The Magic Thief


Sarah Prineas


Fantasy / Science Fiction


Date Reviewed:

September 23, 2022

saw an internet site displaying the artwork of Antonio Caparo and I was impressed. He creates some excellent illustrations. I did a search for Antonio Caparo in our library catalog, and his name popped up for a number of books, including The Magic Thief. So I checked it out - the ultimate "judge a book by its cover" move!

The Magic Thief is the story of a young thief named Connwaer Crowe; Conn for short, though the wizard Nevery just calls him boy (which I found grating - why can't Nevery use Conn's name?) Conn roams the streets of Wellmet, stealing enough food and sleeping in enough hidden corners to survive. One evening, he sees a man with a cane tapping as he walks along the street - in a flash, Conn has fliched whatever was in the gentleman's pocket. But unfortunately for Conn, what he has stolen is a locus magicalicus, and the man he stole it from is Nevery, a powerful wizard. Conn soon finds himself employed as a servant of Nevery, and later he becomes his apprentice.

Wellmet is experiencing tough times - it needs magic to continue to be prosperous, but the levels of magic appear to be fading. The Duchess has called Nevery back from his twenty year exile because he is possibly the only one sorcerer powerful enough detect what is draining the magic, and hopefully he can fix it. The council of Magisters ought to be an assembly of the most powerful magic users in Wellmet, but they are an inept group of timid hand-wringers. It is up to Nevery and his new apprentice to save the day.

A few things about this novel annoyed me. Connwaer Crowe is too perfect. He learns to read in a single lesson. He steals Nevery's locus magicalicus, and Nevery remarks that it ought to have killed him, but Conn escapes unharmed. Conn can memorize a long spell that will transform him into a cat, even though he has heard it just once. Conn is a master lockpick - he can open seemingly any lock. And he is an excellent pickpocket as well. The biggest, most precious jewel becomes his magicalicus locus (and oddly, the Duchess willingly just parts with the valuable gem) when most wizards have just small non-descript stones to focus their power. I think the story might have worked better if Conn had to strive to reach greatness, rather than just being the best from the start. I assume by the end of this series that Conn will inevitably be the most powerful wizard to stride the streets of Wellmet.

What was the connection between slowsilver and magical energy? The magic of Wellmet is ebbing quickly, and simultaneously slowsilver becomes scarce. Is slowsilver the source of magic power, once slowsilver is gone there is no more magic? Is it not a renewable resource? If the slowsilver cannot be replenished, then isn't Wellmet ultimately doomed anyway? The magic system did not seem well explained.

Near the beginning of the book, Conn witnesses that the wizard Pettivox engaged in some sort of nefarious enterprise with the crime lord of the Underworld. But Neverly obtusely refuses to hear Conn's warning; the plot relies on Nevery being a bonehead, but that doesn't square with Nevery's reputation of being a powerful sorcerer.

Alas, even the artwork by Caparo did not strike me as inspired. I was hoping for some classic artwork, but the drawings in The Magic Thief just show characters standing on a blank page, with nothing but a shadow beneath them. Although I believe there are at least three books in this series, I doubt I will be reading the next one. This did not strike me as a terrific novel, instead I recommend Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine, East by Edith Pattou, or anything written by Frances Hardinge.