When Conn decides to pick the pocket of a lame old man wandering through the bad part of town, he has no idea that the object in the man's pocket is a wizard's magical focus stone. Contact with the stone should kill him, but for some reason, it doesn't - and this anomaly interests the wizard, Nevery Flinglass. Nevery has returned to the city of Wellmet after years in exile. He takes Conn home to be his servant (while Conn is under the impression that he is to be the wizard's apprentice, a prospect that he finds most appealing), and from there Conn is plunged into an intriguing new life.
It appears the magic is being drained from Wellmet, and all the wizards are trying in vain to determine the cause. Conn has his own ideas, but who's going to listen to a former thief and pickpocket, particularly one who wants to be a wizard's apprentice but lacks his own focus stone? Conn's aptitude for magic is unmistakable, but without that stone he really might as well be nothing more than a servant. The story is told from Conn's point of view, and his lively descriptions of his new life and its challenges are extremely engaging. We also are told snippets from the wizard Nevery's diary that never fail to add a bit of humor, as they inform us of things such as Nevery's initial reluctance to bring Conn home, as well as his dismayed amazement at the amounts of food the boy is able to put away. I particularly liked the character of Bennet, the "muscle" that Nevery hires, who is great in a fight, makes amazing biscuits, and, when no action is to be found, sits around quietly knitting.
The audio version of this book was very well done, and I will be waiting for the next one to come out on CD so I can listen to it as well. Greg Steinbruner is a wonderful storyteller, differentiating the voices of all the characters so that it seems as if they are different people speaking altogether. While the medieval setting is rather generic as far as fantasy novels go, the lively characterizations truly bring the story to life and, together with some interesting plot twists, make for a book that young fantasy readers are going to love. And older ones, too!
Books in the Magic Thief series:
1. The Magic Thief
2. The Magic Thief: Lost (forthcoming: May 2009)
If you'd like to do the "embero spell" yourself and discover what kind of animal you'll turn into, you can play here (I'm a cat - what about you?). And here is an interview with Sarah Prineas. Enjoy!
The Magic Thief (#1 in the Magic Thief series) by Sarah Prineas; narrated by Greg Steinbruner (Recorded Books, 2008)
Also reviewed at:
Charlotte's Library: "A great book for kids 9-12ish, or anyone that loves a brisk, crisp, magical story."
Ms. Yingling Reads: "At first I was reluctant to read it, but it did have a certain charm, even if it was somewhat derivative of any number of medieval-ish fantasy books."
Penmage: "This book is the real deal. An honest to goodness great adventure, a feel-good fantasy read that you won't be able to stop reading and will be sorry once the book is over. "