The Thief Lord
by Cornelia Funke
translated by Oliver Latsch
Many "Book Trolley" readers have begged me to read and review this best-selling adventure, and I am glad that I did. It is a beautiful book, filled with a deep love for children, and compassion for those children who do not have loving parents to protect them and provide for them. It is also filled with the unique beauty and ancient dignity of the floating city of Venice.
The story begins with a private detective named Victor Getz taking on a new client. The client is a wealthy woman from Hamburg named Esther Hartlieb, who wants him to locate the two orphaned sons of her sister. Aunt Esther's late sister had always fascinated her children with stories about the magical beauty of Venice, so she is sure the boys are there. They have run away together, evidently because Aunt Esther only wants to adopt the younger boy-- angelic, five-year-old Bo-- but not his devoted older brother, Prosper. In spite of an instinct telling him he can understand why the children would want to run away from Aunt Esther, Victor accepts the job.
The boys, as Victor eventually learns, have joined a handful of orphans and runaways living in an abandoned movie theatre. There a mysterious figure calling himself "the Thief Lord" provides for their needs, apparently from the loot of his crimes. Besides Prosper and Bo, there is a strong-willed, bookish girl known as Hornet, a hot-blooded young pickpocket named Riccio, and a dark-skinned young fisherman named Mosca. The five children have shelter and food, thanks to the Thief Lord, who is only a boy himself-- his real name is Scipio.
But then Scipio accepts a business proposal from the untrustworthy antiques dealer who buys their loot, a red-bearded scoundrel named Barbarossa. Barbarossa invites them to join with a mysterious man calling himself Conte (the Count) in a scheme to steal a seemingly worthless object from a lady's house. The Conte promises to reward them richly, as if the wing is the key to his heart's desire. And though the children find out that Scipio is not who he has always said he is, they try to carry out the heist anyway.
Everything goes wrong, the lady of the house (Ida Spavento, by name) and the detective Victor Getz become involved, and so do an island called Isla Segreta which is supposed to be cursed, and a magical merry-go-round that turns adults into children and children into adults. Everyone gets doublecrossed, lost, found, endangered, and saved.
Do Barbarossa and Aunt Esther get their comeuppance? Will the secrets of Isla Segreta be revealed? Will six poor children (and two lonely adults) find the happiness they deserve? If I gave you any more information, I would spoil the answers for you. And I wouldn't want to cheat you of a suspenseful, event-filled, tender-hearted adventure amid the streets and canals of the most magical city in the world.
Recommended Age: 10+
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