Cover Image: Max and the Spice Thieves

Max and the Spice Thieves

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Member Reviews

This book is so funny, was absolutely so good! It was packed with mystery and magic which I love. This book kept me on the edge of my seat until the end.
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A captivating fantasy world with elements that reminded me of Narnia and The Golden Compass series. The pacing was really fast. My only issue is with the writing of Max's age, sometimes he felt much older than twelve and at times it was hard to picture him as a young boy. Realistically I am not sure if this book falls under Middle Grade or Young adult, neither quite fit.
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Max Daybreaker has a problem. His father hasn’t returned home for several weeks and his mother disappeared in a cloud of mysterious black smoke. At the age of twelve, Max is on his own when a swaggering spice pirate, Captain Cinn, and his companion, Piers, find him. Embarking on an adventure to find his family, Max encounters princes, kelpies, witches, sirens, snow bears, and a lot of magic. As secrets of the islands unravel, Max discovers the truth about himself and his family, but will it be in time to save them?

Well, this middle grade book was just fun! I very much enjoyed the novel and it was a quick read for an older audience. I would have definitely appreciated this book when I was in the target demographic, so I think this novel is a win.

In terms of the characters, Max’s innocent naivete was at times both endearing and irritating, but he remained an established protagonist to root for. Captain Cinn evokes some Jack Sparrow comparisons, but the differences are enough that one can appreciate both characters on their own. The remainder of the supporting cast, Piers, Linzy, Anya, Sal, Mensha, Timbu, and Annalinda, were also unique and likeable. Each of these characters offered something to the party, and with so many supporting characters, it feels like there is much more to explore with each, particularly since a magical character noted interesting pieces of backstory about several of them that were not revealed in this volume.

The world building was somewhat scarce as Max, and, by extension, the reader, was immediately whisked away to adventures in various lands. However, there was enough explanation to offer some view of the various islands and cultures encountered, which was backed up by a fantasy world map at the beginning of the novel. As a part of the world building, magic is also clearly established within this universe, and though the magic system’s rules were often unclear, I was willing to suspend my belief because the novel just seemed to be having fun playing within the constructed world.

If you’re looking for an adventure, I definitely think Max and the Spice Thieves delivers. I know I will be looking for the sequel to discover what mischief Max and his friends encounter next.
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The book begins with twelve-year-old Max’s mom waking him up for a journey. Everyone believes Max’s father to be dead, but he himself believes that his father is still alive. He is so excited that his mother has woken him up to search for his dad, but unfortunately this is not the case. We learn that Max has a skin condition: if his skin gets too cold, a rash will form all over his body. He is told to follow the Rules and be mindful of this throughout his upcoming travels. Upon their arrival to the ship port, Max’s mom steps away to speak with Captain Cinn. She never returns, and the Spice Pirates end up taking Max under their care. 

Overall, I thought this book included too many characters and too little captivating scenes. It was difficult to follow the storyline’s progression at times. Max also “admires” women in a strange way for a twelve-year-old, and I did not find some of his internal dialogue appropriate for middle grade readers. I think this may be better suited as a film or play rather than a novel. The writing style was extremely odd and I feel that if I recommended this to a young reader, he or she would never be able to get through this book, as I struggled to finish it myself.

This book had potential to be really good. Considering I'm not in the age range of this book (though I still love middle grade), it wasn't interesting enough for me. I wasn't invested in the characters enough, and often found myself drifting off mentally because of this.

That being said, I enjoyed the aspect of the food and spices. It made my mouth water multiple times. I enjoyed learning more about Max and what exactly was happening in his life. He was probably one of my favourite characters in the book.
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Great adventure for middle grade readers. A no nothing boy turns into the chosen one and heads out on a pretty epic adventure that middle graders will really enjoy. 

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher for an eARC of this book in return for an honest review.
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MAX AND THE SPICE THIEVES is an action-packed adventure fantasy. It’s got a bit of everything:







royalty in disguise.

At a couple of points I did think there were perhaps too many elements in play and too many characters for everyone to get a fair turn at telling their own story. The pacing towards the even was a little rushed and underdeveloped as a result MAX AND THE SPICE THIEVES is the first in a series though, so I can easily imagine these are seeds that will be looked at in future books. The fast-paced action and this very large cast are likely to appeal to young middle grade readers, as the story is full of constant changes and a character to appeal to everyone.

