Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Keepers: Museum of Thieves, by Lian Tanner

Published in hardcover by Allen & Unwin, 2010.

Three things attracted me to Museum of Thieves: the cover, which I think promises just the right amount of adventure and intrigue; the concept (a fantasy adventure set in an ancient museum? Amazing!); and the fact that Lian Tanner is from Tasmania. Originally hailing from this beautiful state myself, I always feel a little surge of pride over anything vaguely creative-artsy and Tasmanian. So I really wanted to like this book.
The story centres around Goldie Roth, who lives in the repressive city of Jewel and runs away on Separation Day. She takes refuge in the mysterious Museum of Dunt and is taken under the wing of Olga Ciavolga and Sinew, the Keepers of it, and initially scorned by Toadspit, a fiery little boy who lives there with them. They train Goldie to be a ‘Thief’, and her training begins to come in handy when the Museum encounters the corruption of The Fugleman, and his plans to use the evil forces of the Museum to invade Jewel.
First of all, I absolutely love that the story is centered around a museum. The Museum of Dunt in has layers and layers to it, is stuffed with thousands of lost and forgotten things, has a will of its own and is dominated by an eerie, menacing presence. Tanner uses it to create a great sense of adventure and discovery. Goldie and Toadspit are proactive, clever protagonists and once the action picks up about halfway through, the story rollicks along at a nice pace.
It didn’t quite win me over, though. A few of the plot points and lines of dialogue I felt I had read many times before, and a few of Goldie’s moments of self-discovery were a bit forced. At times I didn’t really feel emotionally invested in the story. That being said, I do recognise the fact that I am an older reader, and can appreciate that the story will have different resonances with a younger audience.
There seems to also be quite a lot of death, or promise of it, in this book. It feels slightly out of sync with the rest of the story, maybe because it doesn’t really seem to have a large impact on everyone who witnesses it, which is strange as Jewel is set up as a very subdued, safe city. This may be what causes the lack of emotional investment that I mentioned before.
There is certainly loads of adventure to be had, though. And it makes me want to live in a museum. I think the series has promise, and am interested to see how Tanner will advance Goldie’s story in the coming books.
"Go home and be good?" She grinned at Toadspit, and shook her head. "I've barely begun."

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