Monday, March 09, 2015

MMGM- Mark of the Thief

22215757It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. Nonfiction Monday also occurs today.

The winner of the Convergence giveaway is Crystal Brunelle! (I know, I know. It was a long time ago. I'm horrible at remembering to pick winners during the school year! Maybe now that it's all of 30 degrees my mind will thaw out!)

22749522Nielsen, Jennifer A. Mark of the ThiefFebruary 24th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Nic is a slave working in a mine near Rome circa 275 a.d. His father was killed by a lightning strike, his mother was sold off, and his sister, Livia, works around the mines and may have to marry the evil overseer Sal. When Nic is sent deep into the mine to try to retrieve a golden treasure rumored to be Julius Caesar's, he has a very strange experience. He manages to get a golden bulla, but is attacked and scratched by a griffin, who then helps him escape the mine before it collapses. He is recaptured, but hides the bulla from Radulf, a commander who really wants it, and is sold with the griffin to Felix, who manages the venation in Rome. Right before this, Nic had met the senator Valerius and his son Crispus, who tell Nic that the griffin has left a very dangerous mark on his back, and he must hide it, as well as the bulla. In Rome, the griffin is supposed to fight in the Colosseum, but Nic manifests significant magic and has to go on the run. He is helped by Artemis, a high born girl who was exposed at birth who is now living the life of a slave, helping Felix. She is instrumental in helping Nic survive several harrowing events, since Radulf is bound and determined to get him, as well as the  bulla, back. There's lots of adventures, good details about life in Rome, and a lot of twists involving high levels of Roman government, which I don't want to give away!
Strengths: My students ADORE books about ancient Rome, and there are so few of them. The gladiatorial games are always something they want to read about. The details are well-researched, there's plenty of action and intrigue, and I think this is supposed to be a trilogy. Readers who enjoyed Michael Ford's Spartan Warrior series or Scarrow's Gladiator will not be able to wait for this one!
Weaknesses: Like Jaron in The False Prince, Nic spends a LOT of his time injured-- fainting in pools of blood, from lack of food, or from the overuse of magic. He has to be saved a lot. Ancient Rome is exciting enough that I could have done without the magic, too, but some readers will enjoy that.
What I really think: Definitely a book to purchase, but it would have benefit from some more editing. Cutting out all the parts where Nic is ill/fainting, perhaps?

22323659     Winter Turning (Wings of Fire Series #7)
And just in case you haven't kept up with this series by one of the authors of the Warriors (Erin Hunter) series, book #6 (Moon Rising) came out 6 January 2015, and book #7 (Winter Turning) comes out in June. I feel like I should do a textual analysis between these and Anne McCaffrey, but both series make me want to cry. I have a few students who adore them, so they'll circulate steadily but last a long time, but they are not my favorite, and any series that goes much over five books starts to irritate me. It's a lot of money, and readers rarely get to the last book.

And yet I feel horribly compelled to buy them all! For example, Games Wizards Play (Young Wizards #10) by Diane Duane comes out next February. The first two books in the series (one a first edition from 1983, and one a 20th anniversary edition) are both in tatters, but A Wizard of Mars has been checked out exactly one time, by a child I'm pretty sure did not read the rest of the series. Sigh. Five books, people. Five.


  1. I love Jennifer Nielsen so I'll probably get that one. Students at my library are loving both of Sutherland's series, Wings of Fire and Menagerie.

  2. I'm not a fantasy reader, but my grandson might like these. Thanks for the review.

  3. This one should be very popular. Yes, Ancient Rome is a fascination for many kids. Can't wait to try this one out myself.

  4. I really enjoyed THE FALSE PRINCE and its sequels, but I do agree about the injury thing. I wasn't sure which book it was (2?), but it became too much for me as well. I'm not as interested in ancient Rome, but I will probably check it out, because I enjoy her writing.

  5. I have not read any Nielsen yet, but False Prince is loved in my school, so I assume this one will be as well!

    Happy reading this week! :)

  6. Anonymous8:45 PM EDT

    This looks like one I'd really enjoy.