Rule No. 1: “Stealing is necessary to survive.”
Alli Rosco has spent most of her life in an orphanage. Her hostile, aggressive, and sarcastic personality precedes her, and she’s given up hope of ever being adopted. She’ll be 13 soon, when she’ll age out of the home and be sent into the world to fend for herself. Why wait? When Alli (noncommittally described as “tan” with black hair) sees the chance to escape, she takes it. Almost immediately, she’s nearly captured by a magic-wielding law-enforcing protector who blasts her arm with a spell. Next, she botches her first theft attempt but is saved from arrest by Beck, a mysterious boy about her age (described as “darker tan”). What’s this boy hiding? Alli will have to trust him. The protector marked her with a curse, one that will kill her in a matter of days if she doesn’t get to the Healing Springs. Blocking her way: money. Beck is a member of the legendary Thieves Guild, and if Alli joins, the Guild can help her get the money that will save her life. Stealing truly is necessary if she’s to avoid an early death. Alli’s southern European–inflected fantasy world is built carefully and tightly, complete with class structures, customs, and a patron saint–centered culture. The ending isn’t squeaky clean but provides a sense of closure as Alli makes a meaningful discovery about her heritage.
A smooth debut. (Fantasy. 8-14)