Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review: Thieves of Weirdwood by Christian McKay Heidicker

by Christian McKay Heidicker
Release Date: April 7th 2020
2020 Henry Holt & Company
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250302885
Genre: Fiction/Juvenile/Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Twelve-year-old thieves Arthur and Wally are determined to steal their way up the ranks of the notorious Black Feathers gang. With loan sharks chasing after Arthur’s father and Wally’s brother’s hospital bill due, they’re in need of serious cash. Fast.

When Arthur spots some wealthy strangers exiting a seemingly deserted mansion, he smells an opportunity for a big score. Little do the boys realize, they’ve stumbled upon Weirdwood Manor, the headquarters of a magical order who protect the Balance between the Real and Imaginary worlds. When Kingsport is besieged by nightmarish creatures, it’s up to a pair of thieves to save their city. Filled with giant tentacle monsters and heroes literally ripped from the pages of adventure stories.
My Thoughts
Thieves of Weirdwood is the first book in a new juvenile fantasy series, and I have to say, this was definitely not what I was expecting.  As a kid I would definitely have loved this book as it was a lot darker than I expected and I was definitely drawn to those types of books.  Gosh, what's not to love? You have magic, mystery, ghosts, dragons, monsters, heroes, fantasy, heroes, friendship, family, hope; in fact, there is everything in this book.   

I was actually thrilled when the publisher sent me a physical copy of this book as well as the kindle edition as the physical copy is just wonderful, with lots of beautiful drawings and illustrations.  As an adult, I really appreciated the illustrations and I know, as a kid, I would have loved them, and even tried to copy them myself.  And I just love the cover of this book.  Would it have drawn me to it as a kid? Oh, definitely, and I am not one to usually pick up a book just because of the cover.  However, there is always something unique about juvenile fantasy covers which also includes this one.  

I really enjoyed the characters in this story as well.  The two main characters, Arthur and Wally, each had their own issues, both having loan sharks threatening them and both need money, now.  The two have very different ideas on how to do this, but Wally tends to be more of a follower and we see his character develop throughout the book into one who is more confident and trusting in his abilities.  Arthur tends to be more impulsive, using fantasy/action novels to escape the terrible conditions in which he lives, and as a result, gets into a lot of trouble.  However, his character also develops quite a bit throughout the novel and as a result, he actually becomes ones of my favourite characters.  And then there is Breeth, the ghost.  I adored her character and the author was so creative in how he developed her that I don't really want to give too much away.  I love ghosts, but she is unique and so interesting.  

The plot moves along rather quickly, and you barely have a moment to catch your breath before something else happens.  I like that in these novels as I think younger children need this type of action so they don't get bored.  There is enough background information given about the characters interwoven throughout the plot that you get a really good handle on the personalities of the characters and what motivates them.  The POVs do change from chapter to chapter, but it is clearly laid out and easy to follow.  And while it could sometimes be a bit predictable, that didn't bother me one bit.  However, just because something is predictable does not mean it isn't complicated, and this plot could be very intricate at times, enough that a young child may have to read it more than once. I remember loving to read books over and over again that I loved as a child so I don't think that would necessarily be a problem. 

I really enjoyed the themes running throughout this book; friendship, perseverance, determination, family, and death.  Oh, yes, there is a lot of talk about death.  This is not a criticism, but there are some rather dark elements in this book, and if your young kiddo prefers something lighter, this book is very weird and downright creepy, and yes, death.  I thought the author dealt with all the creepy elements very well, but again, I was the type of kid who thrived on this kind of thing, but not everyone does, so beware.  That being said, the themes are developed in a positive light and would be great discussion points.

Thieves of Weirdwood was a wonderful book and I really enjoyed it, actually devouring it in one evening.  I really enjoyed the messages/themes interwoven throughout the book of friendship, loyalty, determination, perseverance, and hope, and thought the author did that extremely well.  The book had a satisfying ending, but did set it up for the next book (April 6th 2021) in the series, Ghosts of Weirdwood, which I can't wait to read (it's already sitting in my TBR pile, and it has another beautiful cover with a DRAGON!). While the book can be dark at times, I thought the author handled it extremely well, but some readers may be sensitive to those themes.  Highly recommended. 


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