Surprise! Prineas has taken a somewhat shopworn formula and made it fresh and vibrant. Conn is tenacious and spunky, as befits a kid who has grown up on the street, and he is also both likable and “true.” I believed in and rooted for him all the way. Nevery is gruff and too focused on his work to pay much attention to Conn, so although he is a decent sort, there is never any annoying sentimentality. Benet, the hired Tough Guy who doubles as Cook, mostly just growls – but he must possess a soft spot somewhere in his grizzled old heart, for he knits Conn a sweater and fixes the broken window in his dismal attic room.
One interesting feature is Conn’s growing certainty that magic is a living sentient being rather than a resource or force (as Nevery and his fellow wizards believe). We don’t learn why Conn is so adamant about this or what the ramifications are, so perhaps this will be explored in a sequel.
Kids ages 9 to 12 will likely enjoy this better-than-average fantasy.