Young Jeremiah Prins begins his life in privilege in the Dutch East Indies. His family is affluent and served by the locals. All of this changes when the Japanese begin their imperial expansion and invade what is now known as Indonesia. Separated from his father and older brothers, Jeremiah takes charge of what is left of his family — his mother and younger siblings. The Japanese eventually round them up and put them in a jappenkamp where there is little food and little medical care. Jeremiah learns to find creative ways to take care of his family while waiting out what feels like an endless war. As more and more people die from lack of nutrition and disease, Jeremiah’s life becomes increasingly dangerous.
Let’s begin with the good things about Thief of Glory. Jeremiah’s mother is incredibly interesting. She suffers from what appears to be bi-polar disorder but ultimately (small spoiler) saves her children during a pivotal moment in the book. While Jeremiah seems unimpressed with her, I found her to be incredibly brave.
Also, the ways the locals worked to subvert the Dutch almost had me rooting for them. While what happened to Jeremiah and his family was awful, I felt the worst for the locals of Indonesia. They were conquered by the Dutch and then by the Japanese. While Jeremiah felt justified (as a child raised with privilege) in subjugating the Indonesians, we can see the resentment they possess for their unwanted rulers even through his eyes. I thought this was well done, for the most part.
Finally, Pietje is a great character. I think he effectively embodies (small spoiler) innocence tainted by war. I thought his character was, for the majority of the time, well-written.
Before I discuss the flaws of the book, I’d like to add a few disclaimers. I have never read anything by Sigmund Brouwer before this book. He has around eighteen novels available, so he is obviously successful at what he does. Also, the book was loosely based on some of the real events of his own father’s life, so there is a personal aspect here.
That being said, I could not finish the book. I read until just before the end and had to put it down after trying to read it for several times since October. With Electric Literature’s recent article about not finishing books, I don’t feel as guilty. There were several flaws with Thief of Glory, but I only want to touch on the major ones.
The most annoying flaw was a writing style choice. While I appreciate some good foreshadowing like most readers, the main character had a terrible habit of telling the reader too much. There were a lot of moments of “little did I know” that actually took away from the mystery of the story and made certain later revelations much less impactful. This flawed rate of revelation did the book a major disservice.
Also, this book is advertised as a Christian book, but there are few instances where that proves true. The ideas of God or Jesus are interjected a few times, but I never felt an overall Christian theme. There are scenes that suggest Christian faith but these scenes are lacking significantly in impact or import. I don’t understand why this was categorized as a Christian book.
Lastly, I was highly dissatisfied with the way the Japanese were described. Although the actions of the soldiers were indeed atrocious, they were never described as real human beings. They felt like puppets used to create a scapegoat villain. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think torture is justified in any way, but I also don’t believe they were any less human. While books like Unbroken were able to show the humanity of the Japanese, even amidst their dark actions, Thief of Glory was very much lacking in this area. It made the Japanese soldiers feel unbelievable.
There were other flaws for the book, surely, but I feel like the ones I mention are the most major. Personally, I would not recommend this book. That being said, it is highly rated and others have enjoyed it. If there are readers who have read this book, especially if you liked it, I would welcome your opinions.
Sigmund Brouwer is the author of the Merlin’s Immortals series, The Canary List and many other books. He is married to Christian recording artist Cindy Morgan. You can read chapter one of Thief of Glory here.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.