Museum of Thieves
by Lian Tanner
SOOOOO GOOD! I know I could probably come up with a more savvy "hook" than that, but....THIS BOOK IS SOOOOO GOOD! Lian Tanner's Museum of Thieves blew me away. It is scary and dark and thrilling and inspiring and clever. But beyond being thoroughly entertaining, Museum of Thieves raises some very thought-provoking questions. It never ceases to amaze me how authors create elaborate fantasy worlds that on the surface seem to have nothing in common with ours, but soon are revealed to examine deep truths about the cultures and societies of our own humdrum world. Museum of Thieves is just such a book.
The story begins with one of the best, most-tension-filled opening scenes I have read in a long time. We are introduced to the city of Jewel. Ages ago, this land used to be filled with dangers (flood, kidnapping, murder, famine, plague, etc.), and it made the people fearful. A law was declared that all children under the age of 16 must be safely chained to an adult at all times. At home, children are connected to their parents by a "guardchain," and out in the world, they are connected to "Guardians" (who are basically like teachers/nannies/body-guards). But the times have changed, and Jewel's leader (the "Grand Protector") has become concerned about the power of the Guardians and their leader (the "Blessed Guardian"). The Grand Protector, much to the Blessed Guardian's dismay, has decided to lower the age of separation from 16 to 12. The book begins on this controversial "Separation Day," and Goldie, our bold and rebellious 12-year-old protagonist, is going to be the first one to have her chain removed. But (in one of the best introductions of a plot's conflict that I have read in a long time) suddenly, the Separation Ceremony is cancelled due to a mysterious explosion in the city. Panicked at the thought of having the freedom she longs for snatched away from her at the last moment, Goldie runs away, and so her adventure begins. She discovers the mysterious museum of the book's title and quickly learns that there is much more danger left in Jewel than anyone realizes.
This book is a genuine page-turner. As the end of each chapter drew near, I would promise myself that I would set the book aside and get some sleep, but when I got to the last line, I just couldn't bring myself to close the book. I had to keep going. Goldie is very likable--extremely bold and defiant but also frightened, at times, and unsure of herself. And she is surrounded by an entertaining posse of strange characters. The villains of the book are despicable and the moments of danger (which are many) feel extremely real and urgent.
But beyond being entertaining, there is a lot we can learn from Museum of Thieves, as it reveals truths about our own often-paranoid culture. The panicky, control-obsessed people of Jewel made me think of the ways we try to escape the necessary dangers of living life. I found myself thinking of security measures (in airports, and even in schools, etc) and people's willingness to trade their privacy (even dignity) to feel a little safer. Museum of Thieves shows that risk and danger are not something we can simply get rid of. They exist and are a part of life, and when you try to pretend they aren't, it only backfires--often in ways that are even more dangerous than you first feared.
by Lian Tanner
Release date: September, 2010
Things to think about while reading Museum of Thieves:
-Symbolism (What might the museum represent?)
-Character development (How does Goldie change over the course of the book?)
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