Thief Lord is partly based on Cornelia Funke's experience as a social worker. She was particulary struck by the siblings who acted as surrogate parents for each other, and it is these children on which she bases her characters of Prosper and Bo.
Twelve-year-old Prosper and five-year-old Bo are newly orphaned and inseparable. But when their aunt applies for custody of Bo—and not Prosper—the boys decide to run away to the magical city that their mother always talked about: Venice.
In Venice (modern Italy) they meet a group of young children led by the mysterious Thief Lord. The children are skilled thieves, a sort of Lost Boys (and Girl's) group under the protection of their leader. But the Thief Lord himself is no Peter Pan. The one thing he longs to do, more than anything else, is to grow up. When they are hired by the Conte to find the missing piece to a magical carousel*, the Thief Lord is eager to complete the job, for the carousel is rumored to have the power to age whoever rides it. But Prosper and Bo's aunt has hired a detective to track the boys down, and the children may not be free for very much longer.
Thief Lord is a novel about a band of homeless orphan children who live in an abandoned movie theater and steal to survive. These children are not amateurs either; most of them are very accomplished thieves—and proud of it.
Prosper, on the other hand, is thoroughly ashamed of his actions, and steals only because he feels that he needs to in order to protect his little brother. In fact, all of his actions—from running away, to joining the Thief Lord's band—are motivated by his love for Bo and his desire to protect him.
But the book does not especially encourage the children's actions; rather, it shows us why the children do what they do. They are scared, orphaned, homeless, trying to provide for themselves. Thievery is the way that they prove to themselves that they are in control, that they don't need the parents who abandoned them (purposefully or not). At the end of the book, when a kind lady takes them in, some of them are willing to give up their life of freedom and thievery—the ones who realize that they've found what they've been looking for.
Thief Lord is a surprisingly insightful book about the bittersweetness of growing up, of losing and wanting parents, and of finding a place to call home.
*Spoiler alert: the magic carousel turns out to be real. It's the lone fantasy element in an otherwise realistic work of fiction, which is why this book is labelled fantasy. The magic in this book exists solely to bring Prosper and the Thief Lord to a choice; and the choices they make will leave readers pondering over the question themselves.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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