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The Magic Thief
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Conn was just hoping for a few coins to buy food when he picked the pocket of the wizard who passed his alleyway. What he gets is an adventure far bigger than he could have imagined. The wizard, Nevery, takes an interest in Conn, and takes him in as a servant and then an apprentice. With regular meals, blankets to sleep under, and enough magical objects and lessons to keep Conn's eager mind occupied, the once-homeless boy couldn't be happier.

Unfortunately for Conn, nothing is as simple as it seems. Before he can truly become an apprentice, he must find his locus magicalicus (the stone which will focus his magical power) in a most unlikely place, convince Nevery that one of his fellow wizards is consorting with the city's cruel Underlord, and figure out why the city's magic is fading away--and how to save it--before the city dies from the lack of it. It's a terribly large task for a boy who has only just started learning his letters, but Conn is nothing if not resourceful.

THE MAGIC THIEF will pull readers in so completely that they'll have trouble setting the book aside. The details of the Victorian-esque world are so vividly drawn that readers will feel the chill of the icy winds and taste the buttery goodness of Conn's favorite biscuits. What makes the book particularly special is Conn himself. His voice is lively, with exactly the sort of street-smart practicality and frankness you'd expect from a boy who has spent most of his life on the streets. Despite his criminal background, Conn is good-hearted, and simply longs for a place where he can make something of himself.

Readers will sympathize with his struggle to prove himself to Nevery and the city's authorities, and appreciate his clear-headed thinking amid all the secrecy and scheming of the adults around him. The novel's conclusion is quite satisfying, while leaving lots open for the second book in the trilogy, which many will be clamoring to get as soon as they have finished this one. An all-round enjoyable read that easily stands out from the many fantasy novels on the shelves.

Reviewed by: Lynn Crow
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 15, 2008
THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas is one of the most elegantly written and touching juvenile fantasy novels I've had the pleasure of reading to my ten year old in some time. The story centers around a young thief named Conn who pickpockets a locus magicalicus (a powerful stone that allows a wizard to unleash great magic) from an old wizard. The fact that Conn isn't struck dead at once interests the wizard enough to take him on as a servant. Conn says apprentice, but that's hardly the job he receives.

The old wizard is as disreputable in his own way as Conn is. Twenty years ago, Nevery was accused of attempting to kill the Duchess of Wellmet where Conn lives. Nevery was run out of town just ahead of the soldiers that would have doubtlessly hung him.

Now, twenty years later, Nevery is drawn back to the city because the magic that powers the place is mysteriously drying up. Nevery uses that predicament to leverage his own return and gets the Duchess to grant him amnesty for his past wrongs, even though he didn't try to kill her.

I love the way Prineas has Wellmet sectioned off into Twilight, Dusk House, Dawn Palace, and the other regions. Illustrator Antonio Javier Caparo's maps and drawings really established the tone well and led my son and me into a wonderful imaginary journey throughout the city. The place just feels real.

The relationship between the characters, though predictable because they are steeped in tradition, are even more wonderful because the reader knows what to expect. Prineas expertly moves those relationships along, teasing the reader with them. I kept wanting Nevery to acknowledge Conn as his apprentice for so long, then - when Conn was in such dire straits - I'd forgotten about it and Prineas delivered that so expertly that I knew it was coming and was so concerned about other things that I'd temporarily forgotten.

That relationship, that push/pull of wills and the need to understand each other, drives this book and I'm sure will drive the other two in this trilogy. The addition of Benet as the hired muscle and his - eventual - doting uncle role with Conn is amazingly portrayed as well.

I have to admit that the first few pages seemed to dawdle a bit, but this is a relatively big world to explore, and there's some history - particularly between the major players - that has to be revealed slowly. Prineas makes the whole thing play well, and it isn't long before she has everything up and running.

Along with all the mystery and intrigue, as well as the duplicitous and suspicious nature of the characters, the author also throws in one-liners that and humor that is to die for. One of the best scenes in the book was when Conn was captured by the duchess's guards, thrown into a prison cell, then lets himself out with his Lockpicking skills. Only to give himself away when he gladly hails Nevery, whom he hadn't expected to see at all.

When Prineas locks onto the final scenes of the book, about the last sixty pages so be prepared to keep reading for a bit, there's just no way to tear yourself free. My son and I were nailed to the pages, pushing way past our bedtimes as we finished up the last one hundred and forty pages in a reading marathon that had us hanging on by our fingernails.

