Friday, 27 August 2010


'The final shock of it hit home. The Petches were thieves, and they had stolen him.'

Tobias is on the run. From the father who betrayed him... from the mother who couldn't comfort him... from his own desperate fear.
But when he falls into the clutches of his uncle's sinister gang of thieves, his fear grows.

And soon Toby realises: his nightmare has only just begun.


CITY OF THIEVES ~ a tall tales & short stories review

City of Thieves is the hugely anticipated sequel to Ellen Renner's debut novel, Castle of Shadows, and it starts with a crowd gathering for a hanging.

'How long?' (Toby) asked the fat man on his right.
'Two hours yet, lad. They always give the condemned a hearty breakfast. They ought to hang 'em at dawn, like the old days. Food'll do him no good, where he's going.'
The man reached into his satchel and pulled out an enormous sausage. Holding it in one hand, he began carving slices off with a knife and stuffing them in his mouth. 'I brought me own breakfast.' His voice was thick with sausage. 'Don't see why I should go hungry waiting to see a scoundrel hanged...'

And so the scene is set for a dark, Gothic tale set in the city of Quale where Tobias is kidnapped and imprisoned, and made to lead a life he'd hoped to escape forever.  Ellen Renner's writing exudes confidence, and her world building and scene setting is exemplary.  This reader felt as if she was walking the narrow, shadowy streets; was breathing in the stench of the slums, was truly inhabiting Ellen's fictional world along with the characters.  Castle of Shadows was a wonderful book but I think Ellen has excelled herself with the sequel, City of Thieves; each scene, each character, lived and breathed in this reader's imagination.

City Of Thieves is a multi-levelled read; taken at face value it's a Victorian influenced adventure with echoes of Dickens and Oliver Twist, but this is also a complex tale of ambiguity; of loss in its many guises; of varying shades of morality, where sometimes we can't always act the way we would like, that situations can force our hand and make us do things we'd rather not do.  There is a sense of claustrophobia, Charlie stuck in her castle and role as queen, Tobias stuck in the grips of a family he thought he'd escaped.  The ever present threat of war that follows on from Castle of Shadows and the continuation of this back story is skilfully interwoven into Tobias's story, so although I would urge any reader to read the books in order, they can both be read as standalone novels which adds to the power of the storytelling.

A wonderful Victorian, Gothic adventure for children and adults that shouldn't be missed.


"No clue about why the Queen vanished had ever been found. Until now..."

The day Charlie discovers a scrap of paper that could solve the dark mystery of her mother's disappearance, her world changes. Forever.
Charlie and her friend, Toby, must race against time on a dangerous mission to uncover the sinister truth. But in this shadowy world of secrets and lies, there is more to fear than they can possibly imagine...

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