Author: James Riley
Series: Story Thieves #1
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Shelves: Recipe for awesomesauce, more please, fantasy/pnr/everything untoward
Life is boring when you live in the real world, instead of starring in your own book series. Owen knows that better than anyone, what with the real world’s homework and chores. But everything changes the day Owen sees the impossible happen— his classmate Bethany climb out of a book in the library. It turns out Bethany’s half-fictional and has been searching every book she can find for her missing father, a fictional character. Bethany can’t let anyone else learn her secret, so Owen makes her a deal: All she has to do is take him into a book in Owen’s favorite Kiel Gnomenfoot series, and he’ll never say a word. Besides, visiting the book might help Bethany find her father… …Or it might just destroy the Kiel Gnomenfoot series, reveal Bethany’s secret to the entire world, and force Owen to live out Kiel Gnomenfoot’s final (very final) adventure.
And then everything exploded into fire and chaos and awesome.
Ha! is all I want to say to my 2014 self. HA! With Story Thieves, I’ve come to fully embrace the new year. I think. See, last year I picked up my kindle to read the book, only to put it down in favor of reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. AGAIN. Which I don’t regret but later on, and blah blah blah, you don’t care, I don’t.
What do I say? Ummm… this is totally an awesome book! I haven’t fangirled so hard about anything besides Game of Thrones and Calculus* in recent memory, going so far as to do some ninja-style-dancing which prompted my brother to kick me. He’s the real ninja.
Story Thieves, in as pretentious terms as I can manage, is a story about the differences between reality and fiction, and lack thereof. Simply put: Owen, he who sits in math class and loves to fanboy hard, gets a chance to save the hero of his hero, and then play the part of his hero. Bethany, she who skirts the edges of fun, after much cajoling and running and shouting and saving the world, finally gives in and acts a bit fictional to save reality.
In all, it’s a clever and emotional and action-packed book with characters as similar to you and me as can be if we were all tweens (I think) who hated math.
“It worked. And it worked because I embraced the problems and made it work for me.That’s real magic.”
“No. Real magic is when you make something happen that’s physically impossible.”
“Well, sure, that too. That’s real magic. But this is realer magic.”
“No, it’s not that either. The word doesn’t even exist.”
“So, in a away, that word is magic, by your definition.”
It pokes fun and fingers through cliches and tropes about story characters, then full-on embraces them. Hell, the story makes use of plot holes to complete the plot. And hats off to THAT!
More to the point: There are side characters whose full depths we perhaps never truly realize until we confront them ourselves–that’s what James Riley shows, in the fictional world in his fictional story within this fictional story.
Owen plays the part of Kiel Gnomenfoot, dying and being saved by dumb luck, solely on the conviction that it’s a book, and nothing truly bad can happen. However, as he plods along, it turns out that the book gets progressively darker. And in the end, it’s the reality that he’s faced, has lived in, has conditioned him which ends up saving him.
And Bethany, who is half-fictional and can dive into stories, becomes a little more fictional in her life. Embraces the impossible.
“You don’t ever speak to me again, do you understand? And if you ever tell anyone about me, I’ll find the deepest, darkest math book I can find, and drop you into the most boring part!”
She’s truly formidable.
Like I said: clever, clever book. Not the clever of books like Little Bee but you know, I found kernels of secrets and irony and realism that even now make me giggle.
The story within the story is, from a space-eagle’s perspective with poor eyesight, about an inter-planetary war between Magisteria, world of magic and imagination and chaos, and Quanterium, world of science and order and innovation. It’s a thought-out, quirky world and I truly appreciated the fact that I got to finish its story, that the author had me invested in it so fast, so hard.
It’s funny, sad, poignant and full of awesome. These are characters you understand, who make you laugh and smile and giggle all in one breath, whom you sometimes would prefer to throw out of the book. They’re not as fleshed out and/or complicated as the last what? Thomas Hardy book you read. But I loved it. I loved it. And you should read it tooooooooooo!
There ARE so many plotholes and questions I’d like to ask and consequences that weren’t dealt with but I think the last was kinda one of the points of this ordeal our characters went through and to the rest, well I still love it, don’t I?
There are tidbits about life and librarians, too.
“Don’t worry. Maybe you just haven’t found your favorite book yet. I honestly don’t think anyone has. Just when you think you might have a favorite, something better comes along.”
So true. (Also The Piper’s Son or gtfo.)
“I’m really happy to have gotten to know you.”
Thank you thank you thank you to the people at Aladdin who rose up like a genie from a bottle in mist and clouds and fog, to present the best book I’ve read in 2015 so far.
*Probably, Owen and Bethany won’t be big fans of mine.