Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Review: The Talent Thief by Alex Williams
Wealthy orphans Adam and Cressida Bloom couldn't be less alike. Adam can't seem to help being exceedingly ordinary whereas Cressida, his glamorous sister, has a magnificent talent – when she sings, even the birds stop to listen. Then Cressida is invited to perform at Fortescue's festival of young talents and Adam tags along. But once the children arrive at the festival, in a mountain-top hotel, their terrific talents begin to mysteriously disappear. A piano virtuoso suddenly forgets how to play, a maths genius finds she can no longer multiply. There's a sinister shadow that only Adam ever sees, a strange glow emanating from behind closed doors.
With the help of erratic ex-racing driver, dashing Amy Swift, Adam and Cressida rip-roar off through the mountains in Amy's shiny racing car, the Silver Swift. They are in perilous pursuit of the dastardly talent thief! But from a hair-raisingly close shave with an avalanche to crash landing a plane on a runway the size of a table, Adam never gives up. Perhaps he isn't as ordinary as he first thought!
Writing about Chasing Vermeer reminded me of The Talent Thief, a book I read a couple of years ago that perfectly combines mystery with fantasy. I absolutely loved this book - I thought I may as well shout that out now as you will deduce that for yourselves from this review anyway. Unlike Chasing Vermeer, however, I feel that this book has very few faults, if any at all (actually, just the one..... more of David Roberts' quirky black and white illustrations would have been wonderful).
This is a boy-friendly book that has everything a young reader could ask for.... adventure, laughs (of which there are many), a sinister villain, edge-of-your-seat thrills and a very ordinary hero with whom he can identify. This is Mr Williams' first book and he has managed to produce a thoroughly exciting story with a very original plot - I don't think I am giving too much away when I say that his creation of a thief who steals children's talents is highly ingenious, yet also so simple that it is amazing that no-one thought of it earlier.
The pace of the story is spot on, and perfectly suited to reluctant readers as well as the more accomplished, yet this is not at the cost of characterisation and descriptive writing, as we sometimes see in books like this. The relationship between brother and sister, Adam and Cressida, is very well observed and all of the characters, and their various mannerisms, are very believeable.
This is one of those books that, despite its brilliance and also it being released more than two years ago, I feel still does not have a huge number of admirers. This is a travesty - if you buy one 'hidden gem' book for an 9+ year old child this year then make it this one... neither of you will be disappointed. And if you know a child (or are/were one yourself) who has an older brother or sister who seems so much better than them then this book really should be in your collection.