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I’m not sure helicopter parents would let their children read this one, so I recommend helping the poor kids out and sneak them a copy! A wonderful read for children and adults alike! I think Frances Hardinge and/or Adrienne Kress fans would like Ms. Tanner. ~ L’s comment on Museum of Thieves at goodreads.com

7507920Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner

Delacorte Press, 2010.

312 pages, hardcover.

Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is a crime.

Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life. Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians. She has never done anything by herself and won’t be allowed out on the streets unchained until Separation Day.

When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind. In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving.

Which is just as well, because the leader of the Blessed Guardians has his own plans for the museum—plans that threaten the lives of everyone Goldie loves. And it will take a daring thief to stop him. . . .

Museum of Thieves is a thrilling tale of destiny and danger, and of a courageous girl who has never been allowed to grow up—until now. ~Publisher’s Comments.

What if there was a place to put all the dark and dangerous and wild things of the world? What would a society look like if its primary importance was protecting the children from every potential malignancy? Walk. Don’t run. Don’t handle scissors! “[Goldie] opened and closed the scissors three times inside her pocket to make sure she knew how to use them” (30).  Lian Tanner’s Museum of Thieves features a Utopia of familiar trajectory. Tanner exaggerates to the point of utter reason, absolute logic and the results are marvelous! Marvelously wretched of course…I mentioned the society was Dystopic, didn’t I?

Good intentions gone rampant. I love these sort of stories. Tanner is especially enjoyable, a bemused voice, openly critical of the ridiculous extents to which people’s logic carries them—or was that the voice of the wise woman character Olga Ciavolga, one of the Keepers of the Museum of Dunt aka the Museum of Thieves? …

Children, are you feeling coddled, overprotected? Allow Museum of Thieves to bolster your argument. Tanner has the imagination, and the veracity of her vision creates delicious tension and very real concern.  I found this particular vision enthralling: The children are so utterly protected, not a scratch, not a fall. What might be a consequence?

The people of Jewel treat their children like delicate flowers. They think they will not survive without constant protection. But there are parts of the world where young boys and girls spend weeks at a time with no company except a herd of goats. The chase away wolves. They take care of themselves, and they take care of the herd.” […] “And so, when hard times come—as they always do in the end—those children are resourceful and brave. If they have to walk from one end of the country to the other, carrying their baby brothers and sisters, they will do it. If they have to hide during the day and travel at night to avoid soldiers, they will do it. They do not give up easily.

“Of course, I am not saying that it is a good thing to give children such heavy responsibilities. They must be allowed to have a childhood. But they must also be allowed to find their courage and their wisdom, and learn when to stand and when to run away. After all, if they are not permitted to climb the trees, how will they ever see the great and wonderful world that lies before them.” Olga Ciavolga (184-5)

There are moments of peril in Museum of Thieves where people almost died because they could not run, because they were waiting for someone to rescue them (83, 93,  300-1).

“Like everyone else in Jewel, he had been protected from every sort of risk and danger when he was a child. There had been nothing to test his courage, nothing to teach him when to stand and when to run. Now he was paralyzed with fear and indecision. […] They were afraid to stay where they were, and they were afraid to go.” (296-7)

Yet, for all the Safety in Jewel, the citizens are not without fear (even before obvious peril strikes). There are the Slavers, piratanical figures lying in wait for the children, so we are told. Then there are the Blessed Guardians, the “Church” of the Church and State governing partnership, who are dreaded. Guardian Hope is especially horrid. Her zeal for the Fugleman (“the leader of the Blessed Guardians and spokesman for the Seven Gods” (22)) among other traits chillingly calls J.K. Rowling’s Delores Umbridge to mind.

Blessed Guardian Hope, as every character in Tanner’s story is, is wonderfully realized. The originality of the story is delightful to experience and as a writer Tanner is more than capable of sweeping the reader into her imagination.

The Museum of Dunt is a marvelous creation. Within its shifting walls and rooms for every occasion of Jewel’s history, from before it was such a sparkling dystopic utopic realization. The building has secrets, wild moods, and very real threats that are simmering, awaiting fools to release them. But not all the contents of the Museum would harm the populace of Jewel.

