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Sunday, September 12, 2010

"The Thief-Taker's Apprentice" by Stephen Deas (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Official Stephen Deas Website
Read an Excerpt from The Thief-Taker's Apprentice
Order The Thief-Taker's Apprentice HERE
Read FBC Review of The Adamantine Palace
Read FBC Review of The King of the Crags

INTRODUCTION: The 2009 author's debut "The Adamantine Palace" was one of the novels that resonated with me a lot and my estimation of it improved on the first reread, while remaining as powerful on the second reread I have completed just before starting "The King of the Crags" earlier this year.

Due to the mixed reviews I saw for "The Adamantine Palace" including our own FBC review from Robert linked above, I meditated a bit on why I liked it so much and found it both fresh and exciting. I think that mostly it was the "take no prisoners" attitude of the book and the ambiguity of most characters.

"The Adamantine Palace
" just rolls on from the first memorable pages of sex and murder on the back of a huge and dangerous dragon and never stops to "explain" things and while its setup is pseudo-medieval plus dragons with all the associated paraphernalia, it reads like a ride on one its powerful and barely tamed dragons...

In consequence "The King of the Crags" became a 2010 Top 10 Anticipated Novel, but the YA label attached to The Thief-Taker's Apprentice made me hesitate a little bit in what would have otherwise been a buy/read on publication book. The excerpt linked above and some reviews that dispelled my concerns about what YA referred to, decided me to acquire the book and I read it immediately after and greatly enjoyed it.

Regarding YA, I would say only that
while The Thief-Taker's Apprentice lacks sex scenes on the back of dragons, it has gore and brutal description of filth and misery galore, all in the same energetic style of the author, so if this is YA, I want more like it!

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION:The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is about 250 pages in length and consists of three parts and 42 chapters, all named which adds value to the novel. Pretty much all the action takes place in the city of Deephaven about whose storied history we find out tantalizing hints which also foreshadow its importance in the larger scheme of things.

The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is fantasy adventure in an urban secondary world milieu.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is set in the same universe as the author's Dragon novels but in a land far away and connected with the previous books only by the mysterious traders appearing in both. The novel is a series debut which ostensibly features a young orphan Berren and his mentor Syannnis, an exiled prince moonlighting as an "official" private eye or "unofficial" cop - thief-taker - in the local jargon. But there are hints of much more, so who knows where the series will go.

While not long as pages go, the book packs a lot of material so it reads as a book almost double its length.
The writing is both energetic and tense. The short phrases and sentences that represent Berren's POV work very well to move the story and convey the character's leap into the unknown that starts when he somewhat foolishly decides to rob Syannis after the executions described in the first pages.

"And now he had a room. His own space. So small that he could touch all four walls with his hands and feet if he lay across it from corner to corner, but still . . . It smelled of old wood and smoke, the unfinished plaster walls were dry and crumbled when he picked at them, but it was his. All his.

It terrified him. The silence behind the rustle of rain. The aloneness. He lay there, the thief-taker’s last words running through his head, chasing themselves in circles, looking for a way out and not finding any. I’m not going to stop you from running away if that’s what you want. But you might think first on where you’d go. He could go whenever he wanted. It couldn’t be that far down to the ground, could it?"

The world building is exquisite and promises a lot to come. The plot is minimal beyond the coming of age story and there is more talk on occasion than action, but I did not mind that since the rest is so good.
The Thief-Taker's Apprentice loses a bit off steam towards the end, where it essentially passes time to a "to be continued" sign, so overall it reads like a big introduction - an excellent one, but still just a prologue - and the series should really get going in the next volume.

The Thief-Taker's Apprentice (strong A) has the clear potential for a great series if the foreshadowing and hints of much deeper stuff materialize in further installments.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I'll have to read the book (and his others) now.

Sarah said...

I've never read anything by Deas before. From what I've read, people either tend to love or hate him. This book, however, looks promising. It's on my "to be read" list.

Liviu said...

I still remember when I got The Adamantine Palace since I was going on a several days trip to Boston and three asap books came just before leaving including that one - I took all 3 with me, expecting to read another one first, then another and last Adamantine; well when I opened the Deas book I just could not put it down, so it turned out to be the first I read from those 3...

I liked King of the Crags a little less for reasons mentioned in the review - though others liked it more for the same reasons,showing how subjective reviewing is...

For this one I was not sure due to the YA label, but I am very glad I bought it and it is a good introduction to the work of the author too

Stephen Deas said...

Glad you liked the Thief-Taker and his lad too - wasn't sure how you;d take to the world and the characters taking centre stage over the plot. There will, of coure, be considerably more plot later...

Liviu said...

Thank you for the kind words; I am looking forward to the next book in both series

Simcha said...

I also really enjoyed The Adamantine Palace but had reservations about this book because of it's YA status. I'm glad to hear that you did end up enjoying it and I'll probably give it a try now too. Thanks for the review.

Liviu said...

The author commented on sffworld that the book was done for the new Gollancz YA line, so I guess it will be sold as such in the UK, but as i said in the review, give me more YA like this and I would love it...

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