THE MAGIC THIEF ends well, resolving several questions, but it raises several others that will keep my son and I anxiously awaiting the next installment. This is definitely a book to pick up for the kids to read over the summer, and you may find yourself chasing Conn and Nevery through Strangle Street and avoiding the Underlord's minions yourself!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
In the aftermath of Harry Potter, numerous authors took up the mantle of writing stories of magic and wizardry. And Sarah Prineas offers up her debut novel, THE MAGIC THIEF, as just such an entry into the world of fantasy juvenile fiction.

Conn stumbles across a mysterious figure entering the Twilight side of the city of Wellmet, and the gutter boy picks his pockets and finds a strange stone. When Conn survives an attack from the stone, the mysterious man, Nevery Flinglas, takes the boy in. And thus begins their adventures, as Nevery tries to discover why the magic is draining out of the city and Conn just tries to figure out the mysteries surrounding his own life. Then they both discover the truth: if the magic disappears completely, all of Wellmet will be destroyed. And Conn may be the key to saving them all...

The premise seems promising, and there is mystery and magic enough to keep things interesting, but THE MAGIC THIEF just never quite caught me the way I thought it would. Things begin incredibly slowly, and for about a hundred pages, we follow the barely-speaking Conn around as he describes strange islands and the biscuits he has for breakfast every morning. The plot does pick up about halfway through, but by that time it's fairly obvious what is really going on. And the major plot twist comes at a strange moment, and almost doesn't feel true to the rest of the story.

But not all is lost. The setting, which is highly reminiscent of A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS or one of Tom Becker's DARKSIDE novels, shines in a gothic, turn-of-the-century way. And some of the characters are highly entertaining as well. However, I couldn't help but be reminded of Harry Potter on quite a few occasions, from the school where students learn magic to the snotty kid, Keeston, who is pretty much Draco Malfoy wearing different colored robes. But the setting itself is enough to switch up the rest of the Potter feel.

Prineas has included some fun extras as well. After most chapters, a journal entry or letter from Nevery slides in, complete with secret messages to decipher using a key in the back of the book. There's also a map, character and location profiles, and even recipes for those biscuits that are mentioned non-stop throughout THE MAGIC THIEF.

Setting aside the plodding pace that will surely lose some readers along the way, THE MAGIC THIEF, does get some things right. And fans looking for a different sort of wizard and magic tale might just enjoy this one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2009
The first book in The Magic Thief fantasy trilogy ended with apprentice magician Connwaer losing his splendid locus magicalicus (or "magic stone") during his battle to rescue the living magic that protects the city of Wellmet. This second installment in the series picks up where its predecessor left off, with Conn desperately seeking a new locus magicalicus to communicate with Wellmet's magic. Unfortunately, no one believes Conn when he insists that the magic is a living being, and magical incantations are merely words spoken in the being's own language.

Meanwhile, Wellmet is under attack by a band of mysterious and deadly Shadowmen whose very touch brings instant paralysis and death. Who has sent them? What do they seek? Conn thinks Wellmet's magic may know the answers to these questions, but he needs a magicalicus to facilitate a conversation between himself and the magical being of the city.

When his attempts to find a magicalicus prove to be unsuccessful, Conn hits upon a new and perilous way to communicate with the city's magic: pyrotechnics. However, the use of pyrotechnics within the city walls is strictly forbidden. Indeed, that was exactly what had gotten Conn's master, the great wizard Nevery, temporarily banished from Wellmet more than 20 years before. Not only that, but a permanently gaping hole was left in the middle of Nevery's island home, Heartsease.

After an acquaintance's life is tragically claimed by the Shadowmen, Conn becomes increasingly desperate to learn who or what lies behind these deadly creatures. But Conn's frenzy to communicate with the magic drives him to ever more reckless measures, putting in peril the lives of those he loves most and eventually causing him to be banished from Wellmet to the exotic and dangerous desert land of Desh. In this thrill-a-minute ride of a book, we learn how the ever-capable Conn manages to discover the secret of the Shadowmen and outmaneuver those who would bring destruction to Wellmet. But will he ever be able to come home again?

