Ryia ‘the Butcher’ has earned her reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the city — not to mention the sharpest tongue. Yet a deadly secret has kept Ryia in hiding.
A death-defying heist is all that stands between Ryia and her freedom — but even the Butcher can’t do it alone.
Unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies all have plans of their own . . .
Have you ever wondered what Oceans Eleven would look like if you crossed it with Arcane: League Of Legends? The answer is Among Thieves. It’s a fantasy heist that’s witty, charming, emotionally resonant, character-driven, and an absolute blast of a novel.
Ryia is a hatchet-wielding force of nature who quips as hard as she punches. I wouldn’t survive two seconds against her hatchets, or her sick burns. The book takes a multi-POV approach, but if there’s a protagonist among them, it’s Ryia.
Criminals make for fascinating reading. And this is no exception. Among Thieves is a perfect title because you really do feel as if you’re in the middle of a rogue’s gallery, rooting for these scoundrels, thinking like them, empathising with them. There’s an accessibility about this underworld which makes you believe some characters deserve to win, while others deserve to lose, so there are always stakes. There’s always conflict. There’s always a betrayal or someone stabbing someone else in the back right when you least expect it, and you’ll either cheer or boo when it happens. The genius of this story is in letting you decide which characters you want to win, and then giving you room to react before plunging you into the next conundrum. Every piece of the puzzle has twists and turns, but the one thing you can guarantee is that double-crossing is going to abound, and there isn’t so much as a sniff of honour among these characters you’ve come to love (yet another reason why it has the perfect title).
It can be so easy for a multi-POV book to become unbalanced, spending too much time in one head and not enough in others, especially if it’s a debut novel. MJ Kuhn has mastered the balance first time around. Each character is strong. All of them are scheming to their own ends. And the plot moves blisteringly as events are seen through different eyes. It makes for compelling, propulsive reading, and the heist aspects flow beautifully against the fantasy backdrop. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece of how to write an ensemble of characters.
The world of Thamorr is gritty and realistic. MJ Kuhn’s worldbuilding is so natural, woven into every sentence, that it has a cinematic element to it. It’s so easy to imagine, and your mind fills in the blanks so there’s a visceral quality about the writing that’s understated, but a total triumph.
Thamorr has a touch of the medieval, which makes things all the more juicy. The heist itself is to retrieve an artefact from an impregnable island, but the thieves don’t have the challenge of security cameras to overcome — they’re contending with superhumanly strong beings who possess the power to sense threats! And they don’t have the police to worry about in terms of getaways, just people who can move things with their minds. No big deal, right?!
In terms of what you might expect from a traditional fantasy, you won’t find a thousand pages of lore, or a detailed account of a magic system with reams of exposition here. There’s no glossary of terms. The writing is fast-paced, and it flows brilliantly, so it’ll appeal to all kinds of readers. You don’t have to be a Tolkien super-fan to enjoy it. There is, however, a map in the front. And it rocks.
In short, expect banter. Lots of banter.
Among Thieves is a clever, carefully constructed carnival of duplicity that plays with your head as much as your heart and keeps you guessing to the very end. It’ll make you laugh, cry, hiss, boo, cheer, and then laugh again. If you’re a fan of buddy-cop-style jibes, then you’re in for a serious treat. Come for the hatchets, stay for the fun. A riotous breeze of a novel that never fails to entertain and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.