I was not expecting the mature themes I found in the Thief Lord. I had thought to find more derring-do and adventure, and while there is some of that, the focus of this story is the not so easy life of a collection of orphans, how they carve a place in the world for themselves and how that world eventually changes. In short, this is a story about growing up and what that really means to both children and adults.
There is a lot of excitement and mystery in this novel and the story picks up and never really stops moving. Each chapter entices you to read more by showing you in detail the ophan's lives and the charming Thief Lord. Every time one riddle is solved, a new one takes its place, always backed by the one big question, "Just who is the Thief Lord?". I kept promising myself one more chapter and ended up finishing it one sitting. In all the adventure, romantic history and whimsy are some very real moments where the kids worry about starving, being slaves and getting captured. I was impressed with how the 'villains' were portrayed - as simply very flawed people and not 'bad' people. Many children have different reasons to want to "run away from home" at some time or another. Funke makes Thief Lord a kind of cautionary tale, not by being preachy, but by showing the realities of what happens when children are on their own in the world with no one to look after them. I do wish that some of the characters full histories were revealed; they weren't necessary to enjoy the story but there were quite a few teasing hints that are never followed up on. I also believe that Prosper is a saint. The amount of patience that boy has is astounding.
I know that I would have bawled my eyes out if I had read this as a kid. As it was (in my twenties) I was rather misty eyed from time to time but I also smiled often too.
Context Free Quote:
Riccio self-consciously hid his face between his soft toys. "From the Salute Church," he mumbled. "There are hundreds, probably thousands lying around there. So it doesn't really matter if I take a few every now and then. Why should we spend our precious money on candles? I swear," he grinned at Hornet, "I always blow a kiss for each one."