Illustrator: Christian Birmingham
Published by Chicken House on September 2003
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
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Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy. Here, hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelters runaways and children with incredible secrets....
After escaping from their cruel aunt and uncle, orphans Prosper and Bo meet a mysterious boy who calls himself the "Thief Lord." Clever and charming, The Thief Lord leads a band of street children who enjoy making mischief. But the Thief Lord also has a dark secret. And suddenly Prosper and Bo find themselves on a fantastical journey to a forgotten place. What they discover there will change the course of their destiny... forever.
I went into this having read Funke’s other series, the Inkheart trilogy, which gave me high expectations. This was a recommendation from a friend who lent it to me. Of course I quickly figured out it was intended for a younger audience, but I still expected great things. I was not let down, not in the least. I even noticed some similarities (which are always fun to notice between series’) such as names like Loredan and Basta (which was simply an Italian word in this book).
Now for the spoilers. View Spoiler » Scipio was not who he said he was, and it was disappointing, naturally, and never explained well enough for my liking. He was no thief after all, but the son of an important rich man. The things he ‘stole’ he actually took from his own house. His motives were good- to help his friends, and to gain a little freedom for himself. But still the others hated him for a while, except perhaps Prosper. Prosper was simply disappointed as I was. And another spoiler: Later in the book, as part of the magical element, he becomes an adult. I didn’t completely expect him to stay that way, even though that was what he wanted. It was hard to accept the fact that he was an adult permanently. I mean, be careful what you wish for…unless it actually works out well? That’s not too common. Still not sure how I feel about that.And that brings another question: would YOU choose to become an adult or a child again if you could? I wouldn’t choose to become an adult, since I’m so close anyway. « Hide Spoiler
Characters (one spoiler, highlight between brackets  to read)
Prosper: I thought he was a bit stiff and overprotective. Frankly, I think the caretaker role he was forced into made him grow up too quickly. He wasn’t my favorite, but I still rooted for him anyway.
Bo: Wow. I had to constantly remind myself he was only a little kid, because sometimes I wanted to slap him silly. Such an innocent kid, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut at all- and even sometimes he blabbed on purpose, just to spite his brother. I mean, poor Prosper’s trying to keep Bo safe, and Bo responds by constantly putting himself (and the others) in danger as much as possible. He may have looked like an angel, but he was a little devil. Should have seen that coming.
Victor: His development is described in the plot section, but overall, I liked him. Before, when he thought children were stupid, I thought he was just another adult. But compared to the other adults, he is more in touch with his younger side and therefore much more likeable. And I find his many disguises (and fake beard collection) hilarious.
Ida: She was wonderful and truly the perfect thing for the children at the time. She was so understanding and adventurous.
Esther: She wasn’t quite a witch, but she could be a truly horrible woman sometimes. She wouldn’t do anything to directly hurt a child, but she had a lot of awful misconceptions about them. She wanted to pick and choose her child, and she seemed to consider them little more than store-bought goods. Here’s a line about her when we’re introduced to her: “Her mouth didn’t look as if smiling was its favorite activity.” (page 9)
Max: Not really better than Esther, but one comment he said really got to me. Here it is: “‘We’ll get Bo a dog,’ Max Hartlieb answered calmly. ‘And then you’ll see how quickly he forgets his big brother.'” (page 198) Of all the insensitive….
Barbarossa: Filthy little swine. Ended up getting better than he deserved. Here’s a wonderful quote: “‘And you, Ernesto…probably have a wallet where other people have a heart.'” (page 333)
Hornet: She was one of my favorites. Loves books, like me…her friends are all guys, like me….and she was so motherly to Bo and supportive of Prosper the entire time. And she was one of the few with courage to stand up to Scipio.
Scipio: Mysterious. The Thief Lord. [He would have been much more impressive if he was an honorable thief.] But I can completely sympathize with him. He was one of my favorites.
The ending was a happy one. There were a few things I wasn’t necessarily sure I liked, and would probably have accepted either way they turned out, but there were no loose ties left hanging (that I can remember).
- plot twists
- a few twists I’m still not sure about