Thursday, October 14, 2010

Museum of Thieves - Lian Tanner

Title: Museum of Thieves
Author: Lian Tanner
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House), September 2010 (Hardcover) (Review copy is an ARC from the publisher)
Length: 312 pages
Genre: Children's Dystopian Fiction
Started: October 10, 2010
Finished: October 14, 2010

From the back of the book:
Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is a crime.

Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life. Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians. She has never done anything by herself and won’t be allowed out on the streets unchained until Separation Day. When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind. In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving. Which is just as well, because the leader of the Blessed Guardians has his own plans for the museum—plans that threaten the lives of everyone Goldie loves. And it will take a daring thief to stop him. . .

I thought of this as a twisted version of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I love. It's also similar in some ways to The Grimm Legacy, which I read over the summer.

The city of Jewel exists in a dystopian future where all dangers have essentially been eliminated. People live in sterile, uber safe environments, and children are literally chained to either The Blessed Guardians or their parents from the time they can walk until age 12. Golden ("Goldie") is a girl that doesn't fit in, mostly because she's not the type to blindly follow and wait for others to tell her what she's permitted to do. Goldie can't wait for Separation Day, when her guardchain will be permanently removed; but when the event is cancelled, she runs away to the Museum of Dunt inside the city looking for a place to hide to avoid those looking for her.

The Museum of Dunt is a strange place inside the city, where all the horrid things from the past that everyone's managed to eradicate over the years sought refuge. The things living in the museum respond to the moods of the outside world, and the rooms constantly shift and change; which means when the Fugleman tries to take power from the Grand Protector, the barely contained elements in the depths of the museum (hunger, famine, war, wild beasts, sickness etc.), threaten to escape. The museum's Keepers need help and recruit Goldie in their task, harnessing her swiftness and agility (thieving skills).

The world-building in this book is amazing. The set-up of the city itself, with extreme examples of helicopter parents and adults who still don't know how to make decisions for themselves because they weren't allowed to do so for so long, can be viewed as a microcosm of the current trends in our society. The Museum itself isn't really a museum in the traditional sense, more like a magical refuge without any concrete boundaries, the museum literally encompasses worlds and past time periods all in what appears on the outside to be a normal stone building. I loved Broo, both a tiny little yappy dog and a huge terrifying brizzlehound at the same time. The way the Keepers explain blending in to Goldie is really creative: Concealment by Sham (pretending to be someone else), Concealment by Camouflage (taking on attributes of your environment), and Concealment by Imitation of Nothingness (ability to appear invisible without actually being invisible). I also love the names these people name their kids: Golden, Favour, Fortitude, Cautiionary, do I sense a jab at the current trend of completely stupid, ridiculous names?

I really like Goldie as a character because of how she's portrayed. Although she is different than the others in Jewel, comparatively she still doesn't know how to make decisions for herself and is pretty helpless at first. What I like about her is that compared to most other heroines in children's books where they seem to naturally have no fear, Goldie admits she's really scared at almost everything she does, but is determined to do what she has to do to help the Keepers save the citizens of Jewel because she knows no one else will do it. She recognizes that she's weak but acknowledges her attempts to be better.

This is the first of a planned trilogy, with the next installment out next year, so I'll definitely be picking up the rest to see where this goes.

And there's one more nice bonus, the audiobook for this novel is read by Claudia Black, one of mine and my husband's favourite sci-fi actors (Farscape, Stargate). I might actually be tempted to purchase it in that format purely because she reads it oh so well.

If you're in the mood for a really well-developed dystopian universe with a unique premise, plus a museum-y environment, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how we get a nice shot of the museum and what exactly is in it, and only seeing Goldie and Toadspit from the back is a nice touch.

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