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The Thief Lord

The Thief Lord

4.5 485
by Cornelia Funke, Christian Birmingham (Illustrator)

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Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy, where hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets... Prosper and Bo are orphans on the run for their cruel aunt and uncle. The brothers decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet a mysterious thirteen-year-old boy who calls himself "the Thief Lord." Brilliant and


Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy, where hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets... Prosper and Bo are orphans on the run for their cruel aunt and uncle. The brothers decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet a mysterious thirteen-year-old boy who calls himself "the Thief Lord." Brilliant and charismatic, the Thief Lord leads a ring of street children who dabble in petty crimes. Prosper and Bo delight in being a part of this colorful new family. Then the Thief Lord invites them on a magical adventure to a land of forgotten mysteries that will change their lives forever, This exciting tale of fun, flight, and freedom is sure to enchant readers and keep them guessing up until a breathtaking finale.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Cornelia Funke's international award-winning novel, The Thief Lord took Europe by storm and lands on this shore with widespread acclaim. Filled with plenty of mood and colorful characters, this suspenseful tale marks the American debut of a wonderful talent.

Set in modern-day Venice, the book follows a troupe of runaways who partake in theft and resell their goods to a local shopkeeper. Two members -- Prosper and his little brother, Bo -- are being followed by Victor, a detective hired by their mean aunt, but luckily, they and the other kids are watched over by the gang's mysterious and self-assured leader, Scipio (the Thief Lord). As the kids have several run-ins with the sleuth, they're also focused on Scipio's new job to steal a precious wooden carousel wing. Yet when they discover a few skeletons in the Thief Lord's closet and befriend Victor, they realize there is more to their fantastic world than meets the eye.

Filled with strong characters and old-world charm, this engrossing read has a plotline that won't leave you bored. Several stories are interwoven with grace and suspense, and the ending brings them all together with a breath of satisfaction. Although the real magic comes only toward the end, Venice provides a spellbinding backdrop that will have you feeling as if you're riding in gondolas and dodging tourists in St. Mark's Square. An adventure with subtle themes of being mature and doing the right thing,The Thief Lord is molto magnifico! Matt Warner

