Lee Raven, Boy Thief by Zizou Corder

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Lee Raven, Boy Thief by Zizou Corder

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A mysterious book from days of yore comes to accompany a thieving boy in the London of the future. A thriller with some fantasy stylings is the result, which was enjoyable but lacking a final oomph.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 978-0141322902

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This is a book with a history. Many moons ago the reviewing gods tried to get a copy to me, but the post office strike gods were more powerful and kept it for themselves. What irony, given the career of the hero. Still, with the help of the library gods, a copy has been read and this review is a result. Now I know that's more background than I should be featuring, but let me assure you, this is a book where the least description about the plot the better.

Basically, more powerful gods than even my reviewing gods friends, once upon a time created a most unearthly book, one that gets tangled up in a web of intrigue and mischief when the titular Artful Dodger type steals it from its temporary guardian, and it proves a subject of many a nefarious intention.

Before even that has been fully revealed to us what is most evident is the style of the authors. Every chapter in turn is narrated by a different character – the Cockney young Raven himself, the aforementioned guardian, his assistant – even the book itself. The voice of all is perfectly singular, from the rough and ready to the plummy to the ageless.

It does make me wonder how successful this approach is at times. The dedication, and the fact that Lee does not read, go to making me think there is a pro-literature bent in the book designed to make it one the less well-read young reader would find easy to sympathise with – literally a book that would talk to them. But the uncultured speech of Lee Raven comes at you in perhaps a too-perfectly realised manner with a lot of long sentences with lots of added clauses and ands and thises and thats and all of the others and a breathless rush of writing styled just as common speech with no punctuation and that's before the second chapter has the bookish dealer use words like discombobulated.

But in reality that worthy side of the book is a distant third to its style – which goes as far as providing us with a blank page, a la Tristram Shandy's black one – and to the plot. There is a nice mystery here, regarding who needs the book for what and what will be its ultimate destination, aided by the diverse narrators.

There was also however a sense that things were a bit restrained. They could have all gone a further level, from the chopping and changing approach to the saga of the book (and I mean its current journey, not its forgettable back story). Lee's personality, while very enjoyable, could have come across more – at times we need the veracity of someone else to give us a further in to it.

Also, the book starts in 2046, but it might as well be any time before nine o'clock (tee-hee). The futuristic setting does not come across, despite providing for novelty in the final third, and a change of currency and a mention of MP9s does not justify it in my eyes. A talking godlike book with a world's stories in it should have been enough to create a fantasy thriller with aptly-defined humans peopling it, and this is one more instance where a further bit of work was needed.

Despite all of the above there is still a decent fist at it, which does make the book worth consideration. You have to remember I'm a 200-book a year adult, and not perhaps the 200-page a year 10+ the book is pitched at. There was a sustained thriller-styled pace to everything, one very good surprise, and some very fine characterisation. There is more than enough novelty to satisfy the target audience, and I never regretted reading it.

I would still recommend it, but there is a better version on the library shelves of the gods.

For further adventures with scenes in London sewers you can hardly do better than Joe Rat by Mark Barratt.

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Buy Lee Raven, Boy Thief by Zizou Corder at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lee Raven, Boy Thief by Zizou Corder at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Lee Raven, Boy Thief by Zizou Corder at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lee Raven, Boy Thief by Zizou Corder at Amazon.com.


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