The settings — especially the polar fantasy setting we come to in the second half — were vivid and easy to imagine.

I got through this one quickly and found it an enjoyable read.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ebook. Max and the spice thieves was an enjoyable read considering I am not in the age group this is directed towards. The worldbuilding was beautiful and fun. These characters were very entertaining to read about, I would have to say my favorite was Captain Cinn, I do love a pirate. This is a middle-grade fantasy so I believe those of younger age would enjoy this much more than I did and I totally recommend they check it out.
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Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this middle grade eArc from NetGalley in exchange for me honest review . . .

Well me scalawags, I always be ready for a sea yarn and this middle grade is packed with pirates, djinn, shapeshifters, an assassin spy, and other unsavory creatures.  The highlight of the book be Cap'n Cinn who robs spices from the rich to give to the poor.  Because eatin' just hardtack be rough.  I be hankerin' for some of Cap'n Cinn's lemon cake or hot chocolate.  I very much enjoyed the idea of a world where spices are controlled by a guild. 

In this adventure Young Max's parents go missing and his search for them brings him into contact with Cap'n Cinn.  This pirate is not an old bitter salty dog like me.  Cap'n Cinn is trying to save the world and bring deliciousness to the masses.  He won me over.  Max is very naïve and silly but extremely good hearted.  He likes to believe the best of everyone.

I do think the story will please its target audience.  For this older reader, I felt there were too many characters, not enough world building, and a rather convoluted plot.  But if the younger reader focuses on the pirates, shapeshifters, and Cap'n Cinn then this novel should float their boat.  Arrr!
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Max and the Spice Thieves is the first book in a series aimed at middle grade readers by John Peragine. Due out 20th April 2021, it's 272 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. It's possibly worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a rollicking middle grade fantasy full of adventure and action. Young Max is suddenly alone after his mother goes missing, so he joins Captain Cinn and the crew of the Saucy Pig as a cabin boy to look for his parents. The story provides a generous portion of adventure (pirates! spice pirates!), shapeshifters, magic, a secret book, monsters and more. What surprised me was how much warmth was written into the story along with humor and bigger concepts like bravery, loyalty, and found family as well as other cultures, spices, foods and being open to trust. 

The story is complete in this volume with foreshadowing leading into the next book(s). It works well as a standalone.

The typography and graphics are beautifully done with gorgeously rendered map and cover art. 

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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This was such a ridiculous plot. I know you have to suspend your disbelief for middle grade and just how much young people can get away with, but even this was absolutely absurd.
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Good world building and adventure and characters. The writing style wasnt my favorite though. All in all a decent read and would recommend to certain readers
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Max and the Spice Thieves is a nice story, with plenty of adventure and good worldbuilding. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing.

The story is about Max Daybreaker, whose mother suddenly goes missing. Lucky for him, a crew of Spice Pirates, led by Captain Cinn, offer to help Max with his quest, crossing the three seas. He gains even more unlikely allies: a teenage warrior queen, a three-eyed seer, and an assassin spy. They face treacherous lands with shape-shifting bears, an ancient witch, harpies, and the Djinn, who will stop at nothing to enslave the world. The further Max gets in his quest, the more secrets he learns about his past. Powers start to waken within him, forcing him to question everything he knows.

The story in Max and the Spice Thieves has all the adventure you could want. There’s an evil prince, Snow Bears, a Witch, and of course, the Djinn. We experience a few different places in the story that were all imaginative and detailed. It’s a real ‘love conquers all’ type of story.

Max is a brave kid who just wants to save his parents. However, his magic felt somewhat random, and the way he thinks shifts a lot between adult and very young kid. I didn’t actually think he changed all that much throughout the story. It was also unclear whether he thought his father was dead or not, which really decreased the impact of some of the twists in the story.

I did love Captain Cinn, the pirate that takes care of Max when his mother goes missing. He tries to do what he can to keep Max safe. He’s not a typical pirate, and I thought that was refreshing.

There is some blurred line in the story between ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ which I can appreciate, but it was also a tad confusing. And since this story is targeted at children, they might find it confusing too. One such confusing thing was the Witch. When we first learn about her, she’s described as an evil being. However, later on, she’s also considered helpful. In fact: she’s the only one they can go to for help. So, what is she? Whose side is she on?

