11 August 2008

The Good Thief

The Good Thief
Hannah Tinti 4/4 stars
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: The Dial Press (August 26, 2008)

Ren has no memories of, or even idea of, life outside the orphanage with the monks. He was left there as an infant and has spent all his eleven years imagining who he might be, and why he is missing a hand. Then one amazing day, Benjamin Nab appears, claims him as his long-lost brother and his life makes a drastic change from the comforting, if sparse, routine of the monastery to a whirlwind life involving crime, confidence trickery graverobbery, Resurrection men, hired murderers, a motherly housekeeper, a mysterious dwarf, a sinister factory owner and--most importantly--the answers to his past.

Ren is a wonderfully sympathetic character while Benjamin Nab is, I hate to admit it, an attractive rogue that one can't help but like despite his crimes. Ben's partner Tom has a deep sadness that shows itself in depression and drink and comes out slowly over the course of the story. The minor characters are well-written and engaging, Mrs. Sands, for example, with her hinted back story. And while I was able to figure out most of Ren's history about 3/4 of the way through the story, that made it no less enjoyable or thrilling.

I had some qualms about half way through the book, thinking that petty crime was being a bit too glorified, and perhaps wasn't going to be shown as "not okay", but I was satisfied in the end; it wasn't preachy or moralistic but the life of crime was shown to be of no benefit. I was also quite pleased with how Tinti chose to end the book--I'll not say more than that but any other way and I would have thought less of Benjamin.

Overall this was a wonderful story that will appeal to children and young adults (and adults, of course!) who enjoy a sometimes dark adventure with well written characters and a sound plot line.



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