The traitor and the thief.
Title: The traitor and the thief
Author: Gareth Ward (2017)
Publisher: Walker Books Australia (352 Pages)
This is a debut novel by Gareth Ward, a New Zealand author, containing an energetic mix of magic, spies, tech inventions, secret organisations and zany characters. Ward, a magician himself (The Great Wardini) along with a host of other professions, has written a steampunk novel. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that allows its authors free ranging possibilities to invent and even rewrite history. The author borrows from Dickens (Fixer, a Fagan-like character) and heavily from J.K. Rowling. As a committed Harry Potter fan, Ward draws on its magic, school of spies and sheer inventiveness.
Set in the Victorian era, the novel opens in Coxford's Corn Market where we follow the exploits of a fourteen-year-old boy Sin, a perpetually hungry orphan, street urchin and clever petty thief who is spotted and invited to join a secret school for spies and a Covert Operations Group (COG). While Sin is street smart and inventive, he is uneducated and not at all happy following their 'Cast-Iron Rules'. Luckily he is befriended by eccentric Zonda Chubb, another COG, who possesses the skills and intelligence Sin lacks so they do well to complement one another. Their job is to uncover the traitor in their ranks but they are constantly thwarted by such characters as the bully, Velvet von Darque.
The novel is a romp, moving at a rapid pace, almost cinematic with many unexpected plot twists and turns. I found the read exhausting and when I put it down and then picked it up again at a later date, I was lost and had to back track. As well as having difficulty getting back to the plot I had difficulty getting back on the treadmill. I also found Zonda's inventive language (like dangiferous) annoying rather than inventive or endearing.
Yet the book wasn't written for the likes of me. It was written for middle years readers who are multitaskers, attracted to fast moving computer games and fast moving novels like those of Matthew Reilly and for devoted Harry Potter fans. As I researched the book, I noticed how many libraries and bookstores had selected this novel for its middle years book club. It is certainly a novel that will spark discussion.