I feel it’s these kinds of ambiguities in the story that let it down.

Another thing that let it down was the dialogue—it didn’t feel real to me. Often, Max would also think something and immediately say it, which I felt slowed the pace. The dialogue was also often used to explain things, which led to some info dumps that weren’t quite interesting.

Max and the Spice Thieves is an entertaining adventure story that I do believe kids will enjoy. It’s fun, and it’s easy to read. If you don’t mind the writing being a tad clunky and do love reading about witches, shapeshifting creatures, and interesting worlds, then you should definitely give the book a try.
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I was invited to download an eARC of Max and the Spice Thieves via NetGalley when someone on the author's team found my other reviews on Instagram, and I accepted. A couple of months later XPresso Book Tours put out a call for tour hosts for this title around the time I was planning to fit it into my schedule anyway, so I figured why not and hopped on board. This does mean I was technically offered eARC access twice, and I do think I would have picked this one up either through XPresso's tour or just browsing SFF titles on NetGalley (in fact my NetGalley dashboard recommended it to me as well!) but I would like to sincerely thank everyone who invited me to read and review. This has not swayed my opinion; my thoughts are my own and my review is honest.

Max and the Spice Thieves is a middle-grade fantasy adventure about a boy named Max with a severe dermal allergy to the cold who inadvertently finds himself missing both of his parents and acting as a member of the crew on a "pirate" ship of sorts in a world where spices are luxuriously valuable, sea monsters are real, and not everything is as it seems. When Max begins to experience an awakening of power he didn't know he had, everything he thought he knew about his life and the world around him is going to change.

At first I was tempted to compare this book to contemporaries in the genre, like Riordan's Percy Jackson novels, but the further I went along the more I thought of Homer's The Odessy and The Iliad. I was about to graduate high school and no longer interested in anything that could be classified as a children's book when Riordan started publishing, so Percy Jackson isn't a nostalgic reference for me but rather something I stumbled across later in life. Homer is what I was reading in middle school. This is a more fun, more age-appropriately worded alternative. (Thank you for thinking so highly of us 12 year olds, Mrs Jakubec, but I doubt the majority of my peers appreciated 9th century Greek literature as much as I did.) Regardless of which camp of epic journey with fantastical Greek elements you choose to pitch your tent in, I do think Max and the Spice Thieves will offer something invitingly familiar.

That's not to say that this book isn't unique, because it absolutely is! This story may have familiar bones, but the configuration and flesh are completely new. I've never read a character quite like Max or Captain Cinn (I love Captain Cinn!) and the idea of someone whose driving goal in life is to get a little spice into the hands of as many people as possible is so charming. I do think both the intended audience and older readers alike will be able to find something to love in this book.

My one big stumbling point here and the reason it's not a 5 star perfection contender is that the size of the cast and the break beck pacing through a staggering number of important plot events seem to have been stuffed into too few pages. There's no breathing room in here. Quite often I'll critique books for being 50-100 pages too long, but this one is 50-100 pages too short. I have high hopes that pacing and cast overcrowding issues will smooth out as the series continues.

Thanks again to everyone who invited me to read this book. You were all right on the money suggesting that I would enjoy it! I recommend this book to all middle-grade fantasy lovers and all lovers of epic journeys with fantastical elements or mythology influences.
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This was my first book by this author, It was pretty enjoyable. I would give this book a 3.5 star rating! It was a pretty Quick and easy read!
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Max and the Spice Thieves is an extremely imaginative book, full of unique characters, adventures, twists and turns, magic, friendship and love.

MaxDaybreaker is just a regular twelve (almost thirteen) year old boy. He does have a medical condition- he can't stand cold which makes his skin break out in a bad rash. When his father goes missing in the sea, Max keeps hoping sooner or later his father will be back. Max's mother Bettina tells him they are going on a journey  on a pirate ship, but then on the day when they were supposed to leave, Bettina disappears. The captain of the pirate ship saves Max from criminals and takes him aboard. He promises to do everything possible to help Max find his kidnapped mother. And here begin  Max's adventures that will take him across this original world. On his mission to save his family Max makes friends, shows his courage, loyalty and honesty, and learns that he might not be just a regular boy after all.

What I liked the most about this book: adventures!  Max never has a quiet moment in this action-packed fascinating journey. The sheer variety of places Max and his friends have to visit in order to glean some information about Max's family! The world Max lives in is incredibly diverse and so are the magical beings that inhabit it.

