With a chic, cool edge and rich, textured illustrations, SOLOMON’S THIEVES is part history lesson, part Dumas adventure, and all incredibly enjoyable. It’s a fun read on many fronts, and while filled with many of the staples of the genre --- swashbuckling, knife fights, villainous leaders and church officials, an honor-bound hero with no family to call his own, vagabonds and thieves who nevertheless fight the good fight, and, of course, romance with a feisty heroine who is promised to another --- it’s a real hoot with a wonderfully rendered medieval backdrop.
SOLOMON’S THIEVES comes from writer Jordan Mechner and artists LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland, best known as the creative team behind PRINCE OF PERSIA. Mechner was inspired, as he writes, by the story in Malcolm Barber’s THE TRIAL OF THE TEMPLARS about a couple dozen knights who managed to escape the travails of the court. Mechner “got the feeling it was the troublemakers, the ones with a slightly scoundrelly streak, who had a better chance of slipping through the net…. What would they do, how would they survive, in a city like Paris?”
His lead troublemaker is named Martin, a young Knight Templar who joined the order after being rejected by Isabelle, his one true love. She had rejected him because she was forced by her brother to marry another to advance his political gain. When Martin and Isabelle meet again years later, trouble brews not only between the two starcrossed lovers, but also between the church and the Knights Templar.
SOLOMON’S THIEVES is the first in a trilogy of books coming from Mechner and the stellar artistic team of Pham and Puvilland (with design help from the always excellent Danica Novgorodoff), and it promises to be a wildly entertaining one. The content is as action-packed as you would expect and is probably appropriate for older kids and teens (adults will enjoy it immensely, too). Younger children might not be interested in its historical content anyway. The violence (a man tortured on a rack, bloody swords, etc.) is not overdone, but it is there. Also helpful for students is a brief foreword establishing the time and setting, and an end note from Mechner that includes a bibliography of further reading and research.
Readers will be eager for the second installment after finishing SOLOMON’S THIEVES.
Reviewed by John Hogan on May 11, 2010