The Three Thieves is the greatest. Just, so much fun. Dessa is an acrobat and ragamuffin trying to find her lost twin brother. Her circus family--Fisk, the super-strong one-headed Ettan, and Topper, the wiley pickpocket--have her back as she tracks the clues that lead her in flight from the city to the royal chamberlain's secret hideout. The chief of the Queen's Dragons--the elite guard--are chasing them, and it's all a ripping yarn.
I've been reading these since they came out, and I wish I could remember who to thank for the recommendation; someone on the internet, I know. The newest volume came out recently, and the next one is due in the fall, and they are both absolutely great. Book four is The King's Dragon, and it follows the thieves' head pursuer as he starts to catch up with them, faces interference from his own guards, and flashes back to how he became the head of a questionable law enforcement body.
This is probably less of a kids' book than the other volumes, not because it's scarier or more dangerous, but because it's about looking back on your life and wondering how you went from where you were to where you are. It's about doubting whether who you are is who you ought to be, but forging ahead anyway, because you're committed to the path.
Drake's character reminds me of no one so much as Javert from Les Misérables, who hunts Jean Valjean long after it is (or should be) clear to him that he is facing a difference between the letter of the law and the notion of justice. While I am a huge fan of plucky, swashbuckling kid heroes, I found this volume really affecting. I'm left with a strong faith that Chantler's going to redeem Drake before the end of the series, which I'm really, really looking forward to.
Book five is Pirates of the Silver Coast, and here we get right back to swashbuckling, and I'm even happier. There's more Drake in this one than in others--we are now interested in his story and happy to be following him. Most of the story belongs to Dessa again, though, and there is some serious sailing going on. When the trio hires a ship to take them to a mysterious island that no one has ever been able to find, they find themselves learning the difference between smugglers and pirates--in the most hands-on manner possible.
There are surprises, there is loyal friendship, there is day-saving and swashbuckling and acrobatic tumbling galore. There is a Pirate King who is more than he seems, and there is a BIG REVEAL at the end of this one that makes me absolutely ITCH for the next one, because we are getting into it now, folks.
I have two quibbles with these books. The first is pretty trivial; I really wish there was some kind of "previously in The Three Thieves" at the beginning of each one. I read these close together, so it was fine, but it had been months since book three, and longer since they set out on their quest, so I had completely forgotten that the object of this journey is finding Dessa's long-missing twin brother, and I still can't remember the story about why he was lost to begin with. I think, because of these lost details, I might be missing some hints to what's going on, especially in Drake's story, since he's closer to the inside of the nefarious plotting.
Second--and this was MUCH more an issue in Silver Coast than King's Dragon--I do sometimes wish there were more still moments here. The adventures are great, but they move FAST. I love these characters, love how they act and react and interact. I'd like more time with them, and I'd like to spend a little more time watching them consider each other. Believe it or not, I want more emoting here, especially in a book like Silver Coast, where so much happens that it's hard to fit it all on the page.
But if my biggest complaint is "more, please!" I think you can safely say that I love this series. Love love love. Can't wait till Adam's old enough that I can share it with him.
(I received ARCs of both these books from Netgalley. SO exciting!)