Alice Stroup
What is shocking in the case of "The Thief Lord" by Cornelia Funke, one of Germany's most popular kiddie-lit writers, is that the book lives up to the audacious claim. It's got the magic, the adventure, the awkward boy heroes and the plucky chick sidekick. It's even been edited by Barry Cunningham, the man who "discovered" Rowling and published the Harry Potter series in England. But "Thief Lord" is also just a darn good yarn - the charming tale of a band of urchin-thieves, a magical carousel and two orphaned brothers. Written in German, set in Italy and now translated into English, the postmodern fairy tale was just released in Britain, where it sold out in 10 days. In September, it'll arrive in the States with the British vernacular largely intact. "You don't have to Americanize everything for children to understand it," Cunningham says. "I find that quite condescending." Besides, the whole European vibe sure worked for Harry.
Publishers Weekly
Wacky characters bring energy to this translation of an entertaining German novel about thieving children, a disguise-obsessed detective and a magical merry-go-round. After their mother dies, 12-year-old Prosper and his brother, Bo, five, flee from Hamburg to Venice (an awful aunt plans to adopt only Bo). They live in an abandoned movie theater with several other street children under the care of the Thief Lord, a cocky youth who claims to rob "the city's most elegant houses." A mysterious man hires the Thief Lord to steal a wooden wing, which the kids later learn has broken off a long-lost merry-go-round said to make "adults out of children and children out of adults," but the plan alters when Victor, the detective Aunt Esther hired to track the brothers, discovers their camp and reveals that the Thief Lord is actually from a wealthy family. There are a lot of story lines to follow, and the pacing is sometimes off (readers may feel that Funke spends too little time on what happens when the children find the carousel, and too much on the ruse they pull on Prosper's aunt). But between kindhearted Victor and his collection of fake beards, the Thief Lord in his mask and high-heeled boots, and a rascally street kid who loves to steal, Prosper's new world abounds with colorful characters. The Venetian setting is ripe for mystery and the city's alleys and canals ratchet up the suspense in the chase scenes. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Venice is a city of beauty, mystery, and plenty of secrets. Prosper and Bo are brothers who come to Venice to escape their terrible aunt Esther. They soon join a gang of street children determined to make their own living in the shadows of everyday Venice life—with the help of each other and their mysterious leader, the Thief Lord. While the practice of petty crime keeps the group alive, temptation becomes unbearable when a secretive client offers the Thief Lord a burglary challenge he cannot refuse. At the same time, a hidden danger draws near. A detective, paid by Esther to hunt down Proper and Bo, is on the brink of discovering the Thief Lord's hideout. Yearning only for a better life, the children begin the commission that will change their lives forever, and will set the Thief Lord to his hardest trial yet. This novel, translated from the original German text, is full of delightful characters and creative plot line twists. Funke's imagination touches the adventurous parts of the heart, as well as the simple human desire to belong and be loved. This story is pure magic. 2002, Scholastic, 349 pp.,
— Laura Schmidt
This German best-selling children's author creates a delightful tale that borrows a little from Oliver Twist and a bit from the magic of the Harry Potter books. A good-hearted private investigator is hired by a somewhat villainous couple to find their orphaned nephews. Fearing that the couple will separate them and actually only want them for their inheritance, the boys have run away to Venice, where they have the good fortune to fall amongst a tight group of street urchins, who often make ends meet through petty theft and cons. They live comfortably in an abandoned theater, benefactors of a mysterious masked boy who calls himself the Thief Lord. He often supplies them with food and expensive goods to hock. Life gets complicated when the children are hired by a sinister old man to retrieve a wooden wing from an old woman's home just as the investigator discovers the hideaway. What is the secret of the wing? Who is the old woman? All is resolved as the Thief Lord is unmasked, the boys outwit their aunt with the help of the PI, and the wing is restored to its mystical origins with some dire consequences. The magical city of Venice is used to full advantage. The characters are richly and realistically drawn-the good guys are not always good and the bad not really so bad. This satisfying, twisting tale is for upper elementary readers who enjoy a dab of magic surrounded by a charming story. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002 (orig. 2000), Scholastic, 349p,
— Kevin Beach
This novel about runaways in Venice, Italy, has been a best seller in Germany and has won literary prizes there and in Austria and Switzerland. It isn't really a YA novel, but is instead a sometimes demanding children's book, filled with adventure and a bit of magic. It's demanding because it's rather long and filled with details about Venice, which may be hard for many middle school students. Still, I'm sure there will be students in 5th through 8th grade who will appreciate the European nature of the story. There are many characters, and the adults are nearly as well realized as the children (an odd circumstance in children's literature). One main character is a miserable rich boy whose father either ignores him or demands too much of him. So Scipio—the Thief Lord—makes his life more exciting by befriending a group of children who are homeless runaways. Scipio finds them a place to stay in an abandoned cinema. Included in the runaways are two brothers, Prosper and Bo, orphans hiding from their aunt. This aunt hires a detective named Victor to find the boys, but when Victor does locate them, his sympathies lie with the boys and not with their aunt. The plot just gets more and more convoluted, with numerous other characters, planned thefts, a connection with an orphanage run by Catholic nuns in Venice, a magical carousel that will change a child to an adult or an adult to a child (you can imagine that some of the characters take advantage of this escape), and much more. The action rolls along in short chapters, each illustrated with a small pen-and-ink illustration of a locale in Venice. The vocabulary is somewhat demanding, with Italian words thrown in for atmosphere, but some YAs willcertainly enjoy this challenge. It is possible that it would appeal to readers of the Harry Potter stories. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Scholastic, The Chicken House, 345p. map.,
— Claire Rosser; KLIATT
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Actor Simon Jones does an excellent job of giving voice to Cornelia Funke's mystery adventure tale which has won several European children's literature awards (Scholastic, 2002). This Dickensian story begins in modern times in detective Victor Getz's office in Venice as he is asked to search for Esther Hartlieb's orphaned nephews, Prosper and Bo, who ran away when they learned Esther was going to adopt five-year-old Bo but send Prosper away to a boarding school. The boys came to Venice because their dead mother had often lovingly described the beauties of the city to them. They wind up in an abandoned movie theater with other runaways who are working for Scipio, a young boy they call the "Thief Lord." The evil Barbarossa who accepts their stolen goods asks them to steal a special broken wooden wing that came from an old, magical merry-go-round which can transport riders backward or forward in time. The plot is full of twists and surprises, and the characters are vividly described. The excellent descriptive passages make it easy to picture the characters and setting. Loyalty, honor among thieves, and whether it's better to be an adult or a child are some of the themes explored in this fast-paced, spellbinding tale.-Diane Balodis, Alden Intermediate School, NY Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When the orphans Prosper, 12, and Boniface, 5, run away from Hamburg to Venice to escape separation by their aunt and uncle Hartlieb, the crotchety, childless couple hires private detective Victor Getz to find Bo, the only brother they want. Prop and Bo feel at home with their new comrades (three other orphans who survive by picking pockets, but are otherwise harmless) in an abandoned movie theater. Their ringleader, the mysterious Thief Lord, appears from time to time with stolen riches that he gives to his poor friends. Harrowing and comical escapades abound when the Thief Lord accepts a job that will leave him and his friends financially secure-to steal a wing from a wooden lion statue. This wing, which belongs to the unconventional, kindhearted photographer Ida Spavento, is no ordinary piece of wood, but rather the missing piece to a hidden, magical merry-go-round rumored to turn children into adults and adults into children. As the children win over Ida, and even Victor, this new band of outcasts rescues one another from perilous events and scheming villains; ventures to the bewitched Secret Isle from which, as more rumors have it, no one ever returns; finds the missing merry-go-round; and creates the perfect solution. The magical city of Venice, with its moonlit waters, maze of canals, and magnificent palaces, is an excellent setting for the plot twists and turns in this fantasy/mystery/adventure, all rolled into one spellbinding story. A bestselling author in Germany, who has reached the US for the first time, Funke delights readers in the feelings of childhood, what it feels like to be innocent, afraid, curious, and safe; need friends and love; and want independence yet also to becared for. Although the core of this tale is heartwarming, the merry-go-round, like Ray Bradbury's carousel in Something Wicked This Way Comes, hints at darkness, leaving its riders and the novel's readers changed forever. (map, glossary, not seen) (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher

