Sunday, June 7, 2009

Review of The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas

I loved the fresh voice and intriguing premise of The Magic Thief, so I eagerly dove into book 2.

Conn has discovered that explosions allow the magic of his city Wellmet to talk to him, and since his locus magicalicus stone was destroyed at the end of book 1, this is very important to him. Unfortunately, Conn accidentally blows up his master Nevery’s house, at which point he is exiled from the city. This is horrifying to Conn but just as well, as Conn is quite certain that the magic of Wellmet wants him to investigate and solve the problem of the Shadows that have been invading Wellmet – and the root of the evil seems to lie in the desert city of Desh. With his friend Rowan and her retinue, he struggles against a mysterious magician and an ancient, malignant magic.

With the destruction of his powerful locus magicalicus, Conn has seemed to lose some of his vigor and energy. Despite his penchant for explosions, he seems strangely subdued and even taciturn – even Rowan notices, pointing out to him several times that he has stopped talking to her. Even his narrative voice has gotten terser – when Nevery says “Well, boy?” Conn thinks ‘Not really well, no,’ and doesn’t say a word. Getting exiled from his beloved city and its magic – and from his friends and his master – is horrifying and tragic for him, and it just makes him more silent and intense. Although this makes sense, it’s a bit distancing for the reader.

Luckily, some bouts of mortal danger toward the end of the book serve to wake Conn (and the reader) up, and we all gallop together toward the action-packed conclusion. Finally, at the very end, comes the emotional scene that has been lacking, and we realize that Conn and Nevery both have feelings that they very rarely share. Not that they’ll get much chance for that in the near future, as the city of Wellmet is under attack, and we won’t know the outcome until book 3.

Despite Conn's apparent depression, he still has a way with words, especially verbs - he "snickpicks" locks, "wobbleflaps" into the air when Nevery turns him into a bird, and "splat-lands" when he tries to come down for a landing. This fresh way with language embues the narration with some much-needed energy.

Final verdict – all fans of the first book must read this installment despite its occasional lack of affect. By the end, the old Conn is back, and readers will be on tenterhooks to find out what happens next. Recommended for grades 4 to 7.

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