What better way to start Book Blogger Appreciation Week than with a book review?
When we last left the gutter-boy-turned-wizard-apprentice Connwaer at the end of Sarah Prineas’ Magic Thief, he had successfully thwarted a plot by the Underlord and the traitor wizard Pettivox to draw up and trap the ambient magic of the fantasy town of Wellmet. His actions came at a terrible cost, however, as his locus magicalicus — his connection to the town’s magic and the only way he can be a wizard — was destroyed. Still, it could be worse. As his master Nevery notes, wizards have been known to die after their locus magicalicuses have been destroyed. How was it that Connwaer managed to survive?
But Connwaer is not feeling lucky. He suspects that the magic has something to tell him. Could it have something to do with the strange shadows that are stalking the streets of Wellmet, turning unfortunate victims into stone? But without a locus magicalicus, he has to turn to dangerous pyrotechnic experiments in order to hear what it has to say, and that’s where his problems really begin.
Pyrotechnics are banned in Wellmet as, in conjunction with magic they often get out of hand. Pyrotechnics are the reason why Nevery’s home of Heartsease has a whacking big hole in it, and why he spent twenty years in exile. Connwaer is already unpopular with the local wizards as his theories on the nature of magic (that it is a living thing) are nothing short of shocking, and the Duchess and her guards remain suspicious of Connwaer’s past as a thief. Connwaer’s master Nevery and the Duchess’s daughter Rowan both warn Connwaer that all these people would need is one mistake, one excuse, and Connwaer could face exile. But Connwaer has to know what Wellmet’s magic is afraid of… why it possibly wants him to undergo exile.
The second book in Sarah Prineas’ Magic Thief sequence takes up where the first one left off. In my review of the first novel, I noted that Conn was a tough narrator to follow, initially, but you grow to understand him and, more importantly, like him because Prineas’ is so consistent in his characterization and narrative voice. As Connwaer is with the other characters in the story, he keeps his feelings close to himself even to his readers, but Prineas provides enough clues for us to understand what Conn is really thinking and feeling, and you come to strongly identify with him. By the second novel, we are very familiar with Connwaer, and though he is as quiet and taciturn as ever, we cannot help but experience his pain at losing his connection to the magic of Wellmet (though losing his locus magicalicus, and then through exile) as though it is happening to someone we love.
The second novel builds upon the first, deepening the relationships between Conn and his master, Conn and Rowan and between Conn and a number of the secondary characters of the first novel. Kerrn, the female captain of the Duchess’ guards, gets a lot of development in this story, primarily in terms of how she views Conn, but also in terms of who she is and where she’s from. Prineas makes more than a few mentions of the woman’s strange accent.
Clues in the shadow attacks in Wellmet suggest the influence of magic in the desert city of Desh, and though exiled, Connwaer finds himself included in an expedition, led by Rowan, to visit Desh and parlay with its leader, the sorcerer-king. All of this uncovers a larger conspiracy that smoothly incorporates elements of the first novel such that the story — which had been pretty stand-alone with the first novel, now points in the direction of two more books. And I cannot be happier. Prineas ability to craft a detailed world and show it through the eyes of the compelling character of Connwaer, is The Magic Thief’s strongest asset; it transports you to another world and makes you root for the good guys. The second book, Lost, is as strong as the first, and promises much mayhem and adventure to come.
Kids ten and up will find much to like in the first two books of Sarah Prineas’ Magic Thief sequence, but more importantly, they’ll find much to care about. Where Tolkien can be distancing, The Magic Thief greets you like an old friend. Why not visit for a weekend, and stay awhile?