Just finished reading Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick which I found very entertaining. I couldn’t help wondering whether I should delay reading this as I am also currently re-reading the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (and as the LoLL is a masterpiece, in my eyes, this meant that Among Thieves had a lot to live up to – plus I couldn’t help holding parts of the story up for examination to see how it faired against the world of Camorr.
Actually, as it turned out I think that reading the two at the same time and holding them up to comparison turned out to be a really enjoyable experience – they’re not the same in a lot of respects although they obviously have similarities and it would be foolish to deny this.
Among Thieves brings to us the character of Drothe who comes from the city of Ildrecca. By all accounts Ildrecca has a serious problem with crime – we have Upright Men in control of various gangs who split the available area, begrudgingly, between them. On top of that we have the Grey Princes – who for me seemed to have the sort of status of a Godfather of types (some of them with the ability to use magic or ‘glimmer’). The ruler of the land is The Emperor. He seems to have a fearsome reputation, made more so by the threat of his ‘white sash’ troops and his hoarding and use of more powerful forms of ‘glimmer’.
Drothe is a member of a gang run by a very ruthless Upright Man called Nicco. He works as a ‘Nose’ gathering information. (But sometimes dealing in relics – which is forbidden). Basically Drothe is going to become very quickly embroiled in a scheme which he really should avoid – this could be the start of gang wars, imperial wars or the end of all that the undeworld currently know or understand.
What did I love. Firstly, some of the characters. Drothe is a rogue, but he’s sort of lovable and flawed. He’s no badass, which is a relief to some extent, and in spite of the fact that it’s his job to suss out what’s going on he’s not making a good job of it at the start of this book. He seems to run from one catastrophe to the next, usually appearing at the most inconvenient and inappropriate time possible and he doesn’t really have the ability to fight his way out of these situations – without resorting to dirty tricks that is (which he certainly isn’t averse to doing). Which is why he has Degan – covering his back. I really liked Degan (Bronze). He’s tough, sarcastic, he’s a whizz with the sword and seems to have no fear. What a combo. Secondly, the dialogue, which is sprinkled with the way the thieves (or kin) speak – with no explanation to what the words mean. You’re thrown in and expected to learn (a bit like the situation Drothe finds himself in!) The world is also really great. It’s seedy. There are bad sorts – Ten Ways is particularly grim, and on top of that it seems to be pseudo mediaeval with plenty of swashbuckling and fighting taking place. And, on top of that we have plots and counterplots – although nothing too distracting that you can’t race along through the story. Basically, there isn’t a lot of world building and this is without doubt a very fast paced story. If you like your stories to be a bit crazy, if you like to be left a bit to your own devices, and if you’re not a big fan of detail (or lots of detail) then you could be in the right place with this book. The whole story, in fact, takes place probably within a two/three week time frame and the story jumps about with such speed it practically makes your head spin.
If I was to level any criticisms I would probably say – yes, it’s similar to other stories set in this type of setting. I could say the ending is a bit rushed and a bit too neatly tied up and, no, its not a rich tapestry of detail. However, I could also say that none of those criticisms gave me a second’s doubt. I really enjoyed this. I think there is plenty of scope for future stories and I look forward to reading them. No, it’s certainly not Scott Lynch – but I think it has something new to bring and I think there’s plenty of room in this market and in a strange way, reading the two novels alongside each other has demonstrated that to me very well. From My Big Fat Greek Wedding – they’re different, like apples and oranges – but they’re both fruit!
(Plus – and here’s where I sink to my low level of ficklness – the UK cover is hot!) (Although that is not why I picked the book up, obviously