From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—Conn, a pickpocket on the streets of Twilight, one day picks the pocket of a powerful wizard and steals his locus magicalicus, the center of his power. It should kill Conn, but it doesn't. Nevery, the wizard, has just returned after a 22-year exile, to try to save the town from the leaching of its magic, upon which so much, including its economy, depends. Curious about the boy, Nevery takes him on as an assistant and then an apprentice. Although it is the wizard's job to stem the tide of the disappearing magic, he seems unable to do so. Conn believes he knows the answer, but his enemies are closing in. Prineas has created an appealing cast of characters, which she carefully reveals through their actions. The story is told primarily by Conn, and is interspersed with cryptic journal entries by Nevery, which offer a tantalizing counterpoint to the protagonist's viewpoint. Their voices are consistent and well handled. Exciting without being frantic, the narrative wastes no time getting to the heart of the story. This novel would work well as a read-aloud, as it has a conversational rhythm that moves the plot along. The book is long, but the large print and appealing drawings will encourage younger readers. Fantasy and adventure lovers alike will groan when they get to the tantalizingly mischievous ending, and are likely to hound you until the sequel arrives.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
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*Starred Review* Young Conn opens the first volume of this new trilogy, noting “A thief is a lot like a wizard.” Conn is a thief but, through desire and inevitability, becomes a wizard by book’s end. This evolution begins when Conn picks the pocket of the wizard Nevery, who is startled that the nicked magical stone didn’t kill the boy. Nevery takes on Conn as a servant, but the boy’s inquisitiveness and talents move him to apprentice status. Nevery has recently returned to Willmet to save the city-state, which is faltering as its magic seeps away. As Conn becomes more enmeshed in his new life, he navigates through the intricate dealings of both the wizarding world and the political machinations of the Underlord. The events are not as lively as in some middle-grade fantasies—though Conn’s turn as a cat is delightful, and his search for his own stone is very well played. What works wonderfully well here is the boy’s irresistible voice, which is supplemented by the writings of Nevery in his journal, its creased and stained pages appearing as apart of the design. Readers will particularly enjoy the way Conn often knows just a little more than his master, and they’ll look forward to seeing how much more he learns as the series progresses. Grades 4-6. --Ilene Cooper