“I highly recommend The Admantine Palace to all readers of fantasy. Even if it has been years since you last read a book about dragons, don’t hesitate to give this one a try. You will not be disappointed.“ SFF Chat. Yep, can’t resist starting with another fine review for The Adamantine Palace.
Back to The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (3-star review in issue 200 of SFX on its way, apparently, but I don’t know what it says). While we’re at it, Civilian Reader has this to say: “I really enjoyed reading Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, and I’ll definitely be looking out for future novels in the series.”
Well good. However, a couple of comments have captured my attention.
“I was also not sure, upon finishing, if this was YA fantasy or not – I’ve read that it is, but there are some pretty dark and/or graphic scenes in the story, which makes me question if this is accurate.” (from the same review)
“I actually liked Syannis as a character more than I liked Berren because as Thea says, he did have a certain degree of unpredictability as well as an intriguing back story, and that is perhaps another issue since the book is a YA novel and I ended up liking the adult character more.” (from the Booksmugglers)
These aren’t isolated observations either, there are similar comments in other reviews and I’m sure they will continue. I have no problem with that. All opinions are equally valid. So here’s mine:
The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is intended to be a YA book. That’s not to say adults shouldn’t enjoy it too, but in this book, I’m specifically writing for teenage boys. I happen to think that teenage boys who read fiction probably deserve to be treated pretty much as adults. The content and the style of prose remain as they would be for an adult fantasy novel. And yes, here and there it’s dark. Knives figure prominently and knives are nasty. But look, knives and knife-crime are (apparently) an issue for teenage men. How big an issue I’m not sure, but big enough to make the news every few months. I see no reason why the sort of fourteen-year-old who’s at all likely to pick up a book like this and read it should be talked down to.
And it doesn’t surprise me at all that an adult reader finds Master Sy more interesting. He’s got secrets he holds very close, and they’re big and dark and yes they’ll be back with avengance in the second and third books. In this book, I too find Master Sy to be the more interesting character (that changes as the series goes on, I might add). He’s much more my age, he has a past with some pretty ugly bits, he’s much more like the me of today than Berren, who lives almopst entirely in the here-and-now, is. But on the other hand, I was fourteen once. I remember what it was like and I remember who my heroes were back then, and I’m pretty sure if I asked teenage me which one I liked best, I’d have gone for Berren. Master Sy is written for adult me, Berren for the person I used to be more than half a lifetime ago.
I set out to write a book here that will appeal to adults both old and young, and I’m glad that the, er… older ones ones only barely past their teens and still in the first flush of youth, honest guv, are finding the thief-taker and his lad to be a good read. But that’s only half the story. I’ve reviewed young adult fiction in days gone by, and I found a lot of it pretty tiresome, actually, but that was adult me reading a book that wasn’t meant for adult me. When, much too late in a couple of cases, I turned around to teenage me and asked him what he thought, I found I got quite a different answer. Where are the Young Adult readers? Where are the Young Adult reviewers? Boys in particular? Difficult, I imagine, to set yourself up a review blog and be taken seriously at that sort of age. Who speaks for you? Do they do so fairly? The consistency of review for The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice troubles me. Maybe the readers I mostly wrote for will think TTA is total tosh that doesn’t speak to them at all. Or maybe they think it’s great. How will I know if I never hear from you?
So I’d like to find out. I know there are “Young Adults” out there who have read The Adamantine Palace, so maybe you’re reading this. Maybe you came here by another route. Anyway: I have half a dozen copies of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice I’d like to give away. You have to be under eighteen, you have to be male, and you have to give me an honest opinion of what you think. Doesn’t have to be articulate or eloquent or at any great length, just honest. You don’t have to tell me your name, but you will have to give me an address I can post to. That’s the deal. I send you a free book, you tell me what you thought.
Oh, and probably best to get in touch via the contact page, eh?