The story opens with a solitary bachelor detective, Victor, accepting a commission to find two runaway brothers: Prosper, the older boy (who is not wanted); and Boniface, or Bo, who looks like an angel and is therefore dear to his childless (and humorless) aunt. The brothers have run away to Venice to avoid being separated and are living with a gang of thieving orphans presided over by the boyish, cocky Thief Lord. As Victor's sympathies begin to shift from the aunt to the brothers, the gang of thieves becomes entangled in a caper that involves stealing a wooden wing from a carved lion-the missing piece of a carousel that magically turns old people young again and makes children grow to adults in an instant. The problem is not the wing's owner, artist Ida Spavento-she actually helps them, provided she can follow along to discover where the wing will be taken. The real complication is the Thief Lord, whose identity turns out to be smaller-than-life and whose attraction to the magic of the carousel draws the gang into further danger. The story moves at a slow pace, lingering in explanatory dialogue and descriptions of Venice, but the idiosyncrasy and resonance of the central carousel image create a potent, continental atmosphere that laces the tale with a bit of excitement. In the course of pursuing the carousel's mystery, Victor and Ida and the brothers fob off Prosper and Bo's aunt with the kind of child she really wants and band together as a new kind of family-a sweet and comforting conclusion that will satisfy readers whose hearts have been touched by the loyalty and courage of the two brothers and the rewarded generosity of their new foster parents.--Horn Book, November/December 2002

Orphaned brothers Prosper and Bo have ditched their guardian aunt (who's only willing to adopt the charming, younger Bo) and have fled to Venice, where they come under the dubious protection of a teen who carries off daring thefts by night and herds a small band of street gamins by day. The gang of the 'Thief Lord' is more than willing to assist their leader in his midnight heists, but he seems reluctant to bring them along on any actual jobs, and readers will probably figure out long before Prosper and Bo do that the young criminal is actually a rich kid pilfering his parents' goodies. He does, however, get them involved in a plan to help reconstruct--for unimaginable wealth, of course--a magical merry-go-round stolen years ago from an orphanage. Trailed by a gumshoe looking for the siblings, and most improbably befriended by a would-be burglary victim, the children dodge their way through a hailstorm of transparent subplots to reach their respective happy endings. Readers undaunted by page count can find Funke's themes developed more thrillingly elsewhere-in Dickens' Oliver Twist and in Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. This comparatively lightweight (in content, not ounces) romp has its moments, however, and the social joys of joining what promises to be a heavily hyped Reading Event may well carry the day.--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2002

There are shards of wonderful stories in this ambitious narrative, but they don't quite cohere into a shimmering whole. That said, this is still a pretty nifty adventure set as brilliantly in its Venetian setting as a baroque pearl. Twelve-year-old Prosper and five-year-old Boniface cling to the stories their mother told them of Venice, with its winged lions and rooftop angels. After her death, they run away from Hamburg and their pinch-faced relatives to Venice, where a motley crew of children, living in an abandoned movie theatre, takes them in. The leader is Scipio, the Thief Lord, who directs the petty thievery and acts as older brother to the group. Victor, a gentle detective, has been hired to find the brothers, and he does so quickly, but is bemused by their ragtag family and is loathe to hand them over to the aunt. Funke begu

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Cornelia Funke is the author of the bestselling novels Dragon Rider, The Thief Lord, Inkheart, and Inkspell, all available on audio from Listening Library. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Brief Biography