Max is still quite young and has  a lot to learn, but he is aided by other fascinating characters, including my favourite Captain Cinn. I'm not sure the love triangle was entirely necessary. It might become more important in the following books.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I'll be looking forward to the next book in the series.
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Many thanks to NetGalley, Crumblebee Books and the author for the digital advanced reader’s copy of 'Max and the Spice Thieves' in exchange for my honest review.


What really drew me in was 'Max and the Spice Thieves's cover! It implies adventure, pirates and quite a lot of fun. Enough to tempt a Pirates of the Caribbean fan to pick it up! Anyway, who doesn't wanna read a middle-grade pirate story?


'Max and the Spice Thieves' follows Max Daybreaker starting with the morning his mom pulls him out of bed to embark on an adventure and promptly disappears. This catapults Max into a whirlwind of an adventure that takes him from pirate ships to illustrious palaces to a witch temple and an icy snow bear enclave. The story is very family-centered with Max overcoming all odds to find his mom and his missing-in-action dad before the evil Djinn get their claws in him first.


Max Daybreaker is a twelve-year-old boy who gets thrust into a mysterious quest to find his parents in the first chapter itself. He's brave, loving, and an absolutely adorable main character whose struggles and passion really endears to the reader. 

For a middle-grade novel, Max exhibits a lot of growth throughout the book, which is not surprising given his passion and drive to save his family. He makes friends with a myriad different characters, which really speaks to his people skills. I was charmed by how he made friends with not just pirates, but thieves, princes, and snow bears as well!

There's really no indication of diverse characters even though most of the worldbuilding has a South Asian-Middle Eastern influence from the Djinn to the food and the clothes. 

My favourite relationships in the book were those between Max and Captain Cinn - a mysterious pirate captain determined to help Max - and between Max and his parents. They were such wholesome and loving relationships that really made the story richer.

The biggest negative about this book was the romance! Max meets two different teenage girls who quickly get enamored by him, but is this really necessary??? I'm always very particular about romance in a middle-grade book and this felt forced and completely unnecessary! Instead, I would have loved to see Max have some wholesome female friends who inspire and push him, and vice versa.


I really liked the story in 'Max and the Spice Thieves' because it really delivered on the adventure and friendship tropes it promised! It felt like a MG-rated Pirates of the Caribbean movie in writing, so I was very impressed and absolutely invested in the story.

One aspect I was happy about was that most of the book was the conflict stage of the story with Max overcoming countless odds to figure out his parents' whereabouts, and the build-up to the climax was well-done. However, the resolution towards the end was very quick and left me reeling a bit with all the revelations that popped up. Personally, I would have preferred maybe one more chapter before the ending to slow down the pace.


Max and the Spice Thieves was set in a fictional world that spanned over a Middle Eastern influenced city, an Amazonian jungle and an icy tundra. I really liked the world-building because it was unique, fun, and focussed a lot on imagery to give the reader a vibrant experience. Reading about the bustle of the hot marketplace was just as exciting as trekking through a jungle filled with poisonous snakes to a witch's temple.

The incorporation of spices into the world-building was brilliant! Spices are a controlled commodity in Max's world, reserved for the rich and the royal. Characters like Captain Cinn are Spice Pirates who fight against the corrupted Spice Guild's rule to distribute spices to the poor and needy. The food imagery in this story was excellently done ranging from the smells to the tastes of the various spices. This had me craving for some good Indian or Middle Eastern food every time Cinn cooked!

The past played a huge role in Max's own quest. It was fun learning about what Max himself had read and what they found out along the way. The author really put in a lot of thought into the war with the Djinn and the everything to do with the Sultan. It was very satisfying to see all the odds and ends tie together by the end of the story!


The biggest theme in this story was centered around family, both by blood and found families. Max is intensely dedicated to keep his friends and family safe from the dangers that befall him along the way. As someone very family-centered, I felt that this theme gave the otherwise fun pirate adventure story a lot more depth and substance.

Another big theme was corrupted governments. Along with the author's clever world-building, he introduced a lot of corruption. There is the corrupted Spice Guild and characters like Cinn fighting to give their most important commodity, spices, to the people who really need them. Even the Djinn are big bad guys who are operating out of fear to destroy what and who can kill them, giving no regard to the innocents they hurt along the way. 