The continual ratcheting up of tension throughout LOST (whenever you think that young Conn is in the worst trouble of his life, he quickly lands in more!) makes the mood more serious here than in the first installment. Conn himself is much more tense and subdued, showing less of the impishness that characterized him in THE MAGIC THIEF. The overall tone --- featuring the death of a character and the near-death of another important one --- is fairly somber for a children's book. However, the novel should be fine for the intended group (ages 10 and up). Although tinged with sadness and tension, there is nothing gory or gruesome here.

While the story itself is wonderful, the DVD-like extra features with which the book is jam-packed really make it a worthwhile purchase. LOST features stunning, pitch-perfect illustrations and cover art by Antonio Javier Caparo, inserts of letters from various characters, character guides to orient newcomers to the series, and even some recipes. There is something cozy and inviting to the feel of the book, and what is inside the covers lives up to any expectations one may have about it.

English professor and Tolkien expert Sarah Prineas has now given us two excellent adventures for kids and adults alike, grounded in the children's fantasy tradition and peppered with interesting characters and heart-stopping action. Her use of language is inventive and interesting without being distracting.

Although the storyline features the adventures of a young orphan wizard, the story calls to mind Oliver Twist more than it does Harry Potter. In any case, I find the trilogy to be just as entertaining as J. K. Rowling's series, and perhaps more tightly plotted. The Magic Thief has the makings of a new children's fantasy classic.

--- Reviewed by Usha Reynolds
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2008
I have never been able to "get into" the Harry Potter books. While the rest of the world raved about them, I could only sit back and listen and, occasionally, "catch the movie". Thus, when Sarah Pirneas, whose short fiction I have devoured for years, announced her first novel was about a young wizard's apprentice, I became a bit nervous. What if, after waiting for years for her to publish a full-length book, I didn't like it? My husband said I should not lie in writing this review, so I will admit, I did NOT like The Magic Thief--I loved it!

My delight began the very moment I laid hands on the book. The slipcover is made to look like blue leather with gold leaf and the pages are deckle-edged, giving it an "old book" appearance. The inside has beautiful illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo, a map, journal entries by the wizard Nevery written on stationary, and recipes for biscuits at the very end, because inside The Magic Thief there is a great deal of eating biscuits and bacon.

The story had me hooked within the first few pages. Conn is a gutter boy who survives on the streets of the bad side of town by picking locks and pockets. One cold night he unwittingly chooses a wizard as his mark, pinching a magical item that should have killed him, but does not. Intrigued, the wizard Nevery takes the boy on as his servant. Nevery was banished from The Magic City of Wellmet twenty years ago. He has only returned because something is draining the city's magic. Can a former exile and a reformed thief save the great city of Wellmet?

The Magic Thief is well written, delightfully entertaining and, well, magical. It is a book that can easily be read out loud to younger children and the 10 to adult crowd will find it equally enchanting. Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl had best keep a sharp eye on their biscuits and bacon, because I have a very strong feeling that they have met their match in the quick hands of Conn and the imaginative talent of Sarah Pirneas.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2008
The Magic Thief is an outstanding read for children and adults alike. Prineas vividly creates a wonderfully exciting magical world that you join through the perspective of Conn, the tale's resourceful 'quick handed' hero. The book is loaded with details and extras that help you to explore Conn's world, through hidden messages, maps, and recipes of Conn's favorite food. I highly recommend this to all, you will not be able to put it down. I can't wait for the next book in the series.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2008
My entire family is reading this book...my 13 yr old daughter and I have finished. We loved the characters, with Conn and Benet being our favorites. Sarah Prineas is a wonderful storyteller...it has fantasy, action, adventure, and she also gives the characters a real human aspect that you can associate with. This is a great read for any age!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2010
Connwaer is a young orphan who has learned to survive on the streets by using his quick wits and nimble pickpocketing fingers. On one cold, wet night, Conn picks the wrong pocket; he comes away not with a few coins to pay for his supper, but with a magicalicus, or wizard's stone, belonging to the powerful and feared wizard Nevery Flinglas.

Much to Nevery's surprise, the magicalicus that should have killed Conn as soon as he touched it leaves him completely unharmed. Conn goes to live in Nevery's crumbling mansion on an island in the river, with the wizard and his "muscle" Benet, a surly and taciturn hired gun who just happens to enjoy baking biscuits and knitting sweaters.

