Customer Reviews: The Thief Lord (Indies Choice Book Awards. Young Adult Fiction)
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on September 22, 2002
As a teacher in a small, multiage classroom of grades 2 to 7, I am continually searching for books that I can read aloud to a wide age range. I read this book over the summer, previewing the book before I read it aloud at school. I loved it, and now my students do too. From the youngest student to the oldest, they are engrossed! This book has a lot of teaching potential, too, if you choose to use it that way. Moral dilemmas; is it okay to steal if you are hungry? Teach mapping skills, using the map at the front of the book. But most importantly, it is a great read with many surprises, twists and turns. It will keep you guessing to the end!
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Cornelia Funke's "Thief Lord" is one of those few books that deserves at least some of the hype that they're given. While it's not the best I've read, it is a solid adventure story, quite well-written, with likable characters and a good, suspenseful storyline.
Prosper and Bo have run away to Venice, escaping a vicious aunt who wants to adopt only Bo. Now, they have joined up with Scipio the Thief Lord, a wily kid of their own age with a mystery identity and a band of loyal street kids, including Hornet, Riccio and Mosca. Though Prosper doesn't like stealing, he has no choice; he has to look out for his little brother, and somehow keep out of sight.
Their aunt, however, has hired a private detective (who is preoccupied with turtles) who is trailing the boys through Venice. A nasty merchant named Barbarossa has offered the Thief Lord a massive job on behalf of a mystery client. And the detective starts to home in on the two boys, as the true identity of the Thief Lord comes to light...
"Thief Lord" isn't particularly groundbreaking, but it has a slightly classic feel to it. The settings in Venice, the names of the characters (Prospero, Scipio) and the dramatic details like Scipio's costume. But Funke balances it out with funnier things like Barbarossa's ride on the carousel and Victor's preoccupation with his pets. The magical element of the carousel (shades of Ray Bradbury?) seems a bit out of place, however, as there hadn't been any magic up until then.
The writing is quite detailed and descriptive, and Funke doesn't skimp on the descriptions of how gorgeous Venice is. What's more, the translation is, as far as I can tell (which isn't far since I don't speak German), pretty flawless. If I didn't know better I would think that it was originally written in English. It doesn't have quite the sparkle of other authors like Tolkien or Diana Wynne-Jones, but it moves steadily.
Funke managed something pretty impressive in her little band of outlaws: teens and preteens fending for themselves are almost never portrayed well, but she manages it. Prosper is a likable lead character, with a lot of doubts and worries but overcoming them for his little brother; Scipio seems a little too mature, but that's okay. Victor and the street kids are strong supporting characters as well.
Cornelia Funke's book (along with the movie "Heaven") is one of the best things to come out of Germany in recent years. Very nice and a pleasant read.
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on October 28, 2002
THE THIEF LORD, by German writer Cornelia Funke, is one of the few *new* books that I've come across recently that was able to keep me engrossed until the very end. I found the story to be delightful, and especially enjoyed the setting of Venice, Italy. Funke's writing style is a pleasure to read, neither convoluted or overly simplistic. Her characters are likeable, even Prosper and Bo's "evil" aunt and uncle, and overall THE THIEF LORD is a fun and magical book that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
After their parents die, Prosper and Bo run away from their aunt and uncle (who, of course, want to adopt only the younger, cuter Bo, and send Prosper off to boarding school), making their way all the way to the city of Venice, Italy, which they had heard much of in the stories told by their late mother. There, they are taken into a gang of street kids who are under the guidance of the mysterious Scipio, also known as the Thief Lord. Prosper and Bo feel safe until they realize that their aunt and uncle have not only tracked them to Venice, but have also hired a private detective to track them down with the aim of recovering Bo. From there the adventure takes off, as the children dodge the detective while at the same time work to secure a mysterious object for an equally mysterious "Conte."
Underlying Fuke's work is a tale about being a child and growing up, and whether or not one is truly more desireable than the other. As said earlier, THE THIEF LORD is a book that could be read aloud to the whole family, or enjoyed by individual readers on their own. Either way, recommended reading level is around 10-years-old.
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on January 3, 2003
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
The Thief Lord is a mystifying tale of five orphans and runaways on a quest for freedom and independence in Venice, Italy. They are led by a thirteen year old boy who calls himself the Thief Lord.However, the Thief Lord has amazing secrets of his own that are accidentally revealed to the other children because of a few interesting characters. Despite the essential involvement of these characters however, this is mainly Prosper's story. Prosper seeks to survive successfully with his little brother Bo in Venice, away from Aunt Esther, who looks to have the boys returned to her rightful ownership. The plot only thickens when The Merry-Go-Round of the Merciful Sisters is introduced to the already good story. Written in third person and past tense I always felt that I knew what was going on. Cornelia Funke provides rich descriptions that make you feel what she is saying. I liked this book because what was going to happen next was never predictable. She springs upon you numerous amount of shock and surprise throughout this magical tale.
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VINE VOICEon January 21, 2003
... Scrappy and smart the center of the book focuses on Prosper and Bo, two orphaned brothers who have fled from the clutches of their Aunt and Uncle who want to adopt the younger and send the older away to boarding school. They run across the path of a master thief named Scipio who brings them to an abandoned movie theatre where they fall in a with a mix of other youngsters like themselves. The story that unfolds has mystery and suspense, and a little magic thrown in for good measure. What makes the book so great is like the Potter books it doesn't cater to younger readers, but just presents the story, so it really has a universal appeal with lots of varied characters both in color and gender. Add to that the magical backdrop of Venice, the city on the water,it makes for a enchanting read.
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VINE VOICEon February 9, 2003
As a thirty-something bookworm who enjoyed the Harry Potter books I've been making an effort to add more young novels (classics and new stuff) to my reading list. I'm so glad I chose this one. You'll be dreaming of Venice by the end of the frst chapter. It is simply enchanting.
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on July 5, 2005
I picked this book up, not realizing that it was a children's book. It was only when I got it home and was reading the cover that I saw that Ms. Funke was a writer of children's books. But Venice is one of my favorite cities and the writing level was obviously aimed at a high enough level that I didn't particularly feel that I was reading a children's book so I continued.

