The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
The Thief LordProsper and Bo have run away from their Aunt Esther. Their mother has died. Aunt Esther and her husband want to adopt 5-year-old Bo because of his angelic looks. They plan to shuttle 12-year-old Prosper off to a boarding school, separating the brothers. The brothers don’t want that, so they have run away from their aunt in Germany and made their way to Venice, Italy.
They are about to give up and turn themselves over in Venice because they are hungry and don’t have a place to stay. Then Hornet discovers them. Hornet is also an orphan. She takes the two boys to her gang’s hide out in a deserted movie theater. Along with Riccio and Mosca, they settle in to live. Their leader is another boy, Scipio, who calls himself the Thief Lord. Scipio doesn’t live with them, but mysteriously comes and goes. He robs elegant houses, brings the loot to the orphans, and lets them sell the items to a local unethical shopkeeper, Barbarosa.
Aunt Esther has hired a Venice detective, Victor Getz, to find the boys. Prosper and Riccio were returning from a successful sale when Prosper accidentally runs into Victor. He immediately realizes Victor has started following the boys. They are able to give Victor the slip, but Prosper is afraid that he and Bo have endangered the others.
Barbarosa made an offer to the Thief Lord. One of his clients wants a very personal theft committed. Anyone who calls himself the Thief Lord should be perfect for the task. Prosper is suspicious of Barbarosa’s offer. But Riccio tells Scipio about the offer. Scipio decides to accept the “commission” despite Prosper’s misgivings. The results of the theft are beyond any of their imaginations.
Cornelia Funke has written a charming older children’s story. Scipio’s dark secret isn’t too surprising. The Thief Lord is a typical good children versus wicked adults tale for children. Yet there are some good adults as well. There is a magical twist at the end that leaves the reader feeling that justice has been served. Venice is a well described back drop to the story.
The Thief Lord is a modern day fairy tale.It will warm “the cockles of your heart.” At least one review I’ve since read has accused Funke of lifting the story line straight from Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. While partially true, Funke has made it her own.