Douglas Hulick – Among Thieves
Length: 418 pages
Started: 21 March 2011
Finished: 26 March 2011
Where did it come from? LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Why do I have it? The description of thieves and secret books and criminal double-crossing sounded like fun.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 09 March 2011.
is tough when half the world is
trying to kill you.
Summary: Drothe is a lifelong member of the Kin, as the criminal underworld of the city of Ildrecca like to call themselves. Specifically, he’s a Nose: his job is to listen to the streets, synthesize rumors, and find out what’s really going on in all the spheres of Kin activity. He also has an active sideline in smuggling imperial relics, which typically turns a tidy profit without interfering with his other work. But suddenly his boss is on his case to investigate growing tensions in the slums of the Ten Ways, assassins armed with potent magic seem to be coming out of the woodwork, and all of the whispers start to be about a book that’s more than any ordinary relic, a book that’s intensely powerful and immensely dangerous… a book that Drothe just might have in his possession.
Review: Among Thieves was one of those books that has all the right elements, with no obvious reason I why wouldn’t enjoy it, and yet it just never quite clicked for me. I don’t have a particular affinity for criminal-underworld fantasy novels, but I’ve got nothing against them, either, and Scott Lynch’s novels are some of the best books I’ve read in recent years. Unfortunately, Among Thieves, while similar to Lynch’s novels in the broad strokes of setting and plot, was missing some of the wit and charm and spark that make the Gentleman Bastard books so good. I also noticed that Hulick tended to do his world building piecemeal, scattering mini info-dump lectures on the history of the empire and its religion throughout the action, rather than allowing the details of his world to be incorporated gradually.
This book was a slow start for me, taking me four days to clear the first hundred pages. Things picked up after that, though, and I did eventually wind up liking the story. Hulick’s good at writing the scheming and plotting and double-crossing necessary in a novel with a criminal narrator. It’s a clever plot, with enough twists and turns and surprises to hold my interest once it was captured. Hulick’s also good at writing action scenes, and this book’s got plenty of sword fights, street brawls, and assassination attempts to keep things moving along.
So, overall, this book had a lot of good elements, and no glaring flaws that I can point to. But something about it just didn’t work for me; it didn’t reach out and grab my imagination the way I want my fantasy novels to do. I’m not sorry I read it, but it’s also not destined to become a favorite. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: I didn’t love it, but just because it didn’t click for me doesn’t mean it won’t for you. If the idea of non-standard quest fantasy or the honor-among-thieves story appeals to you, then Among Thieves is well worth a try. (As is The Lies of Locke Lamora. Just sayin’.)
First Line: Athel the Grinner wasn’t grinning.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 119: “Some of his younger apprentices had been there for an hour already, grinding pigments, sorting papers, and gathering glair from the egg whites they had wrung through sponges the night before.” – white of egg, especially when used as a size, glaze, or adhesive, usually in bookbinding.
**All quotes come from an ARC and may not reflect the final published text.**
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