Spoiler Alert! Mark of the Thief follows the story of a young orphan, Nic, who works in the mines with his sister, Livia. It takes place during the height of the Roman Empire. Although most details from the book come directly from the Roman Empire, like the hierarchy and its respective titles, some major plot points, like griffins and the entirety of the Praetor war, are entirely false. This creates an extremely interesting dynamic for the book, whereas other historical fiction novels just slip in a character into a series of very real and nonfiction events, Nielsen manages to pull off writing a story that is educational as well as entertaining. Nic himself is an extremely interesting character. A lot of other novels fall short with characters and their dimensions because they feel more like robots with their decision making; always going for the most obvious solution. It’s usually done to progress the plot based on a bad, illogical decision the main character makes. Nic’s decisions, while impulsive very often, (like immediately trusting Caela after getting attacked by her or accepting deals that were nearly guaranteed to get him double-crossed) are weighed out. This is most notable in the beginning of the book, when he knows there’s a griffin watching him and formulates a plan to return to his escape rope and grab the treasure he was sent for before he can be caught by it, or bargaining with the guards to capture Caela as long as they don’t harm her. I’m also glad that General Radulf had some dimensions to his character and posed an actual threat. He wasn’t just some army man with nothing but brute force to back him up; he was a master tactician and also knew the secrets of magic. Another interesting touch was Nic’s relationship with his family. He always thought about his sister first, and could care less about himself if she was in trouble. Although subtle, him mentioning that his mother gave up on them too easily was a line that really stuck out to me. Too many times are orphaned protagonists ignoring their past or dedicating their lives to it. It was such a welcome surprise to see that Nic experienced multiple feelings as a character. Although the plot twist with General Radulf being Nic’s grandfather felt extremely forced and unnecessary to me, it did justify itself through their alliance. Overall, this book stands out in its individuality in terms of progressing the plot healthily, establishing relationships with all characters, present in the story or not, and making their characters think and act like real people, as well as keeping the story fictional and educational.
I rate this book a 4.5/5. Thank you for reading my review!