The Museum of Thieves, by Lian Tanner (Delacorte 2010 mg 312 pp)
In the city of Jewel, the children are Safe. There is no sickness or danger that can harm them. They are chained to their beds at night (so as not to be kidnapped) and chained to their parents whenever they venture outside (so they won't get lost or do anything dangerous), and the Blessed Guardians of the city work to keep all things under control.
But sometimes, even when they are as safe as can be, it's not possible to keep every child under control. When young Goldie gets the chance to be free of her chains years before she expected it, she escapes from the Guardians, and desperately tries to find somewhere to hide in the city. What she finds is a place she hadn't known existed--the Museum of Thieves--and there she finds her true home.
The Museum of Thieves is no ordinary museum. It holds within its deceptive walls all those things that are deemed unsafe--the wars, the plagues, the strange creatures (including my favorite character, Broo the last Brizzlehound). But to keep the museum from imploding from the force of all it contains, it must be kept calmed and contained. Only those with tricksy minds (and dubious talents, like lurking and pickpocketing) are suited for this work--and what they have stole is all that the city of Jewel and its Blessed Guardians have rejected.
As one of the Museum Keepers puts it:
"....there are some things, child, that you should steal. That you must steal, if you have enough love and courage in your heart. You must snatch freedom from the hands of the tyrant. You must spirit away innocent lives before they are destroyed. You must hide secret and sacred places." (page 123)
Goldie is right at home here, and joins the museum's four keepers (one of whom, a boy her own age named Toadspit, isn't very glad to have her on board). But the Blessed Guardians are looking for her. When they realize that the Museum is not yet part of their Safe City, they try to bring it under their control--and its walls begin to weaken. All the danger it holds might be released in a flood of violence, unless the Guardians can be foiled.
And Goldie and Toadspit are right there, doing some very nice foiling!
I enjoyed this one lots, I liked the world building, and the concept of the museum in particular. Not only did I find it a fast, fun, read, but I appreciated the thought-provoking Message that freedom should not be surrendered for safety (not a subtle message, but a worthy one). Sometimes I am bothered by Messages in books, but in this case, the Museum that carried the message enchanted me sufficiently that I was not Bothered.
This first book in the series comes to a nice end, and is a complete story in and of itself, but I am looking forward to the sequel, City of Lies (September 2011) lots!
Here are some other reviews at Book Aunt, I'd Rather Be Reading, and TheHappyNappyBookseller