“You can’t convict what you can’t confirm.” That’s the motto of 12-year-old Jaxter Grimjinx and his infamous family of thieves. And while Jaxter may not have his father’s burglary prowess, his mother’s forgery skills, or his little sister’s mastery of sleight-of-hand, his book-fed knowledge of non-magical solutions to magical problems makes him invaluable to the family’s heists.
But the Grimjinxes may have pulled one con too many in their hometown, Vengekeep. After swapping the prophetic tapestry used to guide Vengekeep’s actions for a fake concocted by Jaxter’s mother, the Grimjinxes are stunned when the false prophecies begin coming true, bringing destruction in their wake.
Suddenly, Vengekeep is besieged by “natural” disasters and rampaging monsters, courtesy of the secretly enchanted counterfeit tapestry. With his family forced to stay and combat the impending doom, Jaxter must leave his hometown in search of a way to keep the increasingly dangerous prophecies from wiping Vengekeep off the map.
Things that make me happy:
1. Brett Helquist’s illustrations.
2. Con artist families.
3. Con artists turning into heroes.
4. Con artists going on adventures and getting into trouble.
So it’s no surprise that I loved The Vengekeep Prophecies, as it’s got ALL THOSE THINGS. It’s almost as if it were written specifically for me!
It’s a super cute adventure story with the potential for a lot of growth in the next few books. There’s a slightly uneven mix of typical coming-of-age tropes and new/unusual beats. For example: typical story with young (white?) boy going on a quest to save his family and the world. Unusual beat: he’s the son of a two world class thieves/con artists who have no compunction about running away and leaving everyone else to pick up the poo.
Typical: Jaxter has a sidekick who helps him on his quest. Unusual beat: she’s a girl and she’s way more competent than he is at being a thief. (There is also no romance, for those who’re worried.)
Typical: young boy hero finds his strength and defeats the baddies. Unusual: his strength is non-violent and he wins by being clever!
I loved the mix of tropes new and old, and I ALSO really liked the inclusion of deeper themes alongside the (almost) slapstick comedy. Jaxter worries a lot that he’s not worthy of being in his family (because he’s not good at thieving), an old friend has become a huge bully, his parents’ old friend does something horrible and spoilery, and so on. It’s nice to have things like that included in a normally straightforward adventure story because it makes it more emotionally satisfying! And there’s tons of room for character growth as well, which is always nice.
This first book wrapped things up pretty neatly, but there’s some interesting possibilities for future books (magical school, maybe?!) that make me look forward to reading the next book in the Vengekeep Prophecies series.
Read: May 24-June 1, 2014