Magic is one of those fun things that is different in every book. Its rules are never the same, no matter how similar they might be. It’s been written into stories probably thousands of times, and each one has its own unique twist that makes that story’s magic that story’s. The magic in The Magic Thief: Found, by Sarah Prineas, is no different. (Or, should I say, completely different?)
The Magic Thief: Found is the third book in a trilogy that revolves around the gutterboy-turned-wizard, Connwaer, on his search to find his locus magicalicus—a stone that enables wizards to perform magic, quite like wands in many other books—so that he can save the city of Wellmet from the oncoming predator magic, Arhionvar. Connwaer is aided in these adventures by magister Nevery Flinglas, the scary-looking teddy bear Benet, and the Duchess’s daughter, Rowan Forestal.
What I found most interesting about this novel is how far the world within it has grown since the first book, The Magic Thief. In the first novel, the action is contained primarily to the city of Wellmet, and the understanding of magic and how it works is simple: wizards use locus stones to interact with magic and perform spells. Then in the second book, the perspective of the world is widened as Conn travels to the desert city, Desh, and meets the dread magic, Arhionvar, for the first time. The rules of magic expand as well, giving the reader and understanding of how magic and pyrotechnics are intertwined and how the magics of different cities are sentient beings. And now in Found, the world has grown larger and the rules of magic have expanded yet again as dragons—thought to be extinct—enter the mix.
This early middle-grade novel seemed simple at first, just trying another twist on a familiar subject, but the more I read, the more I realized that this isn’t a simple perspective on magic. It’s complex and unique and all its own. Prineas isn’t trying to copy what’s come before The Magic Thief—she’s making a tried and tired topic all her own. She’s making new and original magic, as opposed to grafting slight variations onto common tropes we all know.
While the magic might be awesome, the characters fall a bit flat. Prineas has created this intriguing world filled with not-so-three-dimensional characters. Sure, they’re fun to hear and fun to watch and fun to read about, but they just didn’t seem fully realized. Nevery is the grumpy old wizard. Conn is the rebellious preteen boy who gets into trouble. Rowan is the smart, combat-trained, loyal daughter of royalty. And with all of the other characters, they never seem to deviate from these traits. Maybe it’s just been too long since I read the first two books, but the characters were missing important detail that made them them.
Character’s aside (and it wasn’t that big an issue anyway), this novel—and the series as a whole—is worth the read. The magic used is fresh, unique, and complex in this relatively simply-written early middle-grade novel. The characters, while somewhat flat, drive the story forward and their adventures are entertaining to watch. I recommend this series to any fans of fantasy that would like to see a twist on the orthodox portrayal of magic.
*I’m no longer giving books a score out of five. I’ve come to think that the numerical score detracts from the overall review. Sorry if you were expecting one.