Thursday, February 26, 2015

{ARC Review} Mark of the Thief #1: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Rating: 90% 
Series: Mark of the Thief #1 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Middle Grade, Fiction,
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Page Count: 339
Format: Physical ARC
Source: Scholastic 


My Synopsis: *I believe that the publisher's synopsis gives away too much of the story's plot, containing information from page 300 of the book, therefore I revised it to what I felt would be fitting as a reader*

This is a Middle Grade, historical fiction novel with a touch of magic about a 15 year old slave boy named Nic in the Roman mines who is forced to search for treasure in a sealed cavern. He discovers an ancient bulla or amulet (featured on the cover) that belonged to Julius Caesar thats magic gets transferred to Nic. Against his will, Nic is brought to Rome and finds himself caught up in a war attempting to destroy the Roman empire.   


Disclaimer: received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
If I were to describe this book in an X meets X formula, I would say Percy Jackson's world meets the protagonists of The Horse and His Boy meets the political intrigue from The Ring and the Crown.

Would I Buy It?
80%
The ARC cover for The Mark of the Thief is beautiful enough and I am dying to get my hands on a finished copy. I'm dying to know if the bulla is embossed in the final copy and if the colors really are as vibrant as they appear to be.

Background & Backstory?
The most disappointing part about all of this is that I had filmed a lengthy BookTalk video for Mark of the Thief. Unfortunately, my computer decided to eat the footage and due to time constraints, I was unable to refill/edit/upload it.

On a more positive note, Mark of the Thief and All Fall Down (Ally Carter) are the first ever physical publisher ARCs I have ever received and I felt so overjoyed to reach that milestone in blogging with what had started of as a hobby.

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Per usual with every Jennifer Nielsen book I have ever read -
Sequel. PLEASE!

Right off the bat you should know that I had A LOT to say about this novel and I mean a lot. While I always try to deter you from looking at my Goodreads Reading Updates (because they're full of spoilers) you will notice that there are over FORTY of them. I had my phone by my side throughout my reading of Mark of the Thief and updated it every time I had some inference/feels-filled response to report. 

Characters | 90% Let's talk about Nic.... Nielsen's strength has ALWAYS been her outstanding male leads and he is no different, but he was far enough from Sage in the Ascendance Trilogy that I didn't feel she had merely copied-and-pasted her protagonist. His snark and sarcasm was a bit more subtle and was fueled purely by emotions and selfish reasons versus Sage who had a greater sense of duty, although with the way Mark of the Thief ended. I wouldn't be surprised if Nic's moral compass improved, as well as his priorities, and his levels of compassion towards others as the series progresses. Sage was under someone's command, but he was still in enough a position of power where he could be reckless. However, Nic had his little sister Lucia to look out for as well as his hide which could have easily been skinned if he acted out too harshly. Nic was a very rough-and-tumble character who only cared about himself and was inexperienced with the ways of society.

And good news.... there was a strong female lead. Aurelia plays an interesting role in the story because of position in society and the way she begrudgingly becomes friends with Nic despite the fact that their relationship started as business-only. She wouldn't take any of his crap, stood up for herself, and put him into his place when he needed it. 

Romance | 70% Nielsen writes Middle Grade and that means that romance is most definitely NOT her speciality. Nonetheless, the relationship between Nic and Aurelia was cute and I can't wait to witness the dynamic between the two of them evolve throughout the series because they feed off of each other's characters very well. 

But, I'm not here to talk about AURELIA and Nic.... I'm here to talk about Corvus. While he's not a main character, he plays a prominent role in the story by helping Nic and Aurelia when they need it. I might sound like I'm jumping the gun with this 100% crackpot theory, but I think he might be romantically attracted to Nic. Wait until Jennifer Nielsen reads this review and facepalms herself repeatedly because she's written Aurelia and Corvus together and bringing in an LGBT aspect is the farthest thing from her mind. Anyways, he seemed uncharacteristically nice -for someone of his status- to them without a clear motive, except, perhaps.... love??? The last big splash of LGBT we've seen as readers was Riordan choosing to make Nico gay which aroused quite a conversation amongst fans. I'm dying to see this become a norm in all/any genre and would applaud Nielsen immensely. 

Or we can just all agree I'm crazy.

How did the book's genre affect the story? 
Despite the fact that I'm having a hard time determining the actual genre of this book, the premise/genre does affect it by giving the author the chance to make use of symbolism, mythology, and prophecies, three of my favorite things. Anyways, this is portrayed in particular with Caela, the griffin, featured on the bulla on the cover of Mark of the Thief. She plays a surprisingly important role in the story and I like the layer of complexity it adds.  


Ending | 100% Per usual, Jennifer Nielsen's ending will either make her readers “want to kill you, kiss you, or be you...” (as Finnick Odair kindly supplied for me). It was completely mind-blowing, plot-twisting, and everything you have come to expect and respect from her.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?

99.9%

While nothing about sequel to Mark of the Thief hasn't been announced yet, Nielsen fans can keep their eyes out for A Night Divided which (according to the vibe I'm getting from the Goodreads synopsis) is a historical fiction thriller with a female narrator this time *waggles eyebrows* I loved the addition Aurelia provided to both the story and the fact that Nielsen's stories can feature kickass females. The different perspective will be an entirely new thing, especially because we won't hear from a snarky MALE protagonist this time. I am SO looking forward to this one.



Conclusion: Another well-paced series starter featuring two strong protagonists, a well-crafted world, and a mind-playing story you don't want to miss.

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