Max and the Spice Thieves
Max and the Spice Thieves
Secrets of the Twilight Djinn Book One
by John Peragine
Publishing 20 April 2021
Rating: 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: YA Fantasy
I was invited to download an eARC of Max and the Spice Thieves via NetGalley when someone on the author’s team found my other reviews on Instagram, and I accepted. A couple of months later XPresso Book Tours put out a call for tour hosts for this title around the time I was planning to fit it into my schedule anyway, so I figured why not and hopped on board. This does mean I was technically offered eARC access twice, and I do think I would have picked this one up either through XPresso’s tour or just browsing SFF titles on NetGalley (in fact my NetGalley dashboard recommended it to me as well!) but I would like to sincerely thank everyone who invited me to read and review. This has not swayed my opinion; my thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Max and the Spice Thieves is a middle-grade fantasy adventure about a boy named Max with a severe dermal allergy to the cold who inadvertently finds himself missing both of his parents and acting as a member of the crew on a “pirate” ship of sorts in a world where spices are luxuriously valuable, sea monsters are real, and not everything is as it seems. When Max begins to experience an awakening of power he didn’t know he had, everything he thought he knew about his life and the world around him is going to change.
At first I was tempted to compare this book to contemporaries in the genre, like Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels, but the further I went along the more I thought of Homer’s The Odessy and The Iliad. I was about to graduate high school and no longer interested in anything that could be classified as a children’s book when Riordan started publishing, so Percy Jackson isn’t a nostalgic reference for me but rather something I stumbled across later in life. Homer is what I was reading in middle school. This is a more fun, more age-appropriately worded alternative. (Thank you for thinking so highly of us 12 year olds, Mrs Jakubec, but I doubt the majority of my peers appreciated 9th century Greek literature as much as I did.) Regardless of which camp of epic journey with fantastical Greek elements you choose to pitch your tent in, I do think Max and the Spice Thieves will offer something invitingly familiar.
That’s not to say that this book isn’t unique, because it absolutely is! This story may have familiar bones, but the configuration and flesh are completely new. I’ve never read a character quite like Max or Captain Cinn (I love Captain Cinn!) and the idea of someone whose driving goal in life is to get a little spice into the hands of as many people as possible is so charming. I do think both the intended audience and older readers alike will be able to find something to love in this book.
My one big stumbling point here and the reason it’s not a 5 star perfection contender is that the size of the cast and the breakneck pacing through a staggering number of important plot events seem to have been stuffed into too few pages. There’s no breathing room in here. Quite often I’ll critique books for being 50-100 pages too long, but this one is 50-100 pages too short. I have high hopes that pacing and cast overcrowding issues will smooth out as the series continues.
Thanks again to everyone who invited me to read this book. You were all right on the money suggesting that I would enjoy it! I recommend this book to all middle-grade fantasy lovers and all lovers of epic journeys with fantastical elements or mythology influences.
This review has been cross-posted from Jenna’s tour stop earlier this week on Westveil Publishing. Visit that post for more information about the book and the author.