Book review: 'Story Thieves' leaves the fairy tales behind to enter the comic book world

Posted January 22

"STORY THIEVES: SECRET ORIGINS," by James Riley, Aladdin, $17.99, 372 pages (f) (ages 9-12)

"Story Thieves: Secret Origins" is the third book in a planned five-book series by James Riley. In this installment, preteens Owen and Bethany team up again in the ongoing search for Bethany's father.

In the previous books, we learned that Bethany has the ability to jump into books and enter their worlds. She has been doing this in hopes of finding her missing father, who she believes isn't in the nonfiction world anymore.

When Owen catches Bethany, he convinces her to take him into his favorite book series to keep him from sharing her secret. This leads to many adventures in solving wars between worlds, making fictional friends and traveling through many tales.

"Secret Origins" picks up with Owen and Bethany on hiatus from jumping into stories because it's causing too much trouble. But Bethany has been sneaking visits and now a mysterious man is watching her house. When she and Owen follow the man, they find out he's called Doc Twilight and his house holds a portal to another fictional world, this time the comic book world of Jupiter City.

Bethany believes a villain named the Dark has taken her father, and she's determined to end this once and for all.

Riley returns with his comedic wit and ability to hide secrets within his stories, but adds a new dimension to the series by leaving classic tales and science fiction and jumping into the world of comics. Just as Owen enjoys the world of Jupiter City because he loves comic books, fans of graphic novels will enjoy the homage to the battle between good and evil and accidental heroes.

The villain is refreshing because it's a shadow which can inhabit your mind and make you act against your will. While there are other villains to fight, this idea, along with the lesson that words have power, is well-learned and organically written.

With an ending that both gives answers and opens a world of possibilities, Riley writes a strong story that should keep readers waiting for the next book.

"Secret Origins" is interspersed with comic book sketches that enhance the experience and bring the characters to life.

This story contains no foul language and no sexual content but does have various scenes of mild violence including punching, kicking and throwing smoke bombs.

Tara Creel is a Logan-native-turned-California-girl and mother of four boys. Her email is, and she blogs at


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