The Vengekeep Prophecies, by Brian Farrey (HarperCollins, Oct. 23, 2012).
In a world where magic, and magical beings (goblins, bird-people, etc.) are real, there is a town named Vengekeep. Centuries ago, powerful seers wove tapestries predicting the future, and every year's tapestry is unveiled in an annual ceremony. In this town there is also a world-famous family of thieves...whose youngest scion, Jaxter Grimjinx, is a clutz. So much so that he accidentally sets fire to the mansion he's burgling on the day of that year's tapestry reveal.
But this year's tapestry just happens to show the Grimjinx family saving Vengekeep from 29 different disasters, ranging from mundane floods to attacks from skeletal flying monsters. And so Jaxter's little slip-up is pardoned...after all, the savious of Vengekeep can't do their saving from prison.
But there are a just a few little problems with the Grimjinx family as saviours. To wit:
Number 1: The tapestry of disaster was woven as part of a con by Jaxter's mother, who had a lot of fun making up fictional catastrophes. Unbeknownst to her, however, she used a magical type of fate thread--anything woven with it actually happens. The lava creatures that emerge from the earthquake-craked center of Vengkeep are just the first of the disasters to come.
Number 2: The mundane problems, like flooding, can be dealt with, but no-one in the the Grimjinx family has a clue how to foil things like skeletal deathbringing monsters of the sky.
Number 3: So the only thing to do is to destroy the tapestry itself, to keep what it shows from happening, but that requires someone to go fetch some extraordinarily scarce magical ingredients. And Vengekeep has been interdicted by the central government, so that whatever curse its under can't infect the kingdom. No one can get out.
Fortunately, though Jaxter is not a good thief, he has made friends with a well-born girl, Callie, who knows a secret way out of Vengekeep. And though Jaxter might fumble at lock-picking, he just happens to have the talents necessary to save his city. And they are not magical talents of specialness. No, Jaxter is that wonderful sort of hero, who loves learning! He loves taking what he's read and applying it in practical situations, and so Jaxter (along with Callie) sets off equipped with pouches of non-magical ingredients that can be combined in over four thousand ways with great effect.
And a journey ensues, in which the two kids meet friends, and enemies, and magical creatures, and have all sorts of adventures of a magical adventurous sort! My favorite part was the least "adventurous" of these--a stay with a wealthy and eccentric woman desperately looking for an apprentice with whom to share all the learning she's amassed, and to help her discover more. Obviously, Jaxter is the one she's been looking for....but his obligations and loyalties lie elsewhere. A nice little interlude of geeky fantasy goodness!
I am pretty certain that any young fan of fantasy adventures will enjoy The Vengekeep Prophecies tremendously. It is fast and fun (even funny in parts!) and imaginative. It's also a pleasingly stand-alone story, though there's lots of room for more adventures.
I was hoping to love it a tad more myself then I actually did--I am not sure why, but I never felt much emotional attachment to Jaxter. I think this is because I can't help but read as an adult and a mother, and so many boy heroes of the fantasy books I love have lost their mothers, and/or are all prickly and defensive but sweet underneath (Gen (The Thief), Conn (The Magic Thief), Sage (The False Prince) spring to mind, though doubtless I could think of more). Jaxter actually has two parents who love him and are proud of him (supportive parents are on the rise, I think, in mg fantasy). Though he himself was worried about disappointing them, it's clear that his talents will be recognized and valued, and that all will be well for him. I never was in a position of feeling sharp heart-tearings of concern for him....Callie, although in on all the action, never quite manages to transcend basic plucky girl as sidekick characterization, so I didn't feel any great concern about her either.
And so though I enjoyed The Vengekeep Prophecies just fine, and am happy to recommend it enthusiastically, I didn't love it. But that's just me.