Los Angeles, CA
Date of Birth:
December 10, 1958
Place of Birth:
Dorsten, Germany
University of Hamburg

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The Thief Lord 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 485 reviews.
Artemis15 More than 1 year ago
The descriptions in the book were phenomenal, such as, 'The moon hung high above the city as Prosper rushed out of the theater. The alley's lay empty and grew wisps of fog that floated eerily over the canals.' I just like the way Cornelia Funke ties in her descriptions with the action parts of the book, or the slow parts of the book, or for any part of the book for that matter. Without these little tid-bits of descriptive material, then there would be only dialogue, as most books do have. Descriptive writing is what makes up any book, especially this one. I like the character development as well; at first I didn't even know the slightest information about them besides their names, such as Hornet, Bo, Prosper, Mosca, Riccio, Scipio, and many more. By the end of the book, I felt like I had a one on one connection with all of the characters because gradually, Cornelia developed her characters into their personal stories, such as their real name's or where they were actually from. Although very boring at times, this book is a good read for all age groups, I recommend this to all.
Reads_a_lot More than 1 year ago
Okay, I kind of ruined it for myself by watching the movie first! However, the movie was great, just READ THE BOOK FIRST!
The book was great too, I love Cornelia Funke as an author. I strongly recommend any of her books. Especially, Igraine the Brave, the Inkheart trilogy, and Dragon Rider.
If Prosper were real, I'd marry him! :)
Patrick_Lean More than 1 year ago
The Thief Lord written by Cornelia Funke is a wonderful fictional story about two boys who ran away from their aunt. The story is exciting from the beginning, and the plot keeps you on a cliff hanger. Cornelia Funke does a great job of creating a setting, and it is easy to relate to the characters. As a person who finds it hard to stay interested in many books, I was not able to put this book down. Although being a quick read, The Thief Lord delivered a rich plot about how a group of street kids copes in the city of Venice. There are many twists in the plot. Cornelia Funke does a good job of writing each chapter from different points of view while still maintaining the main characters. After reading my first book written by Cornelia Funke, I will be sure to pick up another book she has written in the near future. Without a doubt I would recommend this story to people of all ages. It would keep younger kids intrigued while still providing entertainment for adults. To summarize, The Thief Lord is a great, exciting, and interesting book that would surely entertain whoever picks it up.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
At first glance it seems likely that Cornelia Funke's novel The Thief Lord (2000) will center around the Thief Lord. All the same the story actually starts with Prosper and Bo, brothers who have run away to avoid their nasty aunt who wants to separate them. Convinced that all of the wonderful stories their late mother told them about Venice will be true and keep them safe, the boys make their way to that fair city. Unfortunately Venice is not as magical as their mother had told them (at least not right away). Just when Prosper is prepared to accept defeat and return his younger brother to the warm and safe, if not loving, home of his aunt, the boys are taken in by a very unusual band of children. Led by Scipio, the Thief Lord, the children live in a condemned theater living off the riches that Scipio steals from Venice's elite. The children know little else about Scipio, but in exchange for his support and protection they are willing to overlook that small detail. Meanwhile, the brothers' aunt has enlisted a private investigator to locate the boys and bring Bo back to her (Prosper will be sent to an orphanage). Like any other investigator worth his salt, Victor soon picks up the trail of the children. The more this trio sees of each other, the more tenuous the children's existence in the Venice theater seems. Indeed, Victor's investigation could unearth a secret about the Thief Lord that will change all of their lives. Forever. The Thief Lord is told in the whimsical, ethereal tone common to some fairy tales. It is entirely appropriate for this story, but also manages to make it that much harder to believe that the story is real. While the book was enjoyable, it always felt like the characters were at a remove--visible but not near enough to discern subtleties.Funke describes Venice and its landscapes beautifully but leaves the characters much less dimensional I liked that the story had a lot of twists and turns, but by the end of the novel it felt a bit like one too many turns. Funke blends realistic incidents with pure fantasy creating an uneasy combination that sometimes works well in the text and other times left me scratching my head. In some ways it feels like the first and second half of the the story come from two different plots. After realizing that the novel was originally written in German, I suspect that the different culture and writing conventions might have contributed to my uneasiness in deciding whether I actually liked the book. In summary, The Thief Lord was entertaining and will likely please any young fantasy readers in the house even though it was not completely wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is not working
Guest More than 1 year ago
All I am going to say in this review sums up in that this book is that it's great. It has the suspense of a mystery but has a story safe enough for a child to read. I'm not saying that this book is just for kids, though. It's good for adults too. As you read, you will be intrigued by the 'Thief Lord' Scipio, feel the internal struggles of Prosper, and be excited by the mysteriousness of the Thief Lord's life. This book is so good that I wish Funke would write a sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really did like it. It was a great book that kept me reading till I finished the whole book....<333333
