This debut fantasy novel has all the things that pique my interest, starting with a motley team of rogues coming together for a daunting heist, each with their own ulterior motives and back stories that unfold as the novel progresses. There’s adventure, romance, multiracial representation and plot twists galore! So I should totally love this book, right?
Alas, reading Among Thieves felt like a chore for me for one reason alone: the pacing was godawful. All the information came in a fevered rush, there was no suspense, no build up, and all the plot twists were dropped in like anvils from heaven. When something genuinely surprised me (which it only did at the end,) I was moved so far as to raise an eyebrow and murmur, “Clever.” And that’s it! The entire reading experience was like lying down in rapidly rushing water, with a big wave at the end: pleasant but rather mindless, and extremely one note.
But, you know, some readers will dig that, and if that’s you then I’m happy for you, because here’s a book you’ll love! The premise, briefly: the port city of Carrowwick is run by its street gangs in the same way that the five kingdoms of Thamorr are run by their monarchies. The Saints, led by the ruthless and potentially mad Callum Clem, have just suffered a rather large reversal, but Callum has a plan for getting his gang back on top of the power structure. This will involve bringing together Ryia (and I really want somebody to tell me how that’s pronounced,) the assassin known as the Butcher of Carrowwick; Tristan, a light-fingered street urchin indebted to Callum; Ivan, the foreign master of disguise; Nash, the smuggler captain who styles herself the Empress of the Three Seas, and Evelyn, the disgraced former captain of the Needle Guard, the security force that patrols Carrowwick for its ruler.
And as the ruler guides the country, so does the Guildmaster rule Thamorr, due to his being the only source for the gifted warriors known as Adepts. Ofc, our team is sent on a heist to steal something extremely valuable from said Guildmaster. But since each of our rogues has their own interests at play here, will they be able to score their prize without betraying and possibly dooming each other to death or worse?
Like I said, this is an extremely fun premise, and if you like turning your brain off and going along for the ride, then you will very much enjoy this book. I just wanted so much more from the execution of it! I can 100% ignore the often juvenile humor or sudden, less than convincing changes of heart, but the unvaryingly info dump quality of the writing absolutely flattened whatever enjoyment I could find from the plot.
That said, I’m rather surprised that there’s no sequel planned for this, given how open the ending was and how it clearly wanted to tell more story. For all that I wasn’t a huge fan of the storytelling, I’m hoping M. J. Kuhn does get a shot at honing her craft and telling us more. Tho I’m also hoping that that happens without the gratuitous, jarring use of unnecessary Britishisms in an otherwise American English text. Anyway, promising writer, meh debut, definitely has loads of potential.
Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn was published September 7 2021 by Saga Press and is available from all good booksellers, including