Fantasy Book Review of Douglas Hulick's debut novel: "Among Thieves"
Rating: 4.5 smileys
Drothe has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers in the employ of a crime lord while smuggling relics on the side. But when an ancient book falls into his hands, Drothe finds himself in possession of a relic capable of bringing down emperors-a relic everyone in the underworld would kill to obtain.
I seem to be on a tear recently running into books about rogues and assassins, but I found "Among Thieves" to be quite refreshing. Told in the first person narrative it follows Drothe as he initially goes about his normal business among a world of thieves, which of course turns into a bit more than business as usual as the novel progresses. Unlike similar stories dealing with the underworld, Drothe is not an expert assassin ready to unleash fury on those who cross him, but what is referred to in their world as a 'Nose'. Someone who works information and the informants that gather it, sifting through rumor for truth. Personally I felt this added quite a bit of 'detective story' to an otherwise great fantasy novel and also made Drothe much more down to earth and easier to relate to.
To that end I found Drothe to be a great voice for the story. As I said he was easy to relate to and the way he handled himself in various situations throughout the story seemed very believable. Although he was definitely a rogue, I also felt like the angle the author worked with him also made his honorable personality believable as well.
The supporting cast was well fleshed out considering the book is told in first person. Most of the people Drothe works with or against are great in their roles. His closest companion: Degan, is also very well built as the story goes on and the author is able to make great use of what promises, oath's and friendship mean by the end of the story.
Magic in the world is not uncommon, though the main character and his companion don't practice it so it isn't a very common occurrence through much of the story until more foes get involved as things build. The world as well stays primarily focused on the underworld, or at street level; despite the fact that the plot reveals much bigger goings-on with the empire at large as it unveils. Personally I enjoyed the fact that things stayed at that level as I quite enjoyed not only Drothe working the streets, but the authors work with the underworld. He mentions in a preface a warning about the use of "thieves cant" or street slang and I thought it added a great deal to the feel and atmosphere of the story.
I'm definitely looking forward to the next novel as well. I thought that plenty was tied up in the stand alone portion of the story, but enough was revealed of the world at large that I definitely want more. Not only that, but the few things left unanswered and the few possibilities left for Drothe's future are very interesting as well.
I don't only think fans of work like Brent Week's "Night Angel" trilogy or Sprunks "Shadow's Son" would enjoy this book, but also fans of more modern urban fantasy like the Dresden Files would as well with the narrative and elements of mystery. Definitely one of the best fantasy debuts I've read this year as well.
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