Jack didn’t know what to call the nameless, skeletal creature that slunk into her house in the dead of night, stealing the very things she loved the most. So she named him The Toy Thief… There’s something in Jack’s past that she doesn’t want to face, an evil presence that forever changed the trajectory of her family. It all began when The Toy Thief appeared, a being drawn by goodness and innocence, eager to feed on everything Jack holds dear. What began as a mystery spirals out of control when her brother, Andy, is taken away in the night, and Jack must venture into the dark place where the toys go to get him back. But even if she finds him, will he ever be the same?
There are few bonds closer than brother and sister, and we learn that first hand in D. W. Gillespie’s The Toy Thief. Best described by author Michael Patrick Hicks as a “coming-of-age story,” The Toy Thief encompasses the childhood of strong-headed, tomboyish Jack and her brother Andy. Together, the two must thwart a darkness that threatens their livelihood and that of other children around them.
In this creative piece, Gillespie takes a different approach to the ‘why’ behind things that go missing from our homes. We’ve all lost socks, batteries, Tupperware, toys, etc., only to have these items turn up later somewhere else or, in some cases, never to be seen again. But what if all those things were actually going somewhere, rather than simply being lost as a byproduct of human irresponsibility? In The Toy Thief, a dark entity swipes toys from children in order to feed off the happiness and positive energy that thrives within those items. Using these items as a way to sustain its own life force, the Toy Thief soon finds itself running out of options for staying alive, and that’s where things truly take a dark turn in this story.
I found the characters in The Toy Thief to be lacking, honestly. Though I am a fan of the non-traditional use of the name Jack for a female character, the characters in this story are a bit too flat for my taste–and this is perhaps where I made the decision to give this book three stars, rather than four. Jack, for all her tomboyish quirks and fiery attitude (at least in her older years), shows little of that in her child years. Andy, on the other hand, seems to lack personality altogether. The father, despite being the only parent in their lives, plays less of a role in the book than the cat, Memphis. Actually, Memphis seems to be the most fleshed out of all the characters, with what felt like the most genuine reactions to many of the ongoing events in the story.
On the other hand, Gillespie’s ability to generate sympathy for a villain–in this case, the Toy Thief itself–is phenomenal. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t feel so badly for the Toy Thief that I nearly cried on several occasions and, if you’re a sucker for bad guys like I am, that alone is a good reason to delve into this book. The emotional connection that Gillespie creates between the reader and the Toy Thief is heartrending and brilliant.
Gillespie’s novel does a wonderful job when it comes to the creep factor. There are times I felt my skin crawl while reading this book, if only because his ability to write of dread is on point. However, when it comes to descriptions of the Toy Thief, I felt like his arsenal ran a little dry. More often than not, the creature was described the same way, using the same words and to me, this was a bit of a put-off.
Overall, The Toy Thief is not a bad book. It’s not the best that I’ve read, but it was enjoyable and I was able to suck it down fairly quickly. I didn’t feel like I was force-feeding it to myself, either and for those that know me, that’s a good thing. I definitely look forward to more of Gillespie’s work in the future.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.