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January 14, 2009 |

By Miscellaneous | Books | January 14, 2009 |

I was excited to read Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief, as I hadn’t read a bad thing about it since the novel came out last August. Part of me feared it wouldn’t live up to its praise, but this worry was unnecessary. The Good Thief delivers on all fronts.

The Good Thief follows young Ren through Colonial New England. A one-handed orphan, Ren’s future is far from bright. The chances of a one-handed boy being adopted from the orphanage are slim indeed, and every passing year increases the likelihood that Ren will be sold to the army when he reaches adulthood.

Ren’s life changes dramatically when a strange visitor to the orphanage chooses him for adoption, claiming to be his older brother. Ren has long desired a family, but Benjamin, a great teller of tales, does not provide the family Ren had imagined. Not the most honest of men, Benjamin sees similar potential in Ren, and before the young boy even has time to adjust to his new brother, he’s an accomplice to thievery and on the first of many adventures.

The duo travel away from the orphanage and meet with Tom, Benjamin’s partner-in-crime. As the two men devise new schemes to make money, Ren, who dabbled in petty theft during his tenure in the orphanage, quickly becomes an integral part of their circle. The new trio moves from one adventure to another, and readers are introduced to a colorful cast of characters along the way. A murdering giant, an angry dwarf, and a deaf widow are just a few of the “undesirables” Ren befriends when others would have cast them aside.

Tinti makes it clear that, although Ren’s a thief, he’s still an admirable boy. Mature for his age, Ren understands human compassion, a quality lacking in many of his contemporaries. It’s here that Tinti really shines, for the quest of a one-handed, compassionate orphan could easily fall into over-sentimentality, but Tinti never pours it on too thick.

When Ren isn’t demonstrating the goodness of his heart, he’s cheating gullible townsfolk, evading capture by running across rooftops, and searching for the truth behind his abandonment. Despite Ren’s inherent good nature, we know he can’t continue like this for long. The trio of thieves continue to just barely avoid detection, and it’s only a matter of time before their luck runs out.

Although it’s clear the well of good fortune enjoyed by the characters will eventually run dry (despite escaping some truly hair-raising scenarios that would have confounded dumber criminals), Tinti manages to avoid the predictable outcome and opts instead for some surprising plot twists. While some scenes at the end may border on the incredible, the story is simply too much fun to nitpick about what is ultimately a fantastic end to the novel.

The combination of engaging characters and fast-paced plot equals an enthralling tale that pulls the reader along from the opening pages. The quickness of the story is aided by Tinti’s prose, which is simple and direct; the story immediately takes off and never lags. I never encountered a scene that dragged or description that carried on too long.

Overall, The Good Thief is a compelling tale, even though there are a few things that could be improved (for example, a few points could be better resolved and some points seem a little contrived), but these minor imperfections do not detract from the enjoyment gained from the experience. Tinti spins a good yarn in The Good Thief, creating a memorable protagonist and an adventurous, fast-paced tale.

Jennifer McKeown reads way too much and blogs about her experiences over at Bibliolatry.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti / Jennifer McKeown

Books | January 14, 2009 |

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