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The Thief and the Beanstalk
by P. W. Catanese
I think this is the first book written by the author of The Brave Apprentice. Both books, and presumably The Eye of the Warlock also, belong to a series called Further Tales. The Brave Apprentice is the further tale of what happened after the classic tale of the Brave Little Tailor. And naturally, The Thief and the Beanstalk is the further tale that happens after Jack and the Beanstalk.
Heres the idea. Everyone knows the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. A certain thief named Finch has found evidence that there really was a Jack, who may or may not have robbed a giant who lived on a cloud. At any rate, a very rich man named Jack lives in a fortress-like house in the northwest country. Finch and his band of cutthroats go in search of Jacks fortress, they find it, and they hatch a plan to break into it. They only need one thing to make the plan work. They need a nimble, light-weight boy to climb the vines clinging to the walls of the house, a boy who will then let the thieves into the house to do their murdering, stealing worst.
Finch believes he has found such a boy in a starving orphan named Nick. But when Nick actually gets inside the house, he discovers that the old man is really the Jack, who really did climb a beanstalk and slay a giant and steal a hen that laid golden eggs, etc. Jack is now a miserable old man, haunted by regret. And since Nick wants nothing more to do with Finch and his gang, and Jack wants to believe in second chances (and not just for Nick), he lets the boy escape with a handful of magic beans.
Before you know it, Nick is in the castle on a cloud that Jack looted so many years ago. Only it is under new management now: a couple of ogres named Gnasher and Basher who have their own dreadful designs on the world below. Nick has big problems, including a swarm of maneating spiders, a diabolically clever giant, and a certain thief named Finch who has cold-blooded murder on his mind. The outcome, not only for Nick but for all the little people, will depend on what sort of stuff Nick is made ofthief or hero?
Catanese takes a classic fairy tale further, and he tells it well. I think you will find Nick, and his story, growing on you. I also think you, like me, will be looking out eagerly for further “Further Tales” by P. W. Catanese.