The Thief Lord has many dark elements: the plight of street children, the tragedy of having loveless parents, the tragedy of having no parents at all, and the dangers of living in a criminal underworld. Funke touches upon the dark histories of Scipio and Hornet, but never does more than imply. In many cases this works very well. The way that Funke hints at Hornet’s backstory through quick references, and subtle nuances in the girl’s character develops a story in the reader’s mind that is harsher than Funke could easily show. For this reason, Hornet ends up almost stealing the show, in a book that’s supposed to focus on Prosper and Scipio.
But too often, Funke pulls back from taking us into the dark. The perils that afflict our heroes end up being dealt with quickly, with few lasting consequences, and then soothed with a bit of comic relief. It’s almost as though Funke is afraid of scaring away her younger readers. And while I can understand the need to write something that’s not all doom and gloom, Funke’s whitewashing of certain elements in her book gives it a somewhat unsatifying, incomplete feel.Click here for the full review