Kater Cheek's Reviews > The Magic Thief

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas
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Jul 22, 10

Read in July, 2010

This book is a middle grade fantasy, and though its protagonist is "somewhere between 12 and 14" I think that beginning readers and picky readers won't like it. Not that it's poorly written; on a sentence-by-sentence level, Prineas is adept. It felt bland and derivative. I admit, this may be that I am not in the book's target audience, but I have enjoyed other MG novels.

Conn is a gutter-dwelling pickpocket who steals a wizard's magic stone, the Magicalicus Locus, which my mind's voice invariably interpreted as "magicalicious" (because magically and delicious are wedded solidly in my mind.) The stone does not kill Conn with its magic, which indicates that Conn may be a wizard, so the magician takes him home as an apprentice. Soon, we learn the main problem facing the citizens of the city: the magic levels are dropping, and if they drop all the way, the city will die.

For the first half of the book, none of the characters make any progress discovering why the magic level is dropping or how to stop it. Instead, Prineas concentrates on telling us about Conn. He's honest and practical. He's amazingly brilliant in everything he does (learns to read in a day, for example). He likes biscuits. We also meet the rest of the characters, a cast which is not large. Those who are good guys, Conn likes and befriends. Those who are evil, or working for evil, Conn never likes. When it comes time for Conn to find his own magic stone, he finds one that is more special and wonderful than anyone else's. Meanwhile, the plot has pretty much ground to a halt, not to resume again until two-thirds' of the way through.

I could have forgiven the slow plot if I had liked the characters a little better, but with the exception of the hulking bodyguard (who likes to knit and bake) they all fit their molds like cast plastic. The wizards felt like Gandalf-impersonators, the one girl was pretty much a princess, the sneering Draco-Malfoy character follows his script to the letter. As for Conn, he felt quite bland. He didn't seem to have any emotion, even when describing how his mother died. He's bright and honest, resourceful, and untainted by the tragedies and harsh living that has befallen him. He's also good at just about everything he does. He's the perfect robot boy, complete with 21st century middle class values and opinions.

I'm not going to say this was a bad book, because at least it didn't hit any of my pet peeves (too many italics, overt racism, stupid characters, plot armor) but it didn't light any fires in me either. I could have put it down and not really been bothered. I recommend it for kids who have devoured the Harry Potter series and are ravenous for more high fantasy, but aren't yet ready for darker YA.


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