Friday, January 9, 2015

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen, 2015

When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods -- magic some Romans would kill for. Now, with the deadly power of the bulla pulsing through his veins, Nic is determined to become free. But instead, he finds himself at the center of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and spark the Praetor War, a battle to destroy Rome from within. Traitors and spies lurk at every turn, each more desperate than the next to use Nic's newfound powers for their own dark purposes.
In a quest to stop the rebellion, save Rome, and secure his own freedom, Nic must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire's most powerful and savage leaders. 
(352 pages)

I have been reading/loving Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy books for a couple of years now (click here to read my review of the first book in that series, The False Prince). When the last book, The Shadow Throne, was coming out I participated desperately in every giveaway the author offered but didn't win. Not one to let failure stop me, I ordered it from Amazon instead and read it within twenty-four hours of its release.

This is why I find it particularly cool that I won a giveaway of Mark of the Thief, the first book in a new series by Nielsen. Not only do I now have her autograph (squeal!), I got to read her new book two months before its release date.

And let me just say, how amazing it was to be able to read this wonderful book early! I went into it with a large amount of hope for the new series but not a little fear as well - what if it wasn't any good? What if it was just a cliche rehash of other books I've read? I was worried, because The False Prince borrowed a lot in terms of plot from other books/series. While Nielsen totally pulled it off then, and I adore the book to pieces, I was worried she would wind up pulling from the same bag of tricks for this series. And in the first few chapters, I thought my fears were confirmed: Nic seemed like a rehash of the cocky-but-brilliant Sage  (but where Sage was witty and fantastic, Nic seemed to just have an inflated ego for a slave). I sensed some sort of family secret a long way off, and the insta-hate between Nic and Aurelia just screamed "romance."

However, as I was sucked farther and farther into the complicated world of deceit, treason, and mixed motives that was Ancient Rome, the more I realized what a different story Nielsen had created. While Nic may have shared similarities with Sage on the surface, once the book gets going it's clear to see that he has a different personality than Sage. This is most clear when you compare the ways Sage was always planning three steps ahead and laying out elaborate plots to get people to do what he wanted. Nic is not a plotter and a planner like Sage was; his brainpower is used attempt to figure out who is on his side and how he can manage not to be killed.

As for the family secret and the insta-hate with Aurelia (by the way, love the name!), at the risk of spoilers all I can say is that the "family secret" aspect plays a rather minimal role in the book and isn't really that huge of a shock (especially when compared with The False Prince). It has potential to make the next book pretty interesting, though. And the insta-hate/inevitable-romance thread actually straightens itself out very nicely. Aurelia is probably already more fleshed out than Amarinda ever was, and I'm looking forward to watching what she does next - both with Nic, and on her own. She's a complex, interesting character instead of the cliche "two-dimensional warrior girl with some sort of grudge against the main character" that I thought she was the first time I saw her. I can't wait to see her in the next book!

The setting is phenomenal, the plot complicated (Who are the bad guys here? Who wants Nic dead?) but never convoluted or confusing, and the characterization solid with lots of room for additions later. While I still love The False Prince better (let's be honest, I don't think anything can surpass that book on my favorites list!), I still spent several enjoyable hours reading this book and look forward to reading it again. If you think it looks at all interesting, or are a fan of the author because of the Ascendance trilogy, then by all means read this book! For those of you who are interested in getting it from the library or buying it, it comes out February 24. And if you do read it, please post below to tell me what you think!

Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through a giveaway offered by the author. She did not ask me to review it, and the opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this one!

    1. I hope you like it, Becky! There's only a little over a month to go until it's released.

  2. Oh wow, in twenty four hours? You must've enjoyed this one a whole lot for that to happen! It looks like someone really loves this book. It has an interesting premise but I would have to go back and read the first ones first. Love the idea of a complicated and intriguing plot as well as good world building.

    1. Yes, now there's a book that practically made me 'read till dawn!" I started THE SHADOW THRONE as soon as my schoolwork was done, paused only long enough to go to Bible study (I swear there's a conspiracy to always make books come out on Tuesdays - you wouldn't believe the amount of books I've had to put down for Bible study!), then finished it late at night. Now there's a book you definitely should not read before reading the other books in the series! But as for MARK OF THE THIEF, it's completely separate from the Ascendance books and you can read it without having read them.


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