By Jenna Mark

A story about ancient Rome, Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen explores Roman magic and mythology during the time of Julius Caesar to a thousand years later. It weaves an exhilarating tale of one boy and how far he will go to save himself, his sister, and the Roman Empire through the use of magic and by gaining powerful political allies. It tells of how he will fight those who will destroy the Empire to get what they want.

Mark of the Thief tells the story of a mining slave in Ancient Rome by the name of Nicolas Calva. When a Roman general named Radulf one day arrives at the mines, he forces Nicolas to enter a sealed caved believed to hold the lost treasure of Emperor Julius Caesar, seeking Caesar’s childhood bulla – an amulet worn around men’s necks to bring them good luck. Nicolas enters the cave and finds the bulla, only to discover all is not what it seems. The bulla contains the magic of the Roman gods and once Nicolas gets a taste of that magic, he steals the bulla for himself, thrusting him into the center of a fight to control the Praetor War – a battle to destroy Rome from within. Nicolas now has magic he doesn’t understand and cannot control coursing through his veins and as long as he has this magic, he will be sought out by many who want to use his power for their own gain. But as the weight of Rome comes upon him, he begins to realize that all he wants is to be free and that in a world where all people want to see is bloodshed and a way to gain power, it is hard to trust anyone. For Nicolas to survive, he must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire’s most powerful and savage leaders.

Although the book may be confusing at times, it is worth the read. Mark of the Thief  by Jennifer A. Nielsen is an exciting, action-packed fantasy that will be sure to keep pages turning and is filled with the idea that trusting anyone but yourself leads to your own demise.