Fictional Tricksters – An April Fools’ Day Book List

April Fools' Day Fictional Tricksters

I’ve long had a soft spot for scallywags and scamps in books, and what better time to celebrate them than on April Fools’ Day? If you’re looking for some ideas on how to pull off the ultimate scheme or prank, these fictional tricksters can point you in the right direction.

Book cover for This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall by Gordon Korman1) Bruno and Boots from the MacDonald Hall series by Gordan Korman: Korman’s This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall is the book that first kindled my love for mischievous troublemakers. The protagonists, Boots and Bruno, are two boarding school boys who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. They’re constantly wreaking havoc, like putting Alka-Seltzer in the swimming pool, stealing a rival school’s mascot, or letting a classmate’s ant farm loose in the halls. Fifth-grade me found the MacDonald Hall series delightfully hilarious and couldn’t get enough of Bruno and Boots’ hijinks.

Book cover for Bloody Jack by L. A. Meyer2) Jacky Faber from the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer: Spunky, theatrical, and resilient, Jacky Faber is my fictional BFF. Her initial “trick” is to disguise herself as a boy in order to secure a spot upon a British warship, but as the series progresses Jacky becomes embroiled in myriad other schemes and capers. She’s a natural actress and has no problem playing the wretched waif, coy maiden, saucy minx, or fearsome pirate. She’s always up for an adventure, which usually leads to her getting herself in and out of hilarious scrapes.

Book cover for The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner3) Eugenides from the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner: Eugenides has the distinction of being the cleverest, most cunning character I’ve had the pleasure of reading about. He’s a master thief and brilliant strategist whose plans have the power to alter the fate of kingdoms. I’m completely in awe of Eugenides and count him as one of my top two favorite fictional characters of all time.

Book cover for How I Paid For College by Marc Acito4) Edward and friends from How I Paid For College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater by Marc Acito: When Edward’s father cuts off his financial resources, right before Edward is supposed to start college, it seems like he’s hit a dead end. But Edward will do whatever it takes to come up with the money for Juilliard, and his ragtag group of friends will do whatever it takes to help him. Together they cook up a daring, hysterical, outrageous plot to scrape together Edward’s tuition, involving blackmail, money laundering, nun costumes, and a lot of other questionable behavior.

Book cover for The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch5) Locke Lamora from the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch: Locke and his band of professional con artists are crafty, shameless, and infinitely ballsy. There’s nothing they won’t do to pull off their impressively intricate schemes, which are jaw-dropping in their scope and execution.

Book cover for Dodger by Terry Pratchett6) Dodger from Dodger by Terry Pratchett: Inspired by The Artful Dodger from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Pratchett’s Dodger is a resourceful pickpocket living on the streets of 19th century London. He’s charismatic, scrappy, and mischievous, capable of producing tears on demand, charming passersby, and getting himself out of (and then back into) sticky situations and schemes.

Book cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling7) Fred and George from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: No trickster list is complete without the Weasley twins! We could all do with some of their Weasley Wizard Wheezes, like the Extendable Ears to help eavesdrop on conversations, or Puking Pastilles to get out of tiresome obligations. To me, though, Fred and George’s most epic trick is their grand exit from Hogwarts, with its epic fireworks dragon and other chaos-causing charms.

Know any other tricksters who should be on this list? Let me know by leaving me a comment!

Waiting on Wednesday: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at 
Breaking the Spine. It spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.

This Wednesday I’m Waiting For…

Book cover for Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: September 29, 2015

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

I’m Waiting Because…

I’m a sucker for cunning, conniving characters, especially thieves, so Six of Crows sounds like it’s right up my alley; I practically lost my mind when I read the words “criminal prodigy” and “deadly heist” in the same paragraph. A few years ago I read How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kristen Miller, a novel about a school of teenage pickpockets, prostitutes, and con artists. It had great potential but ended up losing steam and failing to live up to my expectations. I’m hoping that Six of Crows ends up being as gritty and dark and clever as I once wanted How To Live a Life of Crime to be.

People were practically fighting each other for ARCs of Six of Crows at BEA this year, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to snag a copy for myself. Guess I’ll just have to count down the days to the September 29 release date with the rest of the world! If this book turns out to be even half as good as it sounds, then I’m in for a treat.

Is there a new book you’re super excited for? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger Book Cover Dodger
Terry Pratchett

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's...Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl--not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy's rise in a complex and fascinating world.

Review:

I don’t usually presume to speak for famous authors, let alone one as prestigious as Charles Dickens. In this case, however, I feel justified in saying that Dickens would probably have been very, very pleased with Terry Pratchett’s Dodger.

Pratchett’s reimagining of The Artful Dodger, who appears in Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, is nothing short of a masterpiece. This story is packed with everything I love in a book: a charming, clever scallywag of a main character; a colorful and unforgettable supporting cast; tongue-in-cheek wit; inside jokes that you may only get after reading the book for a second time; and a setting that is so unique and well described that it’s practically a character in its own right.

