Story Thieves

September 7, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads)

thievesStory Thieves by James Riley

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Story Thieves was an impulse buy, something I found on the shelves at Target and figured it was worth a shot. It sounded a little like a kids’ version of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and as much as I like that series, it was a no-brainer. Maybe I should have recognized that I would see the book as derivative, and left it alone.

It’s about Owen, an avid reader who finds the regular world boring. He wishes his life were more like Kiel Gnomenfoot, the central character of his favorite series of books (think Harry Potter, but a lot more arrogant), and when he discovers that one of his classmates has the ability to go inside books and live in their worlds, of course he has to find a way into the Kiel Gnomenfoot books so he can meet his hero. Once inside, he can’t help but get involved, which throws the book off the rails and sets into motion a series of events that threatens more than just Kiel Gnomenfoot’s world.

The book isn’t bad, really, but it’s hard to care much about the three central characters. Owen is obnoxious and duplicitous, since he has to trick his classmate, Bethany, into bringing him into the books, and Kiel is arrogant and self-centered. Bethany is the closest thing to being sympathetic, but it feels like she’s pushed aside for the two boys’ stories. Owen’s story takes place without her, and though she’s involved with Kiel’s story, his use of magic makes him the active player in their conflict. She’s integral to the story — she’s the one with the power to go in and out of books, after all — and she’s the smartest of the three, but I wish she’d received more of a share of the action. The characters grow over the course of the story, but it’s hard hanging in long enough to get to that point.

I waffled over giving the book two or three stars, and ultimately went with three, rounding up from two-and-a-half. I would recommend it to kids who like clever fantasy stories, but adults might find it lacking. I’ll move on to the next book (I’ve already placed the hold on it through the library), so I hope it improves.

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