The Identity Thief
Children/Young Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)
The Identity Thief transposes Medieval ideas of witchcraft into modern day London. In this world, it’s possible to create powerful illusions: for example, to conjure a weapon capable of hurting another, or even seeming to kill them temporarily. But most people never encounter magic – it’s feared and despised by society, and confined to a criminal underworld.
A rogue sorcerer called Cuttlefish is causing carnage across London, while the Sorcerer Investigation Department (SID), led by DCI Helen Drake, try to bring him to justice. His ability to disguise himself as anyone he meets ensures that his true identity remains impossible to uncover. We gradually discover that he’s stealing books of magic collected over the centuries by the Lyceum, a sorcery cabal originating in Ancient Greece, in the hope of building a mythical artefact called the God Machine. He’s been active for twenty years, although he’s been quiet for the last ten. As his crimes become more and more public, the Lyceum are forced to come out of hiding to stop him.
\tHowever, this novel isn’t about the Lyceum, or Cuttlefish, or Helen Drake. It’s about Helen’s daughter Cass, who’s more preoccupied by the strange new guy who’s joined Whittington School. Hector is awkward beyond belief, and after a few bizarre incidents in school, the rumours start to spread that he’s a sorcerer. Unfortunately, Helen forces Cass to visit their gloomy old house and befriend Hector. The more Cass tries to distance herself from Hector, the more enmeshed their lives become, until one day, to her horror, she discovers Helen and Hector’s mother Perspehone have been dating in secret. Shocked and terrified by the thought of the two families coming closer together, she manipulates Hector into attacking her. Not only does this break Helen and Persephone up, it turns the rest of the school firmly against Hector.
\tStill suspicious that Hector’s up to something, Cass discovers books of sorcery in Hector’s bag. This unwittingly attracts the attention of first Cuttlefish, and then the Lyceum, who tear Persephone and Hector’s lives apart in their quest to discover the truth about the God Machine.
The Identity Thief is the first in the God Machine series, which will dig deeper into the murky world of the Lyceum. It will alternate between the viewpoints of Cass and Hector, telling the story both of the Lyceum’s attempt to build the God Machine, and the escalating civil war between sorcerers and the SID.
Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10
Plot: This unusual and ambitious fantasy adventure unfolds in a world of both magical machinations and ordinary life. Bryant integrates an intriguing mystery/detective story element into the narrative, as a villain wrecks havoc while disguising his every move.
Prose: Bryant's prose is lively, fresh, and filled with both humor and darkness.
Originality: While some of the story's myriad elements can be head-spinning, the highly unique society Bryant establishes adheres to its own laws and dynamics, resulting in an alternate world that is both magical and believable. The integration of mixed-media further elevates the book's originality.
Character/Execution: Bryant's novel features diverse, enjoyable, and sympathetic characters who display individuality and purpose within the broader narrative. An alternately witty--and deadly serious--protagonist and a layered villain anchor the story.
Date Submitted: July 21, 2020
Set in a present-day London in which sorcery is illegal, Bryant’s imaginative debut follows pale, implied white Cass Drake, 12, who is a few weeks into trying to navigate a year at Whittington School, with its pitfalls of friendship and boyfriends. Then the River People—the mysterious, suspected sorcerer inhabitants of a cemetery-adjacent mansion—return. The quiet, strange Hector Skeuopoios, a black-haired, golden-brown-skinned boy who has epilepsy and “is kind of short, kind of chubby, and obviously Greek,” becomes both a target of bullies at school and an awkward, ever-present thorn in Cass’s side. Though her mother, Helen, insists they befriend Hector and his mother, Cass pointedly ignores him. Paralleling Cass’s social disaster is Helen’s job at the Sorcery Investigation Department as Detective Chief Inquisitor on the case of mimetic sorcerer Cuttlefish. Cuttlefish is a sinister character set on collecting the dangerous Daedalus books, which soon draws the attention of the Lyceum, London’s magic mafia. Interweaving a variety of media, Bryant skillfully draws these threads together into a tightly paced, often humorous narrative that drives to a tense end. Ages 12–up. (Self-published)