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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It Takes A Thief To Start A Fire by Rob J. Hayes (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order It Takes A Thief To Start A Fire here (USA) and here (UK)
Get It Takes A Thief To Catch A Sunrise for FREE HERE (USA) and HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of It Takes A Thief To Catch A Sunrise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Heresy Within
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Colour Of Vengeance
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Price Of Faith
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic trilogy completion interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read A Game of ̶T̶h̶r̶o̶n̶e̶s̶ Death by Rob J. Hayes (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey. Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Following hot on the heels of the events of It Takes a Thief To Catch a Sunrise, ...To Start a Fire sees Jacques Revou and Isabel de Rosier adapting to life in Great Turlain while competing against murderous fences, shadowy secret police, and a group of thieves who can control the very elements.

We started our lives together with barely a coin to our name. We have won fortunes and lost them. We have stolen the un-stealable, survived plots and schemes determined to see us fall, and saved a Queen from certain death."

"But sometimes a fresh start is exactly what is needed and here we can have just that. Free from devious machinations and troublesome reputations alike. Here we can go back to our roots."

"A good thief gets out without being caught. A great thief makes it look as though they were never there. But we are neither good, nor great. We are the best.”

FORMAT/INFO: It Takes A Thief To Start a Fire is divided into thirty-five chapters and an epilogue. The narration is in third person omniscient via Isabel de Rosier, Jacques Revou, Ada Frost & Inspektor Tobias Breeze. This book while being the second book in the “It Takes A Thief …” series can be read as a standalone.

October 25, 2016 marks the US and UK e-book publication of It Takes A Thief To Start a Fire and is being published by the author. Cover art is by iGreeny & cover design is provided by Shawn King.

ANALYSIS: When I first read It Takes A Thief To Catch A Sunrise, Rob’s story about the adorable thieving couple Jacques and Isabel, was a fun read. The book introduced readers to a whole new world wherein alchemy, French steampunk and a heist plan were all rolled into one exciting plot. The story ended on a solid stopping point and even though it was deemed as a standalone. Fans and readers were clamoring for a sequel and so Rob obliged once he had a solid sequel idea.

The story opens once again with our adorable duo who are planning another heist in the neighboring Great Turlain Empire (read Germany analogue) nearly a year after the events of the first book. This time around though they don’t have anyone shadowing them or even accompanying them to make sure they do it (like in the preceding volume). However as they find out to their dismay that thieving in a different nation has its own risks and this time around they might be screwed over in a worse fashion. The series of events that follow after the most recent abysmal turn of events are deadly as they are being held accountable by a special inspektor and the person who agreed to be a fence for them. All in all Jacques and Isabel will have to dig deep to find themselves out of Great Turlain with their lives intact.

If you find the above description to be a bit vague towards the end, then don’t worry it’s on purpose. I didn’t want to spoil the first plot twist and readers will find out about it at the end of the first chapter itself. Like the first ITAT book, this one also has a twisted plotline but instead of just one faction influencing our duo’s actions, this time around there are three. We are reacquainted with Jacques and Isabel and get further insights in to their successful relationship and working style. They are both the main drivers of the story as together they make a formidable duo and it is just so much fun to read about them. The author has to be lauded for making them flawed and yet so likeable, Jacques can be a know-it-all prick & Isabel can be controlling however the beauty is that they are presented in such a manner that readers will root for them in spite of these flaws. Also rounding off the other characters, is where the author truly excels. Of particular note is a minor character, who remains unnamed and is only referred to as Gunter’s mother, who with just one appearance steals the show so much so that I’m hoping we get a novella or side story about her.

Rounding up the POV character list is Inspektor Tobias Breeze who is as inscrutable as they come and proves to be a worthy adversary to our beloved duo. What I enjoyed about his was that, he’s a closed book to the readers and characters and we only get tiny hints about what his true thoughts are. I hope the author considers going the Tana French route and giving us a story via Tobias or Gunter’s mother. Like the first book, there are multiple plot twists involved and the story does have a quick pace to it. However unlike the first book, there’s a lull in the middle portion of the book as certain events play out. The pace picks up again and we are back to an action-packed, magically enhanced finale.

Following on the pattern of flashbacks from the first book, we get similar flashbacks in this volume as well however they aren’t as far reaching in to the past as was the case with the first book. We are mainly given a look into the time period between the two books and we see how the current events have come to be. Lastly the first book dealt with spycraft, misdirection and subterfuge. While the subterfuge follows in this volume too, there’s an enhanced focus on magic and especially manipulation of the elements. Previously the story focused on Sassaille (France facsimile) & we got to see the cultureal norms and behaviour over there. With this book, we get its neighboring kingdom of Great Turlain & its intricacies (Think Germany but with magic). There's a stark contrast drawn between these two nations beginning with the acceptance of magic in one and the spread of science in the other. There's also other minute differences highlighted such as naming conventions, and simply drinking habits such as tea vs coffee. This was an interesting aspect of the story that each book highlights a different nation, culture while providing an action-packed storyline.

I’ve been enjoying these escapades and the exploration of these vivid but different cultures, however they don’t go quite deep for plot expediency reasons. One of the things that detracts from this volume is that it doesn’t quite mention what’s happening in neighboring Sassaille especially after the events of the epilogue in It Takes A Thief To Catch A Sunrise (currently available for free on Amazon & Amazon UK) . While this helps with the standalone nature of the story, folks like me might feel a bit cut off. The author also talks about the standalone nature of this series in this guest piece. Last but not the least this is a personal request but I very much enjoyed Franseza Goy in the preceding volume and I hope the author decides to bring her back for the third volume as she’s too great a character for a one-off appearance.

CONCLUSION: It Takes A Thief To Start A Fire is a solid sequel and a fun, story about a pair of intrepid thieves who are forced to adept to their unfortunate circumstances. Those who love a good heist story should really enjoy this one as there’s a big twist on the heist trope and there’s also some cool magic involved. Rob J. Hayes certainly proves that he’s no one trick pony with grimdark fantasy & you can add caper fantasy to his ever growing list of genres he’s successfully tackled.



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