Mark of the Thief, by Jennifer Nielsen, for MMGM

Hello MMGMers and blog readers! ¬†Happy last-Monday-in-April, from me and my newest lily, to all of you. ūüôā ¬†What are you planting, lately? ¬†Got any gorgeous garden projects coming along?



Today I’m spotlighting a new (to me) series by Jennifer Nielsen, who you may remember as the author of The False Prince series. ¬†Picking this one up was an obvious choice, since I loved Sage, who may or may not also be known as Prince Jaron, and adored all three of the Ascendance books–my spotlight’s here.

Mark of the Thief was very different. ¬†It’s alternate history, for one thing, since it’s set in a magic-influenced Roman Empire. ¬†It’s also not nearly as playful. ¬†And the tone and structure are different, too.

That said, different isn’t always bad. ¬†In this book, we meet Nic, a boy who has spent the majority of his life a slave in a mine outside of Rome, along with his sister. ¬†Their father is dead and long gone. ¬†Their mother is possibly alive, but sold away from them years ago. ¬†And while Sage had a tough life but felt only marginally¬†affected by it–his natural buoyancy and sense of self seeing him through–Nic’s troubles have been of a much more personal nature, and have deeply impacted his character. ¬†He wasn’t dodging a swift kick because he’d cleverly swiped something, as Sage was. ¬†He was systematically beaten because he was a slave, and because he refused to obey orders that probably would have killed him. ¬†He feared for his life and his sister’s life every day. ¬†And he did so with nearly no hope. ¬†So, the tone of the story is very different, despite the boys sharing many similarities.

The historic aspects of the book are another plus. ¬†While this Rome is very different from the real Rome (as appropriate, given it’s got¬†gryphons and magic) and perhaps not 100% accurate in other respects, the setting can nevertheless provide an excellent way for kids and classrooms to bring this civilization to life. ¬†I also thought the book did a great job of accurately reflecting the terrible institution of slavery, the discrepancy between the classes, and the cruelty of the entertainment and blood bath that went on in the Colosseum, while keeping this book a solid middle grade that kids in the older middle school grades can realistically read. ¬†That is no easy feat, and I was really impressed with Ms. Nielsen’s handling of some tricky subjects.

However, I’m sure you all can hear the ‘but…’ that’s coming. ¬†The problem was, for all this book had its strengths, when compared to the Ascendance triology, it was a disappointment. ¬†The voices felt muted, the characters a little more blurred, and the plot and structure a slightly flawed but passable net¬†instead of the expertly knotted and woven masterpiece that we enjoyed in The False Prince and its sequels. ¬†That said, I still think most readers would enjoy this book. ¬†I certainly did. ¬†The key is to head into it with reasonable expectations, and let it stand alone, as its own story. ¬†If you do that, then you’ll see Nic’s determination and admire his courage in the face of fear, enjoy the resiliency Aurelia shows, and her kindness to other exposed children, you’ll love the magic of Caesar’s bulla, and revel in the political intricacies of Rome in all its glory. ¬†I really think you will!

But, let’s see what Apricot-kitty has to say:

Apricot Headshot opinion looking down“Hmph. ¬†It was better plotted than The Lighting Thief. ¬†If this had been the author’s first book, you’d all be raving about it. ¬†You people need to learn to live in the moment a little more, and let each book feed you in its own way. ¬†Only humans would let yesterday’s mouse spoil today’s mole.”




It just goes to show that you can’t please everyone because as for me…I’ll pass on eating both mice and moles! ¬†Not my thing, even as treasures, but thanks all the same to our ‘generous’ kitty. ūüėČ

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday Spotlights, reviews, interviews and giveaways, stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog. ¬†And, happy reading!


12 comments to Mark of the Thief, by Jennifer Nielsen, for MMGM

  • I really enjoyed this book! I’d pass too, on the mice and the moles… Thanks for the review and have a nice week!

  • The False Prince was so fantastic that it’s probably hard to write something so good. I really enjoyed Mark of the Thief, even saying that. Glad you basically did too.

  • I have somehow managed to never read this series. Everyone always raves about The False Prince and her newest has me intrigued. I’ll get to this eventually. By the way… my garden skills are to go to the nursery and ask the nice lady what flowers would go well in full sun flower box. She gives me names of plants I’ll never remember but I plant them anyway and hope for the best. So far they’re still alive.

    • Your garden skills are only half a step behind mine! I go by the labels, and plant what looks pretty, and if it lives, yay! If not, more flowers! lol

      You know, much as I’m a little horrified inside that you haven’t read The False Prince, I recommend you start with this one. That way you can read it and enjoy it, then move on to the next without Sage usurping a book he doesn’t belong in. ūüėČ

  • I hope you’re writing a book about the sayings of Apricot-kitty because they’re all hilarious and wise. I loved The False Prince and its sequel (never read the third book – can you believe it?). But I’m really not that into series.

  • LOL Thank you! I’ve thought about collecting her sayings and putting them in a mini-book on Amazon, complete with pics. Maybe that’s something I should talk to Apricot-kitty about and actually make happen one of these days. ūüėÄ

    I hear you on series, but if you ever get around to reading the third book in the Ascendance series I think you’ll enjoy it! It felt more like the first in how clever the plotting was.

  • ‘Yesterday’s mouse spoil today’s mole’ hahaha! Go Apricot-Kitty! Thanks for reviewing! I haven’t read any of Jennifer Nielson’s books, but I might now!

  • I loved The False Prince (but haven’t read the sequels yet). Thanks for sharing about this new series. It is new to me. I will look into it (after I finish the 2 sequels to The False Prince).

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