In the town of Jewel the children are protected and guarded like treasures. At night they are chained to their beds (to protect them from kidnappers) and during the day they are chained to a Guardian or their parents at all times. When I first heard of this premise of Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner all I could think was, "Are those parents crazy?????" The more I thought about it though the more I realized how much I've seen parents do this (metaphorically, of course). Or not so metaphorically with those little leashes attatched to the fluffy animal backpack (I don't care how fluffy and cute you try to make it, it's still a leash). It is becoming more the norm of western parenting to wrap our kids in bubble wrap like they are fragile vases. I was intrigued with what Lian Tanner was trying to say by writing a children's novel with this as a central part of the plot, so I read and very much enjoyed the book. Lian Tanner's website):
Goldie Roth lives in the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin, and boldness is a crime. The children of Jewel wear silver guardchains to keep them safe, and are not allowed out on their own until Separation Day. But Goldie is both bold and impatient. When her Separation Day is cancelled, she runs away, putting both herself and her parents in terrible danger. In the chaos that follows, she takes refuge in the mysterious Museum of Dunt, and befriends the boy Toadspit, a cunning thief her own age. What follows is a thrilling tale of risk, adventure, secrets, double-crossing, mystical creatures, and magic!
This is a quick read and a real page turner. It has one of those stories that sucks you in and doesn't want to let you out until the end. The plot is fast paced and the setting of the museum vividly described so that it comes to life. Goldie is a character with both strengths and weaknesses. It is easy to root for her and want her to succeed. Toadspit is equally endearing, as are the adult heroes of the story. The villain is easy to hate. So easy to hate, in fact, that I was a bit annoyed at the beginning. He was so obviously evil, despite his charisma, I couldn't understand why everyone didn't see it. Because that's never happened in the course of real history. Once I thought about it that way it didn't bother me at all. The book does have flaws. There are more questions left unanswered at the end than I typically like, even if it is the first book in a series. Some of the constructs of the world building were a little hard for me to swallow, but I applaud the author for presenting the world as she created it and not going out of her way to explain it.
This is a book with a Message. It is not subtle either. Usually unsubtle Message books do not ensnare me. This one was different though. I have given it some thought and I think that might be because I the message is an urgent one. When a building is on fire you don't subtly try to explain to people there is a dangerous situation afoot. You yell, "FIRE!" I rather see this like that. The main theme of the book is basically that if you buy safety with liberty, you have been duped. You have exchanged a priceless treasure for something that doesn't even exist, and never has. There are some more subtle mini-messages woven into the big Message and there is definitely, I think, a bit of an indictment on modern parenting practices here.
Kids, I think, will find this highly enjoyable. What kid doesn't like a story where children are the heroes and the grown ups need the rescuing? There is plenty of magic and excitement to keep a reader engaged and is an enjoyable read even if you are only a kid at heart.
This is the first in a series. The second book The City of Lies will be released in September.