Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Language Thieves – Book Review

"Were there actually people called Cerebrals who could steal languages from your mind?
They sounded like vampires draining words from people."

The Language Thieves by Marc Remus is fun, quick-paced young adult story for anyone who is a fan of languages.

Daniel is moving to a remote area in Scotland with his parents after his mother suffers a strange disease that renders her unable to speak or move and after his father is cured of cancer. His father brings everything Irish and green along with them, while Daniel resents his Irish roots.

On board the ferry transporting him and his parents from Ireland to Scotland, Daniel encounters a strange scene where a man somehow steals a language from a boy who had been speaking Irish Gaelic earlier. After that, a girl, Jenny, warns him not to mention to anyone that he speaks a second language at the island, Inverdee, where he would be living.

Shortly after we are introduced to strangely-dressed people, known as Cerebrals, who are believed to be the language thieves.

"It was happening all over the world. Languages were disappearing every day. It seemed as if someone was deleting one language after the other."
"But that's been happening for centuries. Languages just keep dying out."
"And this is what they want you to believe," Jenny said. "They want you to think it's normal that people pass on their languages to the next generation. But I think it's a cleverly-devised plan by the Cerebrals."

The novel moves as Daniel attempts to learn more about the Cerebrals, who are superb at covering their tracks, and as he wonders if they had a hand in his mother's illness. Along with Jenny and Connor, the trio infiltrates the Cerebral village, trying to discover the Cerebrals' agenda for stealing languages. What they uncover is brilliant!

I enjoyed the pace in The Language Thieves, which was mostly quick. I think the book would make for a good movie, especially with all the architecture involved in the Cerebrals' village.

We also meet the Cerebral Emily, whom Daniel has a crush on and who is terrified of the Cerebral tradition, a kind of rite-of-passage, where children often return changed or don't return at all.

"This is very serious. If you don't keep this to yourself, you will be in great danger. This language will be taken from you, and if you are really unlucky, you will be left with an empty mind."

The Language Thieves is Remus' first young adult novel. He previously wrote the middle grade series Magora. I felt that some of the text was still in the middle grade range, even though Daniel, Connor, and Jenny are within the 15 to 16-age range.

I also liked how Remus kept me guessing throughout the novel whether it was fantasy or science fiction. No, I'm not telling.
I also felt the ending was slightly rushed; that there should have been more emotions and development at the end.

The writing was easy, too easy. I liked the use of Gaelic and the overall plot of how and why the languages were being stolen. I felt that Jenny was the most mature of the trio but I think they all developed in one way or another. There weren't many images to quote but the book read like a movie with lots of vivid description.

"I have finally figured out a secure way to get rid of all the languages in the world. Once this is accomplished, they'll all speak the old language again."

Overall rating: 4 stars

More on the Magora books.

It is worth mentioning this part from Remus' bio:
"Marc Remus has travelled many times to Ireland and Scotland and developed a passion for these countries over the years. While he stayed with his family in Arizona, he began writing his first young adult novel. The Language Thieves interweaves the writer's fantasies with his experiences in Ireland, Scotland, Arizona, making the book a unique multicultural blend.

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