The Shadow Thief, by Alexandra Adornetto
Themes: magic, humour, friendship, adventure, fantasy.
The Shadow Thief was written by Alexandra Adornetto when she was only thirteen years old. It is this remarkable fact that influenced me to purchase a copy whilst on holiday in Australia (Adornetto is Australian). Ironically, this remarkable fact also caused me to have some cynicism and rather low expectations when I began reading The Shadow Thief. However, I can honestly say that my cynicism was unwarranted. To write such a novel at the age of thirteen is a truly impressive feat.
The Shadow Thief follows the adventures of two children, Millipop (Milli) and her friend Ernest. They live in the town of Drabville which, as its name implies, is a drab place where all individuality and colour is forbidden. Milli however, is an exception to the rule and is full of curiosity and dissatisfaction for her dreary surroundings.
The Shadow Thief begins when Milli and her friend Ernest stumble into the secret grounds of Hog House, home to the dreadful Lord Aldor, also known as The Shadow Thief. When they see the countless prisoners jailed in Lord Aldor’s dungeons, they prepare themselves for the worst. However, much to their surprise they are promptly adopted by the voluptuous and grotesque Mr and Mrs Mayor. Brought into the Mayors’ opulent palace, Milli and Ernest are treated more like prized pets than children.
Milli and Ernest do not settle into their mollycoddled life of luxury, for they soon realise the dreadful evil that Lord Aldor (The Shadow Thief) is conducting. As you might have guessed, The Shadow Thief steals the shadows from any individual in Drabville who breaks the Code of Conduct (rules that forbid all originality). Milli and Ernest realise that the terrifying task of fighting against The Shadow Thief’s evil falls upon them. Liberating the stolen shadows however is no plain sailing and Milli and Ernest face an unending supply of dramatic dilemmas before they meet success.
When I began reading The Shadow Thief, my cynical prejudice led me to seeing the writing as typical of a secondary school pupil, albeit a very talented one. I mentioned in my review of The Red Wind my penchant for writing which ‘shows’ rather than ‘tells’. I thought The Shadow Thief had too much ‘telling’ the reader rather than ‘showing’ the reader which grated slightly against my preference for more subtle writing. However, once the story was underway, I found myself carried along by the richly imaginative and off-the-wall narrative.
At times I found myself making comparisons to Alice in Wonderland. Mrs Mayor seemed a distant cousin to the Queen of Hearts; the flustered flamingo secretary reminded me of the White Rabbit; and the vast proportions of Hog House reminded me of Alice’s shrinking after consuming the ‘Eat Me’ morsel.
By the third chapter I had to swallow my initial cynicism and admit that The Shadow Thief was truly impressive for a thirteen year old author. The only indication of the author’s age was the free and wild imagination, manifested in the whacky settings and impossible (but wonderful) plot line. The text is brimming with similes that have the originality and freshness that only a child’s mind can conjure: a huge mass of gyrating water rose, churning as vigorously as a milkshake in a blender. So rich and frequent were the similes that at times I felt they were laid on too thickly if that is possible.
The plot is a whirlwind of adventure and the reader might find themselves exhausted as dilemma after dilemma unfolds. The heroine, Milli, is an effervescent bubble of energy whose restless intrepidness matches the fast paced plot.
The Shadow Thief would be a popular read for boys and girls who enjoy humorous, fast-paced, magical adventure. I take my hat off to Alexandra Adornetto for such an impressive achievement at such a young age. I hope that by reading The Shadow Thief any other precocious would-be-authors will be inspired to follow their own writing dreams.