Michelle's Reviews > The Purloined Boy

The Purloined Boy by Mortimus Clay
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's review
Mar 07, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: second-look, bland-protagonist, curate-s-egg, enriching-symbolism, fantasy, i-hate-spunk, prose-tries-too-hard
Read in February, 2011

There are a lot of good things going on in this book. The symbolism is pretty solid, the premise is intriguing, and the author's own idea of writing posthumously is fun. However, I have a few issues.
First of all, Trevor--the titular Purloined Boy--has no character. He only does what Mr. Clay needs him to do in any given scene, like way too many child heroes I've read about. Maggie, our Spunky Girl today, is irritating. Most Spunky Girls rub me this way. Both the leads suffer from something I used to do, called Flaw of the Day. For example, and I'm making this one up, a character may be terrified of speaking in public, but one good pep talk and he's over it, and it will never be mentioned again. It isn't blatant, but the trope is definitely there. Paracelsus and Lucian are interesting, but everyone else is a stereotype. The inevitable traitor is obvious from him being the only opulent and petty guy in Trothward--the good guy base. The bullies are just that, bullies, without real motivations or humanization. Mr. Clay may have their motivations in his head, but they haven't gotten out on the page. Honestly, I would rather read about Mortimus Clay himself--his backstory sounds much more interesting.
Second, parts of this book don't gel. We open with some Lemony Snicket-esque quirky writing, which fades away and only returns sporadically throughout the book, making it obvious that Mr. Clay is not writing in his own voice. Then we have, in the same book, a creepy fake Santa Claus, 1984-esque world, tree people, a Paradise Lost story, and a cartoony mountain man. These things would take a very experienced writer to fit together, and this is Mortimus Clay's first (posthumous) book.
There are many good things in here, though. The symbolism didn't always make sense standing alone--specifically, during Trevor's escape from the Pantry--but most of it was strong and unifying rather than distracting, Biblical to the point of plagiarism, or another Narnia ripoff. The Paradise Lost part is really, really good. Also, this was originally just the first chunk of the full book, which editors made Mr. Clay chop up, so I can't make a full judgment yet. Suffice it to say, Mortimus Clay's only problems are from inexperience. I fully expect the rest of his posthumous career to be great.
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