I was happily surprised as I read this book. It seems rare these days that you can find a novel that holds your interest, let alone one that is written for children that an adult can enjoy. The descriptions of Venice are simply stunning. The characters are intensely believable (Except maybe Aunt Esther).

No, the novel isn't infused with magic like Harry Potter, but there is just enough at the end to make the novel sparkle. To tell what the magic is about would spoil the plot, but it certainly made me stop and think if I would make the same choices as some of the characters in the book.

I do wonder about some of the children's books that are out these days. They certainly aren't all sweetness and light. This one deals with some pretty harsh subjects of street children, unloved/unwanted children, and crime. I Definitely would not recommend this for the very young reader.

My star ratings:

One star - couldn't finish the book

Two stars - read the book, but did a lot of skipping or scanning. Wouldn't add the book to my permanent collection or search out other books by the author

Three stars - enjoyable read. Wouldn't add the book to my permanent collection. Would judge other books by the author individually.

Four stars - Liked the book. Would keep the book or would look for others by the same author.

Five stars - One of my all time favorites. Will get a copy in hardback to keep and will actively search out others by the same author.
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on October 27, 2002
After the death of their mother, Prosper and Bo run away to Venice - a city their mother loved and told many stories about - in an effort to escape their horrible Aunt Esther. They take up with a band of thieves, lead by the Thief Lord, Scippio - but it is soon discovered the Scippio is more (or perhaps less) than what he claimed to be. While trying to keep from being found out by a private detecive (hired by Aunt Esther), Scippio and his gang are asked to pull off a major job - with some major secrets - that will leave them richer than they could ever imagine... but at what price?
The Thief Lord has been hailed as the "next Harry Potter" - which seems to be the case of almost every children's book coming out these days. But I disagree. The Thief Lord can not even compare to Harry Potter because they aren't even in the same genre! While it has been called a fantasy, The Thief Lord is, at its heart, an adventure - a modern Oliver Twist. Venice gives the book an old world flavor that is delightful and magical. Young readers are sure to delight in the ways the Thief Lord's gang outsmarts the adults and triumphs in their quest and readers of ALL ages will have a ball with this book. The Thief Lord a rollicking, fun ride - I can't wait to read more by this author!
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on October 18, 2003
After Prosper and Bo's mother dies, their Aunt Esther says she would like to adopt five-year-old Bo and send twelve-year-old Prosper to boarding school. However, the two brothers refuse to be separated from each other so they decide to move to Venice, the place their mother had always talked about. After meeting a young homeless girl that goes by the name of Hornet, they are introduced to Riccio and Mosca. All three of these have escaped from home or from the orphanage and are now living in an abandoned old movie theatre. With the help of Scipio, the Thief Lord, they have enough money to eat and to clothe themselves. Meanwhile, Esther suspects that Prosper and Bo are hiding in Venice and she hires the detective Victor Getz to track them down. However, things start getting tricky when the Thief Lord is hired to steal something for the Conte, and Victor discovers Prosper's and Bo's secret hide-out.
The Thief Lord, a book written by German author Cornelia Funke, is a mystery book that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat during the whole story. Though many people compare this book to Harry Potter, I am tempted to compare it to Artemis Fowl, though it is, in my opinion, much more suspenseful. Even though the plot is a bit weak, it is nonetheless well thought of and Cornelia surprises readers' by revealing the mysterious Scipio's real identity. This book is very well written and is sure to please children that are around ten years old.
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on March 20, 2003
Funke's setting and characters are charming and quirky, and combine to make a light, entertaining story. Venice,that beautiful and magical city, almost becomes a character in its own right. The two young orphans, Prosper and Bo, are appealing and well-drawn, as is the gold-hearted Victor, the detective hired to seek them. The secrets of the Thief Lord and the fortunes of the two brothers intertwine to make a fascinating whole. We can look for future novels by this author with interest and anticipation.
The story is not without its faults, however. Chief among them is the introduction of a magical element nearly two-thirds of the way through the story. Indeed, until that the point the story follows the pattern of many other stories for children in which a young protagonist survives on his own, in a real--if melodramatic--world. The books of Joan Aiken, Barbara Brooks Wallace, and Avi, all with similar Dickensian elements, come strongly to mind. The sudden introduction of a search for magical objects, in a story which otherwise follows this classic pattern, is jarring.
There is a problem as well with the sub-plot involving the boys' Aunt Esther, who plans to separate the brothers. It was difficult to worry too much about this; Esther was annoying, but hardly dangerous. The "wicked" aunt and uncle merely provide an excuse for the boys to run away to the city their mother loved. The author apparently didn't take this part of the plot too seriously either; much of the action resolving this sub-plot actually happens "off-stage," with the reader learning of it later.
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