We first meet our scrappy protagonist when he springs from the London sewers on a stormy night to rescue a young woman being beaten in the street. This feat brings Dodger to the attention of Charlie Dickens and his friend Henry Mayhew, who happen to be passing by at the time and assist Dodger in taking the unconscious lady to safety.

Dodger, infuriated by the treatment of the beautiful, mysterious girl, refuses to rest until her attackers are brought to justice. Assisted by Dickens and a motley assortment of waifs and urchins, Dodger sets forth to track down the people responsible for the girl’s mistreatment and do whatever it takes to secure her safety.

It’s usually characters that make or break a book for me, but in the case of Dodger it’s actually the setting that made me fall in love. This isn’t to say that Dodger doesn’t have fantastic characters – it does, and I’ll get to them in a minute. However, the setting is so spectacular, so vividly drawn, that it outshines everything else in the book, even its charming hero.

Like Dickens, Pratchett has a gift for bringing 19th-century London, in all its glory and filth, to life on the page. The sounds and smells and tastes of London permeate the book until you can actually hear the coaches rattling by and smell the fog rolling in from the Thames. It’s a world of chimney sweeps and violet sellers, pickpockets and Punch and Judy puppet shows, prostitutes and games of Crown and Anchor at the local pub. There are a million little details that build the “character” of London and enrich the story, from the slang the street urchins use (“cove,” “tosher,” and “Bobbies”/ “Peelers” are a few of my favorites) to descriptions of the weather:

“The rain was falling faster now, rain that was undeniably London rain, already grubby before it hit the ground, putting back on the streets what had been taken away by the chimneys. It tasted like licking a dirty penny.”

Pratchett does more than simply paint a picture of London; he paints it in a way that is insightful and entertaining. Dodger is filled with observations that are as amusing as they are astute, such as this description of the Thames: “[One] could only call what was in the river ‘water’ because it was too runny to be called ‘dirt.” There’s a great deal of tongue-in-cheek humor, not just in the story itself but also in the helpful and hilarious footnotes that are used to explain certain words and facts within the book.

The setting may be my absolute favorite part of Dodger, but the characters come in at a close second. I’ve always been delighted by crafty, mischievous characters, and Dodger fits the bill perfectly. He’s scrappy, resourceful, and a skillful actor, able to produce tears on demand or charm the pants off of a well-to-do passerby. He’s an all-around fun, hilarious, and wily protagonist, and I couldn’t have loved him more if I tried. Although he’s a little rough around the edges and liable to pick your pocket as soon as look at you, Dodger’s what the folks in this book would call a “decent cove.” He’s always quick to jump to the aid of the defenseless, even if it means donning a dress in order to save a group of young flower girls:

“And so when the sharp-suited gentlemen who liked to go down among the poor flower girls to see if there were any new blossoms they could pluck came to ply them with strong liquor until they could have their wicked way with them, they would actually be subtly directed to the shrinking and simpering violet who was, in fact, Dodger.

Actually, he had to admit that he had been incredibly good at it, because to be a geezer was to be an actor and so Dodger was better at being a shrinking violet than any of the other flower girls who had, how could you put it, better qualifications. He had already sold quite a lot of his violets because his voice hadn’t broken then and he could make himself a real little virgin when he wanted to. After a few hours of this, the girls tipped him off to the whereabouts of a particularly nasty dandy who always hung around the smaller girls, and who was heading towards him with his nice coat and his cane, jingling the money in his pockets. And the street applauded when a suddenly rather athletic little flower girl grabbed the smarmy bastard, punched him, dragged him into an alley and made certain that he would not be able to jingle anything in his pockets for some time to come.”

The secondary characters in Dodger are spectacular as well. Historical figures make cameo appearances, such as Benjamin Disraeli, Angela Burdetts-Coutts, Robert Peel, and John Tenniel. There’s also a cast of fictional – but no-less-interesting – characters with fun names like Mary-Go-Round, Messy Bessie, and Stumpy Higgins who play small yet memorable roles in the story.

Dodger‘s phenomenal setting and smart, hilarious characters make this book a definite must-read. My enjoyment of this novel grows every time I read it, something I intend to keep doing as often as possible.

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising Book Cover Red Rising
Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.

Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable - and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.

But the command school is a battlefield. And Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda...

Review:

(Actual rating: 4.5 stars)

Red Rising is definitely one of those books that improves with re-reading. It’s been touted as the next big thing, a book that will knock you off your feet and fill the void left by The Hunger Games. When I finished my first read of the book, I couldn’t decide whether the hype was justified or not; Brown blew me away in the first few chapters, failed to wow me in the next few, and then alternated between “pretty good” and “outstanding” for the remainder of the book.

