Review: Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn

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Rating: 7.5/10

Synopsis

A thrilling fantasy debut—a high-stakes heist novel set in a gritty world of magic and malice, and perfect for fans of Six of Crows!

In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick—not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster—the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down…but even the most powerful men can be defeated.

Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all…but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Among Thieves for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

Among Thieves is an engaging, suspense-filled heist novel with blistering pace, an intriguing cast of characters, and plenty of machinations to keep you guessing until the very end. Kuhn shows a ton of promise with this fantasy debut and is going to be a name to keep an eye on.

Yeah… so I haven’t read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo *anticipates being shouted at and/or thrown items hurtling toward noggin* so I can’t just jump on the hype train that comes with the blurb. Having said that, the cover is what stood out to me, along with a very interesting premise and me being a sucker for trad published debut fantasy novels.

The author takes a very interesting approach with the storyline as she weaves the plot through multiple POVs, each taking on their own chapters and giving you their perspectives of the happenings throughout all of the trials. It is refreshing to get various accounts rather than all characters being mashed into the “mercenary band / band of thieves” grouping and getting a one liner here and there from each. You are able to explore the world through different eyes, emotions, motivations, etc.

Having said that, the characters and the world did feel like they could’ve been fleshed out a little more. Ryia is probably going to be the character that most sticks with me because: A. She is introduced first, and B. She has the most interesting storyline. I mean, who is she really? What motivates her? How in the world did she become the “Butcher of Carrowwick”? All of these questions deserve answers, and while we don’t get the full story we are looking for, there is enough there to keep you wanting more.

In regard to the world-building, it tended to take a backseat to the characters. What I mean is, while this is a VERY character-driven novel in a “gritty world full of magic and malice”, the world is really just there to give these characters somewhere to go. Does that make sense? I couldn’t get a great feel for the streets, the catacombs, the castles, the Auction, the Lottery, etc. They were all very surface but serviceable for the storyline. Thing is, I could look past all this because sometimes the world doesn’t TRULY matter if the characters grab you enough.

The magic system is pretty straight forward but offered some very intense and enjoyable moments. I’d love to know more of its history and maybe forthcoming novels can expand on it a little bit. But what really shines are the machinations. While this is a “found family” type novel, you will soon find out that while people seem to have your back, they are just as likely to stab you in it. Kuhn excels at consistently flipping the tables end over end, smattering them with axes, and then hurling expletives at them until they finally give up the ghost. Even then, she still isn’t done. Freaking brilliant.

All in all, if you enjoy heist stories with plenty of intrigue and are ok with not diving too deep into characters or world-building, Among Thieves is a worthwhile read. I liken it to a favorite of mine, Fool’s Gold (The Dragon Lords #1) by Jon Hollins except with all “mostly” human characters and not soo many dragons.

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