Title: The Thief Lord
Author: Cornelia Funke
Main Characters: Prosper (12 year old boy), Hornet (12 year old girl), Scipio (13 year old boy), Victor Getz (adult).
Meggie (Rating: Exceptional)
I love Cornelia Funke's writing; she makes the settings of her books come alive. This book vividly describes Venice and all the characters. I felt I was living the situations in the book. I mostly loved the plot with its twists and turns, and fast-paced adventure (although a couple of parts were scary or boring).
But most of all, I loved how the children stuck with each other and took so much care of each other - even though Scipio stole, he did it to take care of the other children, Prosper was fiercely protective of Bo, and even though Hornet was not related to Bo, she still took care of him. I loved the ending and how all the children found happy endings for their lives.
Mo (Rating: Exceptional)
When I started reading this book, I cringed at seeing a band of children being led by a boy named Scipio (he calls himself 'The Thief Lord') who provides for them by stealing. There are parts of the story that almost condone stealing: Bo, the youngest child, idolizes Scipio and wants to go on his midnight raids and wants to steal like Scipio. However, the book's protagonists (Prosper, Hornet) maintain the moral core of the book - they are against stealing, and try to keep the rest of them on the straight and narrow.
I usually deduct a rating point for such moral ambiguity, but the author's writing really is exceptional here. The book comes alive in her hands, and her deep knowledge of Venice shines through. Here are just a few examples:
The sky above the lagoon had turned red. It was growing dark, although it was only four o'clock. A few tourists stood in wonder by the quay and saw how the setting sun glazed the dirty water with gold.
The Sacca della Misericordia pokes into the maze of Venice's alleys. It looks as if the sea has taken a bite out of the city and swallowed it.
The writing and dialogue are snappy too:
"One shouldn't wear a mask at a confessional, any more than a hat.". The uneven voice sounded like a very old man.
"One also shouldn't talk about theft at a confessional," Scipio answered, "and that's what we're here for, isn't it?"
Prosper thought he could hear a small laugh. "So you really are the Thief Lord, " the stranger said quietly. "Well, keep your mask on if you don't want to show your face, but I can still see that you're very young."
Scipio knelt bolt upright. "Indeed. And you are very old, judging by your voice. Does age matter in this transaction?"
Like Meggie mentions in her review, the children steal to take care of each other. The theme of the book is independence, resilience and taking care of each other. The book has some memorable adult characters who are thoroughly insensitive and disdainful to the children - and those adults are served their just desserts at the end of the book. That part is guaranteed to strike a chord with every middle-school student who chafes at arbitrary parental authority.
Lastly, the plot held my interest throughout. It starts out with a detective chasing Prosper, Bo and the rest of the children. There is a twist in the middle where alliances shift, and Scipio's real identity is revealed. And then begins another chase with shifted alliances. This is a caper story done well.