Friday, September 30, 2016

The Thief's Apprentice by Bryan Methods, 2016

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All of London lives in fear of the Ruminating Claw. He's silent. He's ruthless. And he's been living inside Oliver Diplexito's family home. In fact, he's the man who serves Oliver his dinner!
Timid Oliver has the shock of his life when he learns his father's butler, Mr. Scant, has a secret life as an infamous thief. Oliver expects to be the Claw's next target, but the truth is far more frightening. Mr. Scant wants Oliver to be his partner in crime!
As Oliver bumbles through the darkest corners of England, he discovers secrets within secrets. Mr. Scant is waging war on a society of thieving tycoons, taking from the crooks and giving to the rightful owners. But when the society strikes back, it could mean doom for the Claw and his apprentice . . . 

(272 pages)

It took me four months to finish The Thief's Apprentice. I think that has more to do with my own insanely busy summer than it does with the book itself, though. I read the first few chapters back in May, and enjoyed them, but then I went on a week-long trip and decided to leave my copy at home for when I would have time to really focus on it. By the time I got back, though, I'd forgotten everything I'd read so far. I kept meaning to get back to The Thief's Apprentice, but every time I'd crack it open I would read only a page or two before I needed to run off again. Then more urgent books, with release dates staring me right in the face, began pressing in on my reading time. I began to hoard my increasingly scarce free time, saving it only for books I had to read immediately and the occasional shiny new library book that caught my eye.

Finally, though, The Thief's Apprentice worked its way to the top of my priority review list. And when I picked it up to read a chapter before bed . . . I got sucked in for and hour and a half. Because I discovered all over again how fun this book really is.

Actually, I think that's the perfect word to describe The Thief's Apprentice: "fun." It's chock full of danger and excitement and drama that's extremely unrealistic but, somehow, even more appealing for its craziness. It's also set in historical London, which–if you're American, anyway–adds an extra layer of charm to everything. It's a pity I didn't read The Thief's Apprentice sooner, because it's just the sort of silly escapist fun I wanted last summer.

I'll pause for a minute and talk about the downsides of the book, so I can get them over with. For one thing, the first few chapters are not as gripping as they could have been. Part of the reason I wasn't more aggressive about finishing The Thief's Apprentice was the fact that I wasn't completely sucked in by the beginning. In fact, the vibe I got from the book's beginning made me think that it would be an exciting but also dull sort of story–the kind that drives eleven-year-old boys wild with excitement, but whose thrills are a little too unrealistic for the rest of us. As I said in the last paragraph, it's not like that at all: the unrealistic nature of the action actually adds an escapist charm to the story. But in the first few chapters, I was having my doubts.

The only other real problem I had with The Thief's Apprentice was that it skated over some things I would have preferred details of. Perhaps this is just it's middle-grade targeting coming through, but the narration almost entirely skips over describing Oliver's day-to-day life. We get sketches of his home and school situation, enough to whet my appetite for more, but that more never comes. I also would have liked more details of what, exactly, Mr. Scant was having Oliver study and how he managed to so rapidly improve in his studies.

While this is a book targeted specifically toward kids–and I did occasionally get the vibe that I really wasn't the target audience–I was surprised by how witty and clever it still was. Some of Oliver's observations about everyday life are very spot-on, and he makes them in a manner that's almost tongue-in-cheek. I also spotted a literary allusion or two, which was fun as well.

When it comes down to it, I think The Thief's Apprentice is a great, fun (yes, there's that word again!) book. It didn't completely blow me away, or leap right up to a top position on my favorites list, but I enjoyed reading it and I'll be interested in reading the sequel sometime down the line. I have a sneaking suspicion my younger brothers (who are more a part of the target demographic) will be even more enchanted than I was by Oliver's thrilling tale.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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