When you see “Relevant Maps” listed as the first item in City of the Uncommon Thief’s table of contents, you know you’re in for an epic story. What you won’t know until you finish reading, however, is that Lynne Bertrand’s first young adult novel is not only a sprawling work of precise storytelling, but also a literary Rubik’s cube—frustrating at times, but surprisingly fun.
You should prepare for two hurdles before you begin reading. First, Bertrand’s prose is dense and tricky; you may find yourself consulting a dictionary as you read. Second, Bertrand has very little interest in exposition, so although she has created a vibrant world and an unusual parlance in which its characters speak, she will not hold your hand as she pushes you headfirst over its precipice.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Lynne Bertrand reveals the inspiration behind the unique world of City of the Uncommon Thief.
Bertrand’s titular city is unnamed and has been quarantined from the rest of the world for a long time. The city itself is composed of a thousand towers, linked together by a crisscrossing web of zip lines that teenage runners use to travel from roof to roof. We see this new world through the eyes of Odd Thebes, a wisecracking, self-pitying bard who loves books, girls and being the smartest guy in the room. His cousin Errol Thebes is as swashbuckling as his Hollywood namesake; he’s handsome, arrogant and always ready to play the hero. When the cousins give Jamila Foundling, a mysterious servant, the task of hiding an unusual and potentially powerful stolen object, the three teens become entrenched in a tangled tale of magic, lies and the dark reality of life below the towers.
Bertrand dangles revelations around every corner and has twists and turns to spare. The satisfaction of seeing the puzzle pieces of her story come together, of witnessing her trio of heroes learn what’s inside of them and who they really are, proves a satisfying reward for the reader’s hard work. City of the Uncommon Thief is genre-defying fiction at its finest, and Bertrand sticks the landing on a book that knows no fear.