Mark of the Thief

352p. ebook available. Scholastic. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545561549.
Gr 6–9—A fantastical alternate history set in ancient Rome. Nicolas Calva and his sister are slaves in the mines outside of Rome. When Nic is forced to retrieve treasure from Julius Caesar's cave, he assumes he is going to his death. But inside the cave he finds a bulla, a magical amulet thought to have given Caesar great power, and takes it for himself. Suddenly, Nic is the most wanted fugitive in Rome. The emperor and a powerful general are after the amulet and they will kill Nic to get it. His only help is Aurelia, a plebian girl who is searching for her own family. With no one to trust and nowhere to hide, the protagonist must decide how he is going to save his sister and get out with his life. He doesn't want the bulla or the responsibility of the magic it contains, but if the magical object gets into the wrong hands, Rome will be at war and Nic will be at the center of it all. Fans of Nielsen's "Ascendance" trilogy (Scholastic) will be clamoring for this new series. This genre mash-up of history, fantasy, and action/adventure is fast-paced and explores themes such as class struggles, familial ties, and the immorality of slavery. Readers will have lots to digest as they quickly flip through the pages to see how Nic will escape his enemies to become a free man.—Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ
When Roman slave Nic finds an amulet that once belonged to Julius Caesar, he develops magical powers that allow him to trade his dismal life in the mines for the pleasures of Rome. Unfortunately, his new powers also entangle him in imperial politics and land him in the gladiator's ring. The premise is a stretch, but this fast-paced historical fantasy will draw in readers.

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