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE THIS BOOK! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading books about adventure. There is some magic in it, but to me it feels kind of subtle, which I actually like. I never wanted to put the book down while reading it. Also there is a movie to the book and I feel like they followed the book really close.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want to be swept off to a land of mystery and twist endings, this is the book for you. I truly loved it and I now dream of going to venice.
SpeedSD More than 1 year ago
My son had to read this for school, and I like to know what he is reading so I picked it up also. This is a really great book about friendships and growing up (or not). My son enjoyed it very much (he is 11). It story is set in Venice, and you really get a feel of the area while reading this book. The story centers around two brothers -- Prosper (age 12) and Bo (age 5) who have run away from their aunt Esther because she only wants to keep Bo and send Prosper away to a boarding school. The boys can't stand to be apart and run away to the streets of Venice where they meet up with several other children. All of these children are lead by a boy known as Scipio (or, the Thief Lord). Meanwhile, the lovely aunt Esther has hired a private detective to look for the boys. The story line was a little slow to take off, but once it started moving, it never slowed down. It is a magical story that left me with a smile on my face. Lots of twists and turns in this story, and the ending was absolutely fabulous. We will definitely look for more from this author.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
Peter Pan Meets Annie, Oliver Twist and Harry Potter Cornelia Funke's young-adult classic, &quot;The Thief Lord&quot; is a wonderful amalgam of Annie, Harry Potter, Oliver Twist and Peter Pan based in the true-to-life fantasy-land of Venice, Italy. The story centers around the run away brothers Prosper and Bo, whose mother recently passed away but left her boys with vivid stories of a city without streets and only canals, boats instead of cars, and palaces interspersed with a never-ending maze of teetering homes. Their Aunt Esther is only interested in adopting the younger Bo, and when faced with the prospect of being separated, the boys run from their native Germany to the Venice of their mother's bedtime tales. The boys hook up with a colorful band of other homeless children, led by the enigmatic leader Scipio, known as The Thief Lord. Using a recently abandoned movie theater as their home, the children have carved out a reasonable existence for themselves, until Aunt Esther employs Venice detective Victor Getz to track down Prosper and Bo. The homeless children engender the Lost Boys from Peter Pan, while a combination of character qualities encapsulate Peter Pan himself. The story is actually quite simple and reads very quickly at almost 350 pages. My 7th-grade son read the book in advance of our family trip to Venice and couldn't wait for me to read it as well. My 4th grader shouldn't have any problem with the readability and concepts, and I think even my High Schooler will enjoy the simple innocence of the characters as well as the solidly colorful sense of Venice that Funke provides. The sweet spot for the story is probably high-reading 4th graders through 6th grade. And I'd highly recommend this for any children traveling to Venice. There's a rather dramatic shift towards fantasy in the last third of the book. It took me by surprise, since the first two-thirds are quite realistic and down to earth. At first thrown off and not particularly appreciating the shift, I've found myself thinking about the conclusions and simple messages of the story and found myself rather liking it. While rich with the emotions of the homeless children, Prosper and Scipio in particular, the story is very appropriate for most ages, with no violence, and clear children's-story morality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The thief lord is a MUST READ.I rate it a billion stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was full of suspense and mystery. But, like any other Cornelia Funke book, it ended with an amazing flourish. The ending was very surprising. Really,really good book.
christy_wooke More than 1 year ago
Loved this until the ending. The book was so so wonderful, and then all of a sudden near the end, a magic carousel is introduced out of nowhere...? BUT definitely worth the read.
tammienguyen More than 1 year ago
Pretty good; definitely geared towards children. Hi! I actually did a book review on my YouTube channel- feel free to check it out! Please also like/subscribe, you would be so kind :) Here's the link- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG2V77rKOg8&list=PLWoQUT7m9DukhZ_5pEj6fanu6x1vIcPKd
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cornelia really seems to weave a rich tapestry out of this story-from the plot, to the characters, in my opinion, she did a remarkably astounding job!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book and movie was amazing!! :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to rrad this but I haven't yet so please tell me about how good this book is. Also I was wondering if anyone knew how to find Night of the Twisters. Please say if you can answer my kibda questions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cornelia Funke is brilliant. You won't waste your time reading this. If you get the chance, try out Inkheart, too. She was my first "favorite" author. Not much else to say. ~RaisingCain
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a movie made a few years back it was good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!