Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The Thief Lord didn't really inspire me with a full-fledged review, so I'm borrowing Dewey's questiony thing to say something about it.

Title and author of book?

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre?

Childrens/Young Adult Fiction

What led you to pick up this book?

I'd heard lots of good things about it, and someone took it out of the Teen VBB on BookObsessed, so I bumped it up Mount TBR.

Summarize the plot, but don’t give away the ending!

Prosper and Bo, two children left orphaned upon the death of their mother, flee their Aunt Esther, a self-serving rich lady seeking to adopt only Bo as more of dress-up doll than a child while packing off his older brother to boarding school. The two take refuge in Venice, a mystical city their mother had often told them stories about before her death. In Venice, the brothers meet up with a gang of street kids who are provided for by the elusive Thief Lord. As it turns out, the Thief Lord is both more and less than he appears which is revealed when the children are sent on a mysterious errand for the even more elusive Conte. Throughout their journeys they meet up with Victor, a kindly bumbling detective originally hired to return Prosper and Bo to their immature Aunt, as well as kindly photographer, Ida, both of whom come to their aid when the worst comes to pass.

What did you like most about the book?

I loved the Venice setting. Funke brings the city full of waterways and winged creatures and hidden places to life. The setting itself contributes mightily to the story and its mystical premise. I liked the gang of kids as well and could picture them in their movie theater hideout. The plot is engaging and moves along at just the right pace to keep you reading to find out what exciting event will happen next.

What did you like least?

There were a few things that bothered me. One was the almost total lack of character development. Here are bunch of kids either without parents or with home lives so rotten they decided to strike out on their own, yet there seems to be almost no history and no context for any of the characters. Several of the main characters seem to be "just there," and we don't get any sort of idea about what drives them or why they are so dissatisfied with their past (or current) lives.

The adult characters kind of bothered me, also. For example, Ida: she grew up in an orphanage, supports the orphanage monetarily, and seems to care deeply about these abandoned children and their need to have a place to belong, but it doesn't dawn on her to actually consider adopting a child until these kids arrive on her doorstep. Nor does she seem to have any qualms about setting two ten-year-olds loose to go live on their own in a warehouse. Weird.

Share a quote from the book:

Back in the narrow alleys he wasn't usually afraid, but it was different here in the wide-open square. Bo called it the Lion Square. He knew that it had a proper name really, but he called it that anyway. During the day every cobblestone here belonged to the pigeons and the tourists. But at night when the pigeons slept on the roofs and the people lay in their hotel beds, the square belonged to the horses and the winged lion that stood among the stars. Bo was certain of that. pg. 75


This is a good book...for someone a lot younger than me. I'm sure younger readers would be enchanted by this, but I found myself caught between taking it too seriously and too lightly. It's written like a book that wishes to be taken seriously - a book about homeless kids, rich kids unhappy in their circumstances, kids that want to be grown-ups so that they can be taken seriously. But it's also written in a sort of fairy tale sort of fashion with kids that seem old and adults who behave ridiculously which requires more suspension of disbelief to enjoy. I didn't know what kind of reader I was supposed to be to enjoy it, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have like to have enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend this to younger readers, though, who wouldn't need to struggle with my strange dilemma!

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