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Let the Imagination Soar


Subhadra Sen Gupta


Writing a good fantasy is a delicate art and just your basic story-telling skills are never enough. A writer needs a wildly inventive imagination to create a completely new and magical world where reality and dreams merge seamlessly and the story comes with a sprinkling of stardust. A world where wizards and witches speak in magic spells, dragons spout philosophy, vampires fall in love and a boy can turn into a cat in the blink of an eye.   At the same time this world has to resonate in the imagination of young readers and they should be able to relate to the trials of the protagonists. That is why fantasy often takes the grand themes of fiction—the battle of good against evil; the adventurous quest or a doomed romance. The characters are also often drawn in broad strokes: evil is ambitious, greedy and ruthless; and the good are all brave, pure hearts. There is little space for subtle greys in contemporary fantasy which are modern fairy tales of once upon a time in wizard land for the twenty-first century child.   The Magic Thief is Sarah Prineas’s first book in a planned trilogy and introduces us to a very beguiling hero, Connwaer or Conn. He is a pickpocket and expert lock-pick who survives by his wits in a fictional city called Wellmet. Prineas has imagined the city in great detail and even includes a map and drawings of palaces and fortresses. It is an intriguing blend of medieval and Victorian England and is ruled by a woman—Duchess Willa Forestal. There are lively illustrations of both characters and places by Antonio Javier Caparo that add spice to the tale.   The life force of Wellmet is Magic, a mysterious benign force that not only keeps street lights burning and factory machines running but it also balances the presence of good and evil in the city. The Duchess lives in the affluent area called Sunlight while the poor live in Twilight where Crowe, the dark Underlord rules. Prineas has imagined Twilight like a Victorian slum with dingy tenements, gloomy cobble-stoned streets and smoky factories where children labour over clanging machines. Here Conn lurks in the shadows, starving, barefoot and shivering, waiting for a pocket to pick.   Conn makes the mistake of stealing a magic stone from the wizard Nevery Flinglas. This stone is his Locus Magicalicus that gives him his wizardly ...


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