'Max and the Spice Thieves' is a fun whirlwind of an adventure with clever worldbuilding and great characters. However, the rushed ending put me off, as did romance that felt forced and totally unnecessary. I would still recommend this to anyone who is a fan of daredevil adventure and vibrant, diverse world-building!
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3.5 Stars
Fans who love the world-building of the Golden Compass & the food art in Ghibli movies will enjoy this book! Trust me, when you read this book, these two comparisons will make sense, hahaha.

Max cannot stand the cold ...because if he gets too cold, his skin condition will kill him, so he is always kept safe and happy by his parents. But destiny has other plans.
With both of his parents gone, a djinn war looming over his world and a power blooming inside him, Max will have to trust in; a prince, a queen,  a witch, a thief, an assassin & a spice pirate.
Get ready for a new taste of adventure!

This world holds so much; Eastern culture inspiration with the mythology creatures, the spice trade that is the main economic trade, pirates, witches, Djinn, a destiny & Animal Shape-shifters!
I adored that he wrote this story for his son, who also shares a medical condition with the main character -representation!
This story has such many possibilities and so much destiny for so many of the characters that I'm excited to see where things will go and how their lives and plans will unfold.

Cons: For a world with a heavy eastern culture influence, there weren't a lot of POC or diversity in it, which isn't great. I know this is a fantasy, and he wrote it for his son, but if you are taking inspiration from a culture, please have more than just white people. 
While this world had so my new, unique and impressive creatures and world-building, there was no hook. As my love of world-building was the only reason, I continued to read after I STILL had no pull into the story.
And lastly, some characters may have had a little too fast connection without any real build-up, so that wasn't really believable for them.

I think this series has a lot of potential, and I will for sure be reading the next book to see if the world continues to grow and potential the hook will appear, and my higher than usual rating will be justified.
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Let me preface this by saying that, as the mother of young adults, I am fully aware I’m not the target audience for this new series. But in the month of March every year, I read titles that are specifically written for 9-12 year olds as part of #middlegradeMarch, so I added this one to my list. I felt like it had a ton of potential: the storyline was interesting, the characters seemed a bit of a unique take on age old archetypes, and the writing was good. However, the main character, Max, was just enough odd that he was frustrating rather than endearing. His dialogue in places was way unnatural and unbelievable for a 12 year old, though the subject matter seemed to juvenile to bump this one up to a young adult series. I have high hopes that the second and third books would iron these issues out, but, again, it may just be that I am not the target audience. Thank you to the author and publisher for the opportunity to read and advanced copy of Max and The Spice Thieves.
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This wasn’t my usual read so I was excited to try it. It’s a really good adventure story, easy to read and follow and the story changes and developments every chapter really helping keep you gripped to the adventure and wanting to know what happens next. The author has really made it feel like your actually there travelling with max throughout the journey through his vivid description. I took a point off because I do feel it’s missing something maybe a little more action, however as it’s book one I feel it was more of a set the scene of things to come type of book. I loved the ending and the twist and it really makes me think there’s a lot more to come.
Would definitely continue reading the series to find out what happens next!
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I received an ARC from Net Galley in exchange for this honest review!

It's been quite awhile since I've read a novel that was geared more towards children but I truly enjoyed Max and the Spice Thieves. An intriguing plot that moves along and a clipping pace (which I rather like), engaging and entertaining characters, and a very unique magic system that seemed well-described.

While this is definitely written for a younger audience, I didn't really feel like I wasn't going to enjoy it. The book covers some heavier topics, doesn't shy away from fight scenes and even death, and it's refreshing to see something written for children that didn't hold its punches. I really, really enjoyed that.

Max is a likable protagonist, always questioning the motives of others-- both the good and the bad. He's blunt about what is and is not moral, but at the same time incredibly black and white on certain things until he learns that there's nuance to the world. I think it is a little cliche that everyone loves him so much at the get-go, but that's why I appreciated the character Timbur-- He didn't and he was very vocal about it, even if Max was a kid.

I did, however, like that all of the adults in the book didn't treat him like a child who couldn't handle his own-- everyone saw his value and strength, and I think that lets Max develop and grow into a well-formed character.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book so much, but the witty and snappy dialogue, and-- honestly funny prose-- found me reading right through to the end. Excited for the next book!
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