“Many years ago,” said Sinew, “Olga Ciavolga and Herro Dan and I made a promise to each other. That one day we’d bring some of the wildness back to the city. Not the big stuff. Not wars and famine and plague. Just vacant blocks and dogs and cats and birds. And secret places for children to hide when they want to escape from the eyes of adults.” (198)

The Museum isn’t the only place brimming with wildness. “He looks so little and harmless, thought Goldie. But inside, he’s bigger and wilder than anyone could imagine. And the museum’s the same” (159). And children are the same, certainly Goldie who fairly bursts with “rebellious” action, set upon by an inner wildness (no, not female hysteria, readers of Victorian fiction and non-fiction).

Jewel would repress wildness. Olga Ciavolga would rather instruct it. “You must both learn to think before you act. Whatever happens, remember that there is always a choice. Think of the consequences, and then do what you must” (187). I am considering a cross-stitch pattern for this little gem, “Think of the consequences, and then do what you must.” Goldie does not betray this trust. Tested and empowered, Goldie solves an incredible problem and proves heroic. Her actions from the very first have had consequences, terrible ones, but some brilliant ones as well. Museum of Thieves measures what risks are worth taking and living seems to be the result of it.

“The people of Jewel are like Guardian Hope, with her planks and hammers. They tried to nail life down. They wanted to be completely safe and happy at all times. The trouble is, the world just isn’t like that. You can’t have high mountains without deep valleys. You can’t have great happiness without great sadness. The world is never still. It moves from one thing to another, back and forth, back and forth, like a butterfly opening and closing its wings.” –Sinew (197)

Goldie is not thoughtless, nor is she uncaring of her family. She loves her parents. She has a best friend whom she cares for deeply. She spends the novel emotionally regretting the price her parents pay for her rebellious (yet necessary) action. A parent’s desire to shelter their child is not demonized, nor are children who desire to remain in the care of their parents. The Peter Pan, Toadspit, for all his brusqueness, is for the comfort of family as well.  What the novel does is interrogate what forms “sheltering” might take that is detrimental. That the parents complicity is due to ignorance and cowardice is a complication. The punishment is severe, isn’t it? To not parent the way Jewel Society defines it…

On the whole, the society of Jewel resides in ignorance. Statistics are muttered as reminders that past decisions have been correct. Those in place of power, really the Grand Protector (mayoral figure) and the Fugleman, have manipulative capabilities and some perspective from their differing height. [Interestingly, the Protector and the Fugleman are siblings, so the relationship between Church and State cannot be seen as anything but related/connected.] The Keepers at the Museum have information and importance as well. They have Historical memory and long life spans.

The Keepers are interesting characters, an independent and secretive agency. Oh, and they’re Thieves. Thieves as heroes provokes another challenging idea:

“Perhaps there is a wildness in thieves that speaks to the wildness that is here. Perhaps a thief sees the secret paths, the hidden places.” [Olga Ciavolga] looked hard at Goldie. “Listen to me carefully, child. I do not wish to glorify theft. There are people in this world who think they are better than others, or deserve more. People who would rob their grandmother of her last coin and laugh as they did it. I have not time for such people. To move quietly, to be quick of hand and eye, that is a gift. If you use it to hurt others, even in a small way, you betray yourself and everyone around you.” (122)

Tanner is ever thoughtful. A Tale-teller with an audience in mind, weaving perspectives and leaving the angles for the listener to consider. The text and the reader asks questions and Tanner provides the scenario.

Olga and Sinew and others would recognize and foster Goldie’s potential, her unique abilities, and offer lessons in a few more useful skills. “When hard times come—as they always do in the end—[Goldie is] resourceful and brave.” Of course, that isn’t what certain persons in power wanted at all. Their love and concern aren’t actually real.

For all the potentially “hazardous” messages convicting the helicoptering sort and spurring children to consider their wildness and camouflaging skills, Museum of Thieves is a Tale of one misbehaved girl’s adventure that is deliciously entertaining. There are perils and triumphs, a cute puppy and a blood-thirsty hound, a big black bird that starts with the eyeballs, people with ridiculous names, and soldiers that speak like this: “Is a leedle gel!” (272). Loved it!

Museum of Thieves is Book One of The Keepers Trilogy; although, you won’t feel cheated, Book One could stand alone (disregarding 311-2). I am looking forward to City of Lies (expected Sept 2011). Tanner created a cast and setting of delectable proportions for which I found I was ravenous in Museum of Thieves and will sure to be again in City of Lies.

Think of the consequences, and then do what you must*…

*****

*which is read this book! and purchase me the set.

an awesome site connected to the book.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Marie says:

    Sounds awesome! I love the illustrations you show, too.

    1. L says:

      thanks… It was a really fun read.

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