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Owen, Kiel, and Bethany confront secrets, stolen memories, and some very familiar faces in the follow-up to the second book in the New York Times bestselling series, The Story Thieveswhich was called a “fast-paced, action-packed tale” by School Library Journal—from the author of the Half Upon a Time trilogy.

Owen Conners’s whole life changed the day he found out his classmate Bethany was half-fictional, and could take him into any book in the library. Which story would they jump into next? Another fantasy, like the Kiel Gnomenfoot, Magic Thief books? Maybe something with superheroes? Owen’s up for anything except mysteries—those just have too many hidden clues, twists that make no sense, and an ending you never see coming.

Then Owen wakes up in a real-life mystery with a memory that’s been erased and too many questions. How did Kiel Gnomenfoot lose all of his magic? Where is Bethany? And who’s the annoying guy wearing the question mark mask and Sherlock Holmes hat, taunting Owen and Kiel that Bethany is in grave danger?

Bethany is trapped in a hidden room that’s slowly filling with water, and she can’t escape until her friends find her. But is she imprisoned by more than just chains and a locked door? What’s she hiding from Owen and Kiel?

Maybe some mysteries just shouldn’t be solved…

Please note: The black bars in the first nine chapters are intended.

The Stolen Chapters CHAPTER 10
Someone was trying to steal Owen’s life, and there was nothing Owen could do about it.

“Your life is mine now,” said the story thief, a brown-haired boy wearing the exact same T-shirt, the exact same jeans, and the exact same face as Owen.

“No!” Owen tried to shout, but he couldn’t move or talk. His body just wouldn’t respond.

The duplicate leaned in, hands reaching out for Owen . . .

And that’s when Owen woke up with a start.

Wait, he’d been asleep! It was just a dream! A scary, sweaty, awful dream.

Owen wanted to laugh. “It was all a dream” was the worst possible ending to any story, but right now, it definitely felt comforting. It had felt much too real, though he supposed that was dreams for you. Owen ran his hands over his sheets, happy to still be in bed.

Except his sheets felt a lot like carpet, and he wasn’t lying on a pillow.

Also, his carpet-feeling sheets were orange for some reason.

“Uh?” Owen said. He picked his head up a bit from the carpet, only to wince and drop his head back to the floor, squeezing his eyes shut. A huge ache pounded through his temples, and everything smelled weirdly smoky.

He tried opening his eyes again, but even the little bit of light in the room caused his headache to scream at him. But Owen knew that orange carpet. He knew it like the back of his hand. Which, admittedly, he didn’t know all that well, but still.

This was the library. He was facedown on the floor of his mother’s library.

And he had no idea how he’d gotten here.

Gathering all of his courage, Owen opened his eyes again to look around.

“Owen?” said a voice to his side, followed by a painful groan.

“Kiel?” Owen said, and groaned too as he turned slightly to face the direction the voice had come from.

Kiel Gnomenfoot, former boy magician and hero to millions as star of his own book series, looked like he wanted to burst into tears. “Owen,” Kiel repeated, as if the word tasted bad. “Why . . . head . . . hurt?”

Owen tried to bring up a word or two, something along the lines of I have no idea, but it’s obviously for evil, evil reasons, but all he managed to croak out was, “Unnh.” Figuring that wasn’t enough, he slapped his hand a few times on the floor, then cringed at the noise.

How had he and Kiel gotten to his mom’s library? The last thing Owen remembered was . . . wait, what was the last thing he remembered? It was like everything in the recent past was just gone. He remembered Kiel being introduced to their class as Kyle, a new student, but that was the last thing. How long ago had that been? And why couldn’t he remember anything else?

Thunder crashed, and Owen grabbed his head as it erupted in pain, which made him face-plant onto the floor. After a moment of pure agony, something more urgent than the ache seeped through his brain.

“Do you smell smoke?” he asked Kiel. Owen pushed himself up and over onto his back, so at least he wouldn’t hit his face again if he fell.

“Probably,” Kiel moaned from his side. “Is something on fire?”

Dark black smoke began to curl into sight above Owen on the library’s ceiling, and in spite of the pain, Owen immediately sat up. “Kiel!” he shouted. “The library’s on fire!”

“No yelling!” Kiel shouted back, and they both groaned. Kiel slowly pushed himself up too and looked around. “Oh. Fire. That’s not a good thing. Hold on, I’ll use . . . whatever it is I do. Magic. To put it out.”

“Holding,” Owen said, gritting his teeth and waiting. “Hurry. Hurty.”

A pause, and then Kiel gasped. “They’re not there!”

“What aren’t?”

“My wand-knives!” he said, then paused. “Owen, I can’t remember any magic, and my spell book’s gone too. I can’t do magic without it or my wands.”

“A brilliant observation,” said a too-deep, fake-sounding voice from behind them, as if someone was talking into a voice changer. “Which begs the question, what exactly can you do, Mr. Gnomenfoot? What use are you without your magic?”

Owen turned to find himself staring at a short figure wearing a brown overcoat, a Sherlock Holmes hat, and a white mask with a black question mark where the face should have been.

Well. That wasn’t good.

“Gentlemen,” the masked figure said, crossing his arms over his chest. “I would say the game is afoot, but unfortunately, your game is already over.”
Author Photo by Maarten de Boer

James Riley lives in Virginia. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the Half Upon a Time, Story Thieves, and Revenge of Magic series.

More books from this author: James Riley

More books from this illustrator: Chris Eliopoulos

More books in this series: Story Thieves