There were times when I struggled with the believability of Brown’s world, when I felt he wasn’t being consistent with his characterization or was losing the thread of his story. At other times, though, there were moments of true greatness, where I glimpsed the tremendous potential of this trilogy.

When six months had gone by and I still couldn’t stop thinking about Red Rising, I decided to buy a copy and read it again. The second time, I was blown away. I found myself describing it to friends as “epic,” “spectacular,” and “out of this world,” and it’s become one of my favorite books.

Red Rising takes place on Mars hundreds of years in the future, when a person’s station and function are determined by the Color they’re born into. The Reds, for example, are tasked with toiling in the underground mines of Mars to collect the elements that will be used make the planet inhabitable.

One of these Reds is Darrow, a young man respected and loved by his people for his quick hands and sharp mind. Working conditions may be hellish, living conditions bleak, but Darrow is proud to do his part for the good of humanity. His wife, on the other hand, views the Reds’ toil as slavery and urges Darrow to use his reputation and talents to free their people. Darrow, head-over-heels in love with his wife and unwilling to risk her safety and the life they’ve built together, resists.

“What do you live for?” I ask her suddenly. “Is it for me? Is it for family and love? Or is it just for some dream?”

“It’s not just some dream, Darrow. I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

She kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

It’s only after tragedy strikes that Darrow is forced to rethink his world view and realize his wife’s dream is one worth fighting for. Transmuted by grief and rage, Darrow joins a rebel force in a plot to bring down the Golds, the elite who rule all the other Colors. Darrow undergoes an extensive and painful transformation to pass as a Gold, the plan being for him to fight the Golds from within and rise through the ranks to a position of influence where he can start a revolution.

The first step in this ascension is to enroll in the Institute, a training ground for young Golds. Unlike traditional schools, the Institute is less of a college, more of an immense, high-stakes game of Capture the Flag or Risk. The students are divided into 12 houses and thrown into the wilderness, the objective being for one house to conquer all of the others.

This is where most people begin comparing Red Rising to The Hunger Games. While there are definite similarities, such as the fact that young people are fighting one another in an arena-like field, there are key differences between the two. The principle way Red Rising differs from The Hunger Games is that the game of Capture the Flag is not a free-for-all where only one can be left standing at the end. To succeed in the Institute you need allies, an army. You need to become a leader, bring people to your side, rally and unite your troops. You need strategy and inspiration. Watching Darrow figure out how to become not just a victor, but a leader and a legend, is one of the biggest selling points of the book.

I would say Red Rising feels more reminiscent of Braveheart than The Hunger Games, mostly due to the setting and to Darrow himself. The game of Capture the Flag is played out in a land of castles, highlands, forests, and vales. There are battle cries, ferocious warriors galloping around on horseback, animal pelts, and war paint. And like William Wallace, Darrow is fighting against oppression and has an inner fire and charisma that win people’s hearts and loyalty.

Darrow is everything you could ask for in an epic hero. For one thing, he’s self-aware and able to make sacrifices and tough decisions because he knows they are required. He regrets some of the things he must do in order to get ahead but recognizes that those actions must be taken in order to realize his wife’s dream. He’s brilliant and strong but not infallible; a leader, but one who must trust and rely on others for his ultimate success. His victories are epic, but so are his failures. I’m in awe of him and can’t wait to see his meteoric rise continue in the rest of this series.

The supporting characters in the Institute also played a huge part in winning me over. Darrow may be the grand hero, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the rest of the story’s cast are lesser beings. There are some serious power players in this book, and they each feel like real, distinct, memorable people. They’re not just characters, they’re titans, and without them Red Rising wouldn’t be half so successful.

Were there problems with Red Rising? Certainly. It can be overwhelming at times, slow at others, and there are moments when it feels like Brown is writing not a story, but Ideas, with a capital “I.” Ultimately, though, this is a brilliant book. It wowed me, moved me, and left me stunned, and I am rabid to know how the trilogy will proceed.

Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief Book Cover The Thief
Megan Whalen Turner

“I can steal anything.”

After Gen’s bragging lands him in the king’s prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king scholar, the magus, needs the thief’s skill for a seemingly impossible task – to steal a hidden treasure from another land.

To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.

Review:

It never fails to amaze me how a great ending can redeem an otherwise subpar book. For the majority of The Thief, my main reaction was disappointment; I had been expecting a clever adventure, and Turner hadn’t delivered. There was very little action, the plot dragged, and Gen seemed more your garden-variety pickpocket than the cunning scamp I’d hoped for.

Much to my relief, the pace picked up drastically in the last few chapters, and new sides of the characters began to be revealed. Things got much more interesting, and I finally saw why so many people have praised this book.

I still think the novel could have used more examples of Gen in action – he’s supposedly the best thief in the land, but there are only a couple of scenes in which his talent is on display – and I wish I wouldn’t have had to sit through so many tedious pages of travel in order to reach the reward that is the book’s conclusion. Still, I would certainly recommend The Thief.