Review by: Mark Palm
This may come as a surprise to some people, but I have a real fondness for fairy-tale fiction. I have read several good ones lately, (Sorrow's Knot, Splendors and Glooms, and Iron-Hearted Violet), and I recommend them all heartily. The trick is that they are a lot harder to write then they seem, because I have read lots of god-awful ones as well. The Orphan and the Thief by M. L. LeGette is neither one of these. It's somewhere in the middle.
The story is about, not surprisingly, a thief named Toad, who is incompetent enough to get thrown out of his gang, the Ramblers. In an attempt to get his way back into their good graces he attempts to rob the richest man in town, whose bodyguards promptly catch him. To save his skin Toad accepts a mission to try and steal the ingredients for a spell that the rich man wants. As he is invariably lazy Toad tries at first to lift the supplies from a nearby apothecary, and that is how he meets Melena, the Orphan. Melena, as benefits he station, has a tale of woe. Tragically orphaned and working like a slave for the Bells, she has been searching in vain for her long-lost brother, Milo.
Toad and Melena meet during Toad's ham-handed attempt at robbery, and learning of Toad's quest she decides to join him. She mainly makes this decision because Toad lies to her and tells her that he will be paid enough to enable Melana to leave the Bells and buy her own home. So the mis-matched pair, along with Melena's mini-Dragon, take off in a quest for magical ingredients. They meet uniciorns, ogres, witches, and pirates. They have adventures a-plenty, but they always seem to have too-tidy of a resolution, and lack a sense of true danger that most successful fairytales embrace. A Deus Ex Machina seems to be lurking behind every corner, and while Melena came to life for me Toad seemed wretchedly underwritten, and almost an afterthought.
There is also an annoying magic beer mug with a variety of handy powers. After some twists and turns everything turns out all right, and everyone is happy. Ms LeGette shows moments of real imagination and heart, but never quite enough to push this book up to the next level.