(Queen’s Thief series #1) First in the series, this multiple award winning young adult fantasy novel has an interesting premise and a tongue in cheek quality that tickled my funny bone. Gen is a thief who has actually been stolen himself from prison and embarks with his captors on a quest. They need him to steal a treasure from another land and he has no choice but to comply, although this plucky hero makes it abundantly clear that he has no intention of complying easily and has some tricks up his own sleeve–there is more to Gen than meets the eye, so keep an eye out for clues and double meanings. Along the way of the journey, stories are told which set the scene of this fantasy world that will continue in sequels, the next being The Queen of Attolia, which many reviewers have said is far better than this first instalment. There are three more after that: The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings, and Thick as Thieves.
To be honest, the beginning of the book felt as slow and plodding as the journey of the quest itself (and perhaps that is the point), but the pace picked up in the middle when the big theft gets underway. There are some good twists and turns and though I’m not a big fantasy fan, it is definitely one of those ‘cross-over’ young adult novels that appeals to adults as well as to teens.
This lyrical fantasy for adults has a down to earth “real” feel to it, despite some of the mystery in it. The novel is about memory and surviving a difficult childhood. Sometimes when children experience darkness, it is fantasy that pulls them out into the light. Gaiman says it well, “I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.” p. 199.
The story line is simple enough and best discovered during the reading. The author himself says ‘Ocean’ is an overgrown short story. I read it easily in a day. A few things I learned/liked:
- We all need someone to believe in and trust.
- We all need someone to save us.
- Two people will never remember the same event in exactly the same way.
- There are some things we will never understand, like why people take a vegetable like raw peas that taste great and put them in tins and boil them so they become disgusting.
There’s a legend in book circles that you can read “Page 69” as a judge of whether you’ll like a book or not. By then the set up has taken place, the characters have been introduced and the author should have reached his representative stride in terms of writing style. Well, the jury is still out on whether the “Page 69 Test” works (try it out for yourself!), but in this book I coincidentally (or not) found a beautiful quote on page 69 which sums the book up well.
“I like myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.”
Neil Gaiman has written a number of award winning children’s books including The Graveyard Book, Coraline, and Anansi Boys.
An atmospheric fantasy about a moving circus that “appears without warning” should be a wonderful backdrop for an intriguing story – unless the characters are flat and the storyline also appears and disappears like a bird in a magician’s hand. The plot is elusive and uninteresting, jumping back and forth in time, until predictably merging near the end of the book. There is some nice writing that creates a mood, but you’d think that a circus which not only contains magic but is magical itself would be….well, magical!
Marco and Celia are young magicians who are submitted to a challenge which not only pits them against each other, but magically builds and develops the circus as well. The circus is only open at night and has very little colour besides some splashes of red amidst a lot of white, black, and grey. There is wonder and enchantment for those who visit, not only in what they see, but in how it makes them feel. Not a bad basis for a good story, if it had ever taken off. There was a fantastic clock fashioned for the entrance to the circus that was charming and worth imagining. I think I was secretly hoping for a new Hunger Games, but this certainly was not it. So, unless you are a diehard fantasy fan, I’d take a pass on this one.