I wanted to thank the author for providing me with an ARC to review, all thoughts presented below are honest and my own.
We are the stories we tell ourselves…even the lies.
The Thief, a great spirit, and her descendants have abused their ability to steal magic for centuries. When Kaylo starts to hear the song of other people’s magic, he must learn to hide from his people as well as the invaders. A gift or a curse, Kaylo may be able to save his people from the Gousht Empire that claimed their land with this stolen magic.
Eighteen years later, Kaylo still prays to the spirits, but not out of loyalty or love. He knows better than to rely on those selfish bastards for anything. While hiding in the forest from his foolish acts of rebellion, he encounters a girl, Tayen, being pursued by two soldiers of the empire. Against his better judgment, he risks facing the consequences of his past to intervene.
When Tayen attempts to run off seeking vengeance for her family, he offers to train her to wield her magic and a blade. If he can’t convince her to relinquish her need for vengeance and stave off the demons of his past, he’s going to get them both killed.
There are some books that as you read them you feel so thoroughly in the mind of the characters that you can’t help but feel all of their emotions. No Heart for a Thief is one such book, in my opinion. Kaylo and Tayen are both such incredible characters and I was fully engrossed from page one and I found myself savoring each chapter and drawing out my experience with it.
I should mention I am an absolute sucker for a story being told within a story told in retrospect from a POV character. My favorite book is Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss but others that use the retrospective story trope that come to mind are The Pariah by Anthony Ryan, Memories of Blood and Shadow by Aaron S Jones, and Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff. I love that as readers we get to form thoughts and speculate as to how the character got to where they are throughout the story and the details unfurl as the two storylines start to converge. In the case of No Heart for a Thief, Kaylo is telling Tayen his story.
Kaylo is an older man living a secluded life in the forest, when one day Tayen appears and on her heels soldiers. From that point forward their stories are intertwined. Tayen is a young girl who has revenge on top of her mind after experiencing tragedy. Kaylo has lived with revenge for a long time and that is part of the motivation in him telling her his story. There is a component of rebellion and fighting against the empire that is encroaching across the continent.
“They’ve done this before. Conquered. Controlled. If they broke a people apart, lulled most of the population into a new controlled life, enslaved or killed anyone who resisted, then they could force the next generation to serve. […] They slept on stolen land like it could not be reclaimed.”
There are upfront themes of colonization and assimilation of the native peoples of the continent. Traditional stories are eradicated, celebrations no longer allowed and their language stolen. I, personally, felt like these themes were handled really well. The author is white and at the end specifically amplifies voices working within sci-fi and fantasy from BIPOC authors. There are also themes of rebellion and taking back pockets of land and culture where they can that I think will continue to be explored in future installments.
Aside from the characters, I really enjoyed the elemental magic system paired with a connection to the spirits. There are seven spirits in total and the mythology behind each of them is well thought out and unique, they are: The Seed, The River, The Flame, The Mountain, The Wind, The Shadow, and The Thief. Each of them is a child of Ennea, of the world, of nature. There are some people who may be touched by two spirits but most are only able to channel a single spirit. Each of these spirits are revered in the traditional culture of the native peoples and hunted by colonizers. The colonizers are able to steal and harness the powers of the spirits and the only natural defense against that: those touched by the Thief. The only problem is that those touched by The Thief are shunned by all and are rarer than those touched by other spirits. Thieves can steal not only those spirits trapped and harnessed by the colonizers, but also those spirits naturally attuned to others.
“No heart for a thief, no safe haven, only a grave will do.”
In addition to the incredible book presented within the pages, I always like to mention the cover artist or audio narrator. In this case, the cover artist is Felix Ortiz, and he did an incredible job. Seeing this cover across my twitter feed is what prompted me to reach out and get on the ARC list.
I’m eagerly awaiting the continuation of Kaylo and Tayen’s story and No Heart for a Thief is highly recommended from me.
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