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Angel Thieves

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Young Adult / Magical Realism / Historical / Contemporary
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: March 12, 2019
Number of Pages: 336
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Angel Thieves book cover

An ocelot. A slave. An angel thief.

Multiple perspectives spanning across time are united through themes of freedom, hope, and faith in a most unusual and epic novel from Newbery Honor–winning author and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt.

Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is an angel thief. After his mother’s family rejected him for being born out of wedlock, he and his dad moved to the apartment above a local antique shop. The only payment the owner Mrs. Walker requests: marble angels, stolen from graveyards, for her to sell for thousands of dollars to collectors. But there’s one angel that would be the last they’d ever need to steal; an angel, carved by a slave, with one hand open and one hand closed. If only Cade could find it…

Zorra, a young ocelot, watches the bayou rush past her yearningly. The poacher who captured and caged her has long since lost her, and Zorra is getting hungrier and thirstier by the day. Trapped, she only has the sounds of the bayou for comfort—but it tells her help will come soon.

Before Zorra, Achsah, a slave, watched the very same bayou with her two young daughters. After the death of her master, Achsah is free, but she’ll be damned if her daughters aren’t freed with her. All they need to do is find the church with an angel with one hand open and one hand closed…

In a masterful feat, National Book Award Honoree Kathi Appelt weaves together stories across time, connected by the bayou, an angel, and the universal desire to be free.

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“Spiritual, succinct, and emotionally gripping.”
— School Library Journal
“A heartfelt love letter to Houston that acknowledges the bad parts of its history while uplifting the good.”
“Shows the best and worst sides of humanity and underscores the powerful force of the bayou, which both holds and erases secrets.”
— Horn Book
“Richly drawn and important.”
— Booklist, starred review
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Clueless Gent’s Rating

4 star rating

By the time I finished reading Angel Thieves, I was utterly drained. In my opinion, this story by Kathi Appelt really packs an emotional punch! Why? Because there are several storylines taking place in two different periods, and each storyline has its own variety of conflict.

I’ll admit, I was hooked by this story before I finished the first page. This was my first read by Appelt, and I was delightfully impressed. She has an amazingly unique writing style. I don’t recall ever reading anything quite like this (style-wise) before. Some of her phrases are quite poetic. Yet others are as short as one word. But let me warn you, some of those one-word sentences really get your emotions going. (Curious? Check it out!)

The storylines in Angel Thieves are all “loosely” related. Some of the storylines impact the other storylines directly, while others are indirectly connected. I thought the author was very imaginative in how she connected all the stories.

The Cast and Setting of Angel Thieves

This book has quite a diversified cast. In addition to humans, there are also non-human cast members. Typically, non-human cast members would be something like a dog or a cat. In this story, however, we have an ocelot. I’m not quite sure if there’s ever been a story before with an ocelot sporting its own storyline!

Another interesting character with her own storyline is the Buffalo Bayou. This place actually does exist. This bayou flows through Houston, Texas, and empties into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. However, in her note, the author admits that many of the references to the bayou are fictional.

The bayou is the only cast member that exists in both time periods. The other characters exist in either the mid-1800s or current time. In case you’re curious – and I don’t really think this is a spoiler, there is no direct connection between the 1800s cast and the current time cast. (Not that I could find, anyway.)

The main human characters in the current time consisted of a very young single father, that father’s non-teenage son, an older widow who never had children of her own, as well as a teenage girl who has been tied to the church all of her life, but is now questioning her relationships.

The 1800s cast is predominantly slaves or slave keepers. As you may suspect, these storylines touch on some deep emotions.

The author also included a little history about the importance of slaves during the Texas Revolution (1835-1936). I found that very interesting.

Technically Speaking

The book was well edited. Taking into account the artistic license the author took with some of her prose, I did not come across any SPAG issues.

Kathi Appelt did a tremendous job of keeping all the storylines moving, keeping the pace consistent, and bringing all the stories to a simultaneous climax. The style of the book kept jumping from one time period to the other. She did that very well, and the story never lost my interest.

You may be wondering why, with such a good review, I only gave this book four stars, when it is clearly five star worthy. Well, it’s the ending. I thought the author should have included more of the post-climax story. What happened to the characters? As it is, Appelt left the story aftermath largely to the reader’s imagination. I’m sure this was intentional, and I may be the only reader who feels this way. However, I will give the author credit for including a Note at the end of the book that discusses how the different storylines came about.

This is a great read, and despite my personal (and picky) opinion of the ending, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys great storytelling!

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
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Kathi Appelt Author Photo

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max … Attacks.
She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.
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