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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

River Of Thieves by Clayton Snyder (reviewed by Justine Bergman)


Official Author Website
Order River of Thieves over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Clayton began reading the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Madeline L'Engle, and others, at an early age. It ignited a love of the odd, the darkly funny, and the magical in him that never left. Over the past few years, he's published several short stories with various magazines, and three novels with small presses. When he's not telling stories, he works as a systems administrator for a game retailer. In his off time, he games, he cooks, and he attempts to play guitar. He currently lives in North Dakota with his wife, two dogs, and a cat that insists it's the other way around.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Cursed thief Cord relies on his partner, Nenn, to recover his body, stash the money, and convince the authorities that there are no leads left to follow. They spend their days hitting low-tier lenders and banks, but after a botched robbery, Cord begins to think they need something bigger, something that will set them up for life.

When that thing happens to be a heist no one else in the kingdom has the stones to pull off, he gathers a group of rogues with a particular set of talents—Nenn, handy with a knife and a cool head; Rek, cat-fancier and strongman; and Lux, undead wizard.

Together, they converge on the city of Midian to steal the heart of a saint and punish a tyrant. What comes out of the carnage is so much more—a conflict between gods that could decide the fate of every thief in the worlds.

FORMAT/INFO: River of Thieves is 322 pages divided over three parts and 33 numbered and titled chapters. The book is currently available in e-book and paperback format, as well as on Kindle Unlimited. It was self-published by the author on April 16, 2019. Cover design by the author, Clayton Snyder.

CLASSIFICATION: Comic fantasy

ANALYSIS:
We were the worst kind of people. For the best reasons. We understood that, even if no one else did.
After a robbery gone horribly wrong, Cord, a cursed thief, broadens his horizons and plans to execute the heist of a lifetime. With fellow thief and knife connoisseur Nenn in tow, the two build their ragtag crew to target the heart of the kingdom - Midian, the seat of tyrant King Mane Anaxos. As treachery, horrifying creatures of nightmare, and opposition bar their path at every turn, the gang must depend on skill - intellectual, martial, and magical - to deliver them an endless summer and keep them free from the clutches of evil despotism.

I've had the pleasure of beta reading this book and have witnessed something great only evolve and grow in scope and grandeur, becoming even more amazing, with each iteration. On its surface, this story is a wild and insane ride, peppered with plenty of "wtf?" moments, violent, wince-inducing action, and crude humor, but beneath all the layers, this is a tale of fighting for what you believe in, of how inaction is just as detrimental and damning as the actual crime, and how people need not share blood in order to be family. While dark and serious themes are tackled within, the pages are literally oozing with an unapologetic, sarcastic, and refreshing humor I've rarely encountered in books I've read over the years. And if I'm being completely honest, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard reading a story in my life...ever. River of Thieves is highly imaginative, wildly hilarious, and so very weird - in the best way possible.

It's impossible to begin discussing River of Thieves without giving Cord & Co. the attention they deserve, as Cord, Nenn, Rek, and Lux complete one of the most dynamic and charming "ragtag group of rogues" I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Collectively, they're a group of charismatic, intelligent (debatable), debaucherous, sweary, and stabby thieves with tons of heart, willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to instill and protect the free will they believe all are entitled to. However, they have no regard for collateral damage, and more often than not, disaster and death of immeasurable proportion follow in their wake. While each contributes to the group in their own distinct way, they have more in common than they would like to believe, leading to some pretty impressive and witty banter, bickering, and artistic insults - as with any family, of course. As for secondary characters, I...I just can't...you'll have to pick up the book to meet them yourself (Tug's my favorite, by the way).

Ever since I cracked open Snyder's Child of Nod, I've been a fan of his flowing and poetic prose, and he never ceases to impress. The use of metaphors and skillfully executed comparative language vividly paints this story in a such a way I didn't think possible, being both impactful and exceedingly amusing. The narrative itself is told through the eyes of Nenn, giving it a strong voice, projecting a firsthand account of the action, and perfectly immersing you in the many misadventures they face along their journeys. She's a sassy and sarcastic badass, and the tone of the tale reflects this. In addition to the main storyline, crafted myths are injected to add depth and history in interesting and entertaining ways - the tale of the goblin king is quite possibly the most beautifully written little yarn I've ever read.
He did not weep though the ground doubled and trebled before him and the carmine drops on his blade blurred to the point of blossoming into petals.
The story itself is broken up into three parts, each their own little adventure, but tied together throughout. Whether we're celebrating St. Cruciatus Day in the flooded streets of Midian, hiding away in a little hamlet under the boot of religious oppression, ascending the dominating onyx tower in the bustling center of Orlecht, or just sailing our way downriver, there's no shortage of interesting settings, strange enemies, or trouble to encounter. Although part one is the largest of the three and mainly focuses on events in one city, parts two and three are definitely a build-up for a grander story to (hopefully!) be addressed in future Cord & Co. books.

River of Thieves is one of the most entertaining reads I've read this year, and I cannot express enough how much I've fallen in love with these amazing characters. To me, this is a bit of a deranged retelling of Robin Hood - punish the rich…and also everyone else - done in such an exceptional way, using ridiculous(ly funny) pop culture references, pitch black humor, and unwavering emotion. I had so much fun reading this and am really looking forward to spending more time with the gang in the future. This book has a little bit of something for everyone, so you should definitely pick it up and give it a try. I highly recommend.

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