March 17th, 2008

A Pocket Full of Murder

REVIEW: The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

I have just finished reading the ARC of sarah_prineas's MG fantasy The Magic Thief (the benefits of a classical education being a HarperCollins author).

I always hold my breath now when I pick up a book by someone I've come to know online, just in case I don't like it nearly as well as I like the person who wrote it. But in this case there was no need to fear -- this book made me absurdly and enormously happy, and it made me like sarah_prineas even better.

The Magic Thief has a number of familiar fantasy motifs and character types. But in Sarah Prineas's hands a story that could have been predictable instead has a wonderful freshness and vitality about it. The invented world in which Conn moves has a Dickensian flair without being merely alt-Victoriana, and its magical system is both well imagined and intriguing.

The characters in The Magic Thief are realistically flawed and fallible, yet they never lost my interest or (where appropriate) my sympathy; I particularly liked the way that Prineas developed a couple of the secondary characters, subverting my expectations of them in a surprising and satisfying way. And her hero -- well. I have a weakness for thieves to begin with, but by the end of the first chapter I was grinning idiotically (always a good sign) and I knew that I was going to like Conn very much indeed.

Also, on a somewhat random note -- one of her male characters knits. Between this and lainitaylor's Blackbringer I predict that men knitting is the next hot trend in fantasy, right on the heels of naming your lead male character Finn (seriously, I have read no less than six children's fantasy books in eight months with Finns in them. What gives?).

Anyway, The Magic Thief will be out this June, it's the first of a trilogy, and it's wonderful. If you enjoy quick-paced, engaging MG fantasy, you won't regret preordering this one.

Up Next: my review of elizabethbunce's A Curse Dark as Gold.