Mark of the Thief (Mark of the Thief #1)
Jennifer A. Nielsen delivers another action packed story with MARK OF THE THIEF. Nic is a feisty protagonist full of drive and determination. His caution towards the magic inside him and the magic in the bulla is realistic and refreshing. Instead of magic being a way out of his problems, it becomes a primary cause of them. The narrative explores what it means to not have control over power, both magically and otherwise, and the importance of maintaining a balance. The magical battles are rich scenes ringing with emotion and consequences.
The plot is quick and engaging, with plenty of twists and surprises. Alliances are shaky, and there is never a promise of who is trustworthy. Nic has had to rely on himself for a long time, and he realizes that while it’s important to have allies, that might not be changing anytime soon. The big climax will have readers begging for the next book.
With excellent details of ancient Rome, a powerful narrative, and a magical plot, MARK OF THE THIEF is a must for fans of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s previous series.
Nic is a very reminiscent of Sage from Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince trilogy. He is clever and witty. He is always willing to deliver a scathing retort - even when he probably shouldn't. I was a little disappointed that his inner monologue was not nearly as interesting as Sage's was, and I found myself skimming those parts to get to the action. Nic has a great frenemy in Aurelia. She is determined, single-minded, and great with weapons. Nic and she have a very love-hate relationship, but I don't really see this going the romantic route. More, they will continue to gain respect for one another and become strong allies. We only see a little of Livia, Nic's sister, and I am really excited to see what type of role she takes on in the next book.
I knew very little of Ancient Rome coming into this book and the author did an excellent job of describing the architecture, politics, and methods of entertainment. The magic of this world is really well incorporated into the Roman belief system. I was a particular fan of Nic's new found power to talk to animals. I can see this having fantastic implications as the series continues. I also loved that where most media concentrates on the gladiator fights that took place in the colloseum, this one features the animal fights. It was interesting to see a different side of these events.
The plot is fast paced and fun. There are very few moments of downtime as Nic attempts to escape the consequences of stealing the Bulla. For the first half, he spent a great deal of time simply reacting to the situations unfolding around him and I began to get frustrated with his inability to concoct a plan. As we reached the middle of the book he took on a more controlling role and started to meet challenges head on, rather than attempting to run from them. This developed his character further and allowed me to engage more with the plot.
Mark of the Thief is a fun and exciting start to a promising new series. Young readers will love Nic's adventure and the historic elements on which the plot is built.
There are never enough books about ancient Rome, since it is a topic that really interests middle grade readers. This book has plenty of action and intrigue, and I think this is supposed to be a trilogy. Readers who enjoyed Michael Ford's Spartan Warrior series or Scarrow's Gladiator will love this one.
The details of Romance life are fairly well done, and the addition of magic will appeal to many fantasy fans.