“The Trouble With Thieves: Return to Averia” by Maurice X. Alvarez and Ande Li is an imaginative romp through the cities and floating mountains of Averia; a planet populated by sorcerers and birdlike creatures. The book is a cross between Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and Douglas Adam’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” The rabbit hole and thumb are replaced with a portal cube that pierces the boundaries of physics and transports Kormèr Lezàl, the central character and thief, to any time and place in the universe.
The story begins with two jumps through the portal. The first takes Kormèr to a prison and into the company of Jeransy Bolsner, a young, independent minded miscreant. Soon after, a second jump delivers Kormèr and Jeransy to a classroom, where they meet Kormèr’s other traveling companion, Anndrew Lee, a girl in her junior year at St. Yves High School. Their journey to Averia begins when Cecil Murphy, a beleaguered prodigy, accidentally falls through the portal. The magic unfolds as the thief and his two young associates try to rescue the missing boy.
The authors do a great job creating a textured and believable world. Kormèr has been to Averia before (hence the Return to Averia), and has a storied history with Sylvestra, the beautiful chief of Police. From a hotel that seems to resemble a bird-cage, to delightful names inspired by bird vocalizations, the reader is immersed in an amazing magical world. Alveria is a place where the unexpected is commonplace and the usual leaves the reader wide-eyed and flabbergasted.
Cecil, the lost boy, draws the attention of a sorcerer and is taken to Berdia, a city “devoted to the study of magic.” He is exposed to a vast library of spells and magic in the Hovel, the ancient tree-haven of the Hawk Sorcerers. Here, the primary conflict finds its birth as the boy genius gorges himself on magic spells and castings. His immaturity and immense intellect, combined with his new skills, form a perfect storm, threatening Kormèr and his friends.
There is a drumbeat in the story that strikes a steady cadence, marching toward the inevitable confrontation between the mysterious thief and the young savant. The authors work their literary magic as unexpected twists surprise and delight the reader. My favorite scene in the book is a poignant conversation between Kormèr and his friend Srrcheel, an old Hawk Sorcerer. It is an exchange that touches the reader’s heart and opens a new dimension, transcending magic and even the power of the portal that brought Kormèr and his friends to Averia. By making their character utter one word, the authors create a relational singularity that transports this story and its readers to a profound and wonderful place.
“The Trouble With Thieves: Return to Averia” leaves the reader wanting more. Kormèr Lezàl reminds me of another thief, the stranger who lurked in the great underground empire of the ZORK trilogy. He is a character that is bigger than any one story and more mysterious than any spell conjured by the Hawk Sorcerers. The writers drop clues to his origins, but there isn’t enough to reveal his true identity, or his destination. We will have to wait for other installments in “The Trouble With Thieves” saga to quench our thirst for this deliciously enigmatic man.