Conn decides that he would make a perfect wizard's apprentice ("a thief is a lot like a wizard"), but it turns out that Nevery thinks Conn would make the perfect servant, except for the fact that he eats too much. However, that little misunderstanding is ironed out to everyone's satisfaction, and Conn is indeed upgraded to a potential apprentice. To be formally accepted as a wizard's apprentice, Conn --- who has had no schooling in his life --- must attend magic school with the best students in the city and locate a magicalicus of his own within the month.

Conn decides to help Nevery find out what --- or who --- is stealing the living magic that runs the city of Wellmet, a task that brings him into contact with the dreaded Underlord Crowe and the enigmatic Dutchess and her beautiful daughter. Conn usually knows just a little more than Nevery and the other adults around him, but can he make them believe that he, a former "sneakthief," is in fact telling the truth?

Conn is a perfect delight --- his general scrappiness, lively curiosity, shrewd observations of people and sly outmaneuvering of the adults around him all serve to make him a thoroughly engaging narrator. His storytelling is interspersed with wry, terse journal entries by Nevery, which make for an amusing counterpoint to Conn's version of the story. Gorgeous and pitch-perfect drawings by Antonio Javier Caparo, scattered throughout the book, capture the very essence of this Dickensian world.

English professor and Tolkien expert Sarah Prineas has given us a work grounded in the fantasy tradition, but with original and interesting characters. THE MAGIC THIEF is an absolute charmer. If the other titles in this anticipated trilogy live up to the promise of the first book (and all indications are that they will), then this series has all the makings of a new fantasy classic for children --- the perfect addition to any young person's library.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Magic Thief is the beginning of a great new series. Conn, a kid living on the streets, tries to steal from a magician and winds up in a situation that sweeps him up into a world of magic and danger. The characters are unique and interesting. The plot is engaging. I highly recommend this book to all who enjoyed books such as the Septimus Heap series or Fablehaven.
Michelle L. Ross, author of Elysium and the Dominion's Prophesy
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2009
The Magic Thief: Lost
by Sarah Prineas

In Sarah Prineas's fast-paced debut book, The Magic Thief, a crafty street urchin named Conn filches Nevery the Wizard's magic tool - his locus magicalicus - from his pocket yet survives. Intrigued, Nevery takes Conn in as his apprentice and ultimately Conn solves the mystery of Wellmet's weakening magic.

Prineas's equally exciting sequel, Lost, picks up a few months later. Here we once more meet up with Conn and Nevery the Wizard, as well as Benet, Nevery's muscle man (and perhaps Prineas's most unique character). We also become reacquainted with the duchess's daughter, Lady Rowan, and the sinister Shadow men, which turn people into stone.

Again, Wellmet's magic is waning and the Shadow men have returned with renewed strength. Having lost his own locus magicalicus, Conn must resort to pyrotechnics, or fireworks, to speak with the magic that has always protected Wellmet. Nevery warns Conn that pyrotechnics are dangerous and forbidden. After all, they damaged his home, Heartstease. Undaunted and desperate to communicate with the magic the only way he can, Conn perseveres until his hopes are literally blown to pieces and disaster ensues, injuring somebody near and dear to him.

As expected, the magisters of Wellmet banish Conn from the city and he sets off for the city of Desh in search of the source of Wellmet's weakening magic and the mystery of the Shadow men. He is not disappointed.

Lost is an equally fast-paced and exciting fantasy as The Magic Thief, albeit slightly darker. As a streetwise, rough-edged hero with a big heart, Conn makes an intriguing hero with a distinctive voice. Although gray bearded Nevery the Wizard is something of a stock character, he makes an apt mentor for Conn, and Lady Rowan, the duchess's daughter, serves as a strong-willed, sword-wielding foil for Conn.

The setting, an important element of a fantasy, is as dark, intriguing and fully realized as the the story's plot and characters.

Antonio Javier Caparo's small black and white illustrations complement the story's mysterious atmosphere. In addition, Prineas includes some of Benet's favorite recipes, a description of some of the characters and places in the story, some notes on sword craft and a key to the runic alphabet used occasionally throughout the story.

Lost is a well-conceived story and artfully designed book for middle grade kids that leaves some room for the final book in the trilogy. If it's anything like the first two, it's certain to be a bumpy and enthralling journey.
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