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  • William Stark

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke: Adventure in the City of Canals

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

Overall rating: 8.5/10

Plot: 8.5/10

Quality of writing: 8.5/10

Characters: 9/10

Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): minimal

Difficulty: 3/10

Age level: 8 and up


When orphaned brothers Prosper and Bo flee to Venice to escape their cruel aunt and uncle, they meet a mysterious thirteen year-old who calls himself “the Thief Lord.” After joining his ring of street children, the brothers embark on a journey to steal a mysterious magical artifact; however, evidence begins to surface that the Thief Lord may not actually be who he claims to be. This novel by Cornelia Funke, described as “a European From the Mixed up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler,” is sure to intrigue and engage readers from elementary school on up.


This book includes several different primary conflicts, each revolving around a different character or group of characters. For Prosper and Bo, the goal is to escape the Hartliebs (their cruel aunt and uncle) and to find somewhere safe to live. For the Thief Lord (Scipio), the primary conflict revolves around the artifact that he has been hired to steal, then later around his need to be accepted both by his family and by his friends (Prosper, Bo, and the street children) after they discover that he, the Thief Lord, has never actually stolen anything. However, while the use of multiple layered conflicts does add a degree of interest and complexity to the storyline, it can be somewhat confusing as well. Overall, the plot of The Thief Lord is well-written but could potentially prove confusing. (8.5/10)


While the main protagonists of the book (Prosper and Bo) get most of the focus throughout the story, the primary character of interest for readers will undoubtedly be Scipio, the Thief Lord. Born into the wealthy Massimo family, he masquerades as the “Thief Lord,” an orphan who has become one of the most highly skilled thieves in Venice. However, all he actually does is take items from his father’s mansion, pretending to the street children that he has stolen them from wealthy palazzi (palaces). Scipio is eventually forced to be honest when Prosper and Bo discover his double life, and has to deal with the consequences for the rest of the book. Overall, all Funke’s characters (but especially Scipio) are done quite well, considering the book’s age level, and deserve a 9 out of 10.


On the whole, The Thief Lord really doesn’t contain any stylistic or format elements that would make it a particularly difficult read. The storyline is readable, even for younger readers (despite its multiple conflicts), and the action is straightforward. Overall, this book deserves a 3.5 out of 10 on difficulty.

Quality of writing

Funke does an excellent job of showing the reader each character’s viewpoint and motivations, which makes the story more engaging as a whole. However, the storyline is a bit of a mixed bag, with several different conflicts going on at once and a conclusion that is happy for some, bittersweet for others, and payback against at least one character. I did feel like the book could have used more

descriptive language, as it is set in Venice, arguably one of the most unique and beautiful cities anywhere. Overall, the quality of writing in this book was good, but not amazing. (8.5/10)

Concerning content

While this book has no language per se, exclamations such as “darn it,” “blast,” and “stupid idiot” do occur fairly frequently, so would-be readers should at least take note of this. Additionally, the word “God” is used as an exclamation once, and throughout the book, the children (being street children) habitually treat adults with less respect than they should. While these issues can be attributed to the nature of the characters themselves, parents of readers would do well to consider these

factors before giving their children this book.

Age level

While this book is not difficult to read, some may prefer to avoid it due to the mild exclamations the characters use and the somewhat low level of respect for authority figures. However, this book's redeeming qualities are many, and most should find it an engaging and enjoyable read. This book is recommended for ages 8 and up.

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