Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Middle Grade fantasy
Goodreads link: (click here)
What's it about?
Nicolas Calva is a slave working in the mines outside of Rome. After their mother was sold off, he and his younger sister, Livia, were sold into slavery. Since they were separated from their mother, so Nic has vowed to watch over Livia because they only have each other. One day, Nic is forced to enter a cavern deep in the unexplored area of the mines in search of the lost treasure of Julius Caesar. He's seen many men go in and none return, so entering that cavern is the last thing he wants to do. He fears what would become of Livia if something should happen to him. Nic tries to run, but in the end, he has no choice but to search for the treasure. What he finds is terrifying, but mostly, it is life changing. on top of the piles of gold and jewels is an ancient bulla flled with magic. This bulla was said to have belonged to Caesar himself. Caesar had claimed to be descended from the gods, but perhaps the true secret to his power was actually the magic inside of this bulla that now belongs to Nic. Its power is in him now, running through his veins. This secret is his, but there are dangerous people in Rome who would do anything to get it, even kill. For Ancient Rome has seen it's fair share of brutality, what is one more slave boy? Thankfully for Nic, he's become so much more, so he's got a fighting chance, and fight, he will, if he wants to survive.
Nic will have to face dangerous mythical beasts, powerful magic wielders, traitors & spies, an arena filled with danger and evil politicians determined to destroy Rome and rule it themseleves. With the help of Aurelia, a girl with dark secrets of her own, and his new friend, a griffin named Caela, Nic must use his new powers to stop a revolution, save Rome and rescue his sister.
This was a really fun fantasy set in an alternate Ancient Rome where there is adventure, magic, political intrigue, plot twists and even a few fierce mythical creatures. Mark of the Thief features Roman mythology, which is an interesting change from the usual Greek mythos. The mythology is definitely part of the story, yet there isn't so much that you need to take notes or remember too much. There is also a bit of history mixed in. You are taken back to the days when the people of Rome went to the Colosseum to watch brutal matches between gladiators and beasts for entertainment. It also explores Julius Caesar's claim that he was descended from the goddess Venus. He truly did make this claim, but it's obviously more likely that he did so to make himself seem more powerful. Jennifer A. Nielsen explores the alternate version of his claim. What if Julius Caesar really was a demi-god? What of his power was left behind for future generations to use (or abuse)? This exciting adventure is what could have possibly happened. This is technically a Middle Grade book, but it totally drew me in (as an adult) to this exciting and enchanting world. I picked this up and started reading this during my break at work one day (I work in a bookstore) and I just HAD to buy it and bring it home to finish it. I highly recommend this to younger, or tween, readers, but it's also one that parents should sneak off with to read.
Emperor says, "thumbs up" for this one!