The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu

Review by Katy, regular contributor

Greek myths are in right now. This is the second series that I have picked up where the Greek gods feature prominently (the other is Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan), and I have to admit that I've enjoyed both of them a lot.

The Shadow Thieves follows Charlotte and Zee (short for Zachary). Charlotte is a quick talking, mopey adolescent. She thinks well on her feet, but she has a difficult time dealing with the human race. Her mom calls her "prickly." Zee is Charlotte's cousin who was raised in London and insists on calling soccer balls footballs. After Zee's grandmother dies, all of his friends become very ill; they are unable to get out of bed or do anything, but no one can figure out what's wrong with them. Eventually, Zee decides that it must all be his fault, so he talks his folks into sending him to live with his cousin in America. Unfortunately, once he arrives, Charlotte's friends start falling ill. Charlotte and Zee must figure out a way to save their friends (and the world).

I have a love/hate relationship with books where the language is super informal. It really rubs me the wrong way, yet I almost always like the story, and because the language is informal, there are usually a lot of funny lines throughout. That was the kind of relationship I had with this book. The language is pretty informal, and at times the author talks to the reader ("You thought your name was bad" p 1) which drives me crazy. But, I really enjoyed the story and thought it was hilarious. Here are some favorite passages: (all pages refer to paperback ed)

"That day the topic of conversation was, not surprisingly, Charlotte and her attitude. Said topic was a particular favorite of Charlotte's mom's; no one in the history of the world ever liked to talk about anything as much as Charlotte's mom liked to talk about Charlotte's attitude" (p 8)

"Okay, so not the truth, exactly. To Charlotte, truth was a flexible instrument, one that could be readily shaped to fit her needs." (p 24)

Charon (the guy that rows the dead across the River Styx) describing a typical day at his job: "He spends his day rowing back and forth along the Styx, listening to the dead freak out because they're dead and that they had so much to live for, blah, blah, blah and where the heck were the pearly gates anyway?"(p 228)

Other than the informal language, I really enjoyed this book. I found Charlotte clever and funny, and she reminded me a lot of me when I was younger (though I never knew what to say). I struggled a bit more with Zee. He seemed like a nice enough kid, but he was so busy being stressed/feeling sorry for himself that he never seemed to grow as a character.

I loved that the Underworld was the setting for a lot of the book. The Underworld isn't all that bad unless you end are sent to Tarturus (very rare), though it's not necessarily the heaven most people are looking for. It was original and different. I also really liked the character of Hades; he didn't fit a single myth that I had ever read about him, but he seemed kind of realistic. The bad guy (err, um Evil Genius) was hilarious, and while I am glad he was soundly defeated, I enjoyed his chapters quite a bit.

I am sure there will be comparisons to Percy Jackson, but this book stands well on its own. The stories aren't even similar other than the Greek myths being real thing. It's the first of a trilogy (the second book The Siren Song, is available in hardback) but the ending should satisfy (I hate cliffhangers!). I look forward to the next installment.

Recommended for ages 10 and up, but I would guess a lot of the humor would be lost if you haven't done a cursory study of the Greek myths.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the informal language. This book is quirky, fun, light hearted, and a wonderful read. It's very different from Percy Jackson, and there isn't really a comparison in the tone for me. This is funny in completely different ways and would appeal more to girls (mostly because there's a girl for the main character instead of a boy, but also it's a much less intense, which is a good thing for me). It never takes itself too seriously. I'd recommend it.