A steampunk alternative, Ilya Mowll
The Traitor and the Thief
The Traitor and the Thief is a young adult fiction book by Gareth Ward, published by Walker Books Australia in August 2017, which won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award. The book is about a 14-year-old boy called Sin who steals on the streets of a steampunk Britannia. Sin is caught stealing and is offered a place in Covert Operation Group (COG) to train and become a spy. But Sin soon discovers that there is a spy in COG and must catch them before they can cause chaos.
The world that Ward has written is set in an alternate version of our world with a steampunk, James Bond twist. People still use 18th-century devices like pocket watches and wear bowler hats in full seriousness, but there is a lot of technology based on either chemical reactions or clockwork mechanisms. Some of the technology is more advanced than what we have today, such as a wingsuit/jetpack that is disguised as a coat, while other things are just ridiculous, such as a “flamkerchief”, a handkerchief made to be ignited. In this steampunk world, there is a clear definition between rich and poor, similar to 18th-century Britain. The rich are stereotypical top-hat wearing aristocrats, and the poor are rag-wearing people who eat stale bread. In this world, there is a lot of smoke and smog from industry, so people have to cover their faces in some parts of the city: the rich wear respirators, while the poor use rags. These differences create an interesting world of fantastic technology with an 18th-century setting.
The protagonist of the story, Sin, is a street urchin. At the start of the story, Sin is a pickpocket on the streets of Coxford who works for a man known as the Fixer. He thought only about what he needed and only cared about others if he was pushed to. He wouldn’t get into a fight unless there was no other choice. But, as the story continues,, he learns to think about those around him and to fight on another’s behalf. Due to his past as a street urchin, Sin’s vocabulary is filled with street slang: “If this goes sideways, gap it.” While it helps when he’s undercover on the streets, it makes it difficult for higher class people to understand him.
The Traitor and the Thief hooks you in and holds your attention by giving you new pieces of information. I like how the world is constructed, because everything in it is familiar, yet different at the same time. Every character feels like a real person, there is no generic love interest that exists solely to fall in love with the protagonist, the antagonist isn’t insanely evil, everyone fits their role, yet is more than their role. The plot is very good (the ending may be a bit cliched) as it keeps making you suspect different people of being the traitor. The Traitor and the Thief is an excellent book that I would highly recommend for young adults and maybe even adults, too.
Ilya Mowll is 14 years old, from Tawa, Wellington.