Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Audio Review - Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner

One of the reasons audiobooks are popular, it seems to me, is that we all really enjoy having someone read to us. I don't know what it is, exactly. Maybe the heritage of storytelling in days gone by simply sunk into our collective DNA, so that we respond to a tale read aloud in a different way. Or maybe it's just the luxury of sinking completely into a story as it unfolds around us.

Such was the case for me with the new book Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner. This is a fantasy in the truest sense of the word, as Tanner gives us an alternate-reality tale taking place in a world somewhat like our own and yet vastly different. In the city of Jewel, children are kept under adult protection at all times, linked either to their parents or to the Blessed Guardians by a silver guardchain until the age of Separation. For Goldie Roth, this is altogether normal, though restrictive, and she lives for her own Separation. But then Separation Day is canceled, and Goldie impulsively runs away from her Guardian. She washes up at the Museum of Dunt, a bizarre building that seems to have a personality -- and secret life -- of its own. Here Goldie meets a most  unusual cast of characters. Gradually Goldie realizes that her own fate is drawing her to the Museum, for she is one of only a few who can interpret the mysteries that lie within its walls, and stand in the way of forces that might destroy her world.

This story worked for me on many levels -- the unique slant on the child-destined-to-save-the-world formula, the truly original voices of the characters, the wry humor that pervades Tanner's vision of a world devoid of any potential dangers (at least on the surface). But as an audiobook, what made it truly spectacular was the narrator, Claudia Black. Black does a full complement of voices and she is compelling at each of them, from the imperiousness of Guardian Hope to the reasoned wisdom of Herro Dan to the fearfulness of Goldie's parents. She sustains the drama of Tanner's plotline while never giving away a hint of the secrets yet to be unveiled. Black has plenty to work with here -- a tightly plotted story peopled with memorable characters and delicious mysteries -- and she puts her considerable vocal talents to good use. It was a true pleasure to listen to Museum of Thieves, and I'm eagerly awaiting City of Lies, the next book in the series, due out in September.

Bottom line: great audiobooks are a marriage of excellent writing paired with enthusiastic narration. Museum of Thieves has both, in spades. And how can you not love a writer who names a character Toadspit?!

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner, published by Delacorte Press (audio by Listening Library)
Ages 8-12
Source: Library
Sample quote: "She knew that she mustn't linger in this strange place. She took one last look around the office, and her eyes fell on the coins. There were so many of them, and they were in such untidy heaps that she was sure the owner wouldn't miss a few. And they would make her trip to Spoke so much easier. I'm already a thief. I might as well steal something else."

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