be too scary for young children, by middle school age it should be fine.  And of course it’s a great read even for people slightly older than middle school age.  You know like ages twelve to one hundred.

Author: Catherine Fisher

Genre(s): fantasy, adventure

Pages: 507 (in omnibus edition)

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (in US)

First Released: 2004 (in US)


The Mostly True Story of Jack Review

Summary mostly true story of jack

It’s fantasy meets real life in Kelly Barnhill’s debut children’s novel The Mostly True Story of Jack.  When Jack’s parents get divorced and send him to spend the summer with an aunt and uncle he’s never heard of in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, Jack figures it’ll be boring and the same as everywhere else where no one pays any notice to him.  No one ever has before; his own parents didn’t even pay him much attention not even having any pictures of him in the house.  But in Hazelwood that is all about to change.

Jack is astonished to realize people actually do notice him here.  His mysterious aunt and uncle have pictures of him all over their house and Jack makes friends for the first time in his life.  But not all is as it seems in Hazelwood, and Jack realizes that being noticed can be dangerous.  Especially when you are noticed by the mayor of the town and he is planning your immediate demise.

Jack soon discovers that Hazelwood is hiding a dark secret.  A secret it seems that Jack may be the key to unlocking.  Jack has no idea how he could possibly be related to anything going on in Hazelwood, or why all of a sudden everyone seems to notice him.  But Jack soon realizes he’ll have to figure out those answers if he wants to survive.

Jack and his new friends delve into the mysterious past of Hazelwood to discover exactly what it hides, and why Jack is so important to this town.  Through all the mystery and magic surrounding the town one thing is very clear, someone or something in Hazelwood has been waiting for Jack for a long time…

Thoughts on The Mostly True Story of Jack

When I first saw this book I thought the title was intriguing.  What did the author mean by mostly true?  After I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.  This is one of those books that you are constantly searching for but never find until you’re not looking.  A book you find at random when you are just browsing through the shelves of a bookstore not looking for anything in particular until it jumps out at you.  This book draws you in from the first page and actually makes you salivate for more.

From the very beginning I had to know who Jack was.  Why was his story mostly true?  Then I absolutely had to find out what was going on in Hazelwood, and how Jack who had felt he was invisible (and maybe was) fit into all this.

Jack I felt was a very solid main character.  He’s the kind of kid who is unobtrusive and feels lonely and neglected so you instantly feel emotionally attached him, but you can also tell that there is something about him resting just below the surface that could make him a hero even if he doesn’t want to be.  In many ways this is a coming of age story with some magic thrown in.  Jack who had always felt invisible is now noticed by everyone, and must make decisions that would be hard for an adult let alone a child.

The story had a fairy tale quality to it that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was truer to the original form of fairy tales with its darker undertones and magic affecting the lives of people not always for the better.  This tied in with the element of Green Man mythology made Hazelwood the perfect setting for a fairy tale adventure.

A whole new take was given to the Green Man figure which I thought was excellently done.  Adding that piece of magic to the secrets of Hazelwood really brought the story together, especially with Jack’s final showdown.  I won’t give too much away about that here though.  I’d hate to spoil the surprise!

This book was a whirlwind of fantasy, fairy tale, mystery, and reality all thrown together to create a story that you’ll want to read again and again.  Through it all Jack is the guiding light you follow.  From his days of feeling lonely and invisible, to making friends and getting maybe a little too noticed.  You follow him through the maze of Hazelwood as he discovers just who he is, figures out the secret of Hazelwood, and what he’ll have to sacrifice in order to save the people he cares for and ultimately find what he’s always been looking for: a place where he belongs.

Other Details

My Recommendation: I know that this book is listed for ages 8-12, but I personally think it’s more for the older range of that.  Younger children might not grasp certain parts of it, and there are parts that I can see might be too scary or upsetting for a young child.  This book is good for children around eleven and up as well as adults who feel a need for a little magic and adventure in their lives.  It is especially good for children and adults to read together.

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Genre(s):  Fantasy, mystery, adventure

Pages: 323

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.

First Released: August 2011