Even amongst all of this spring’s hyped titles - and there have been quite a few - Douglas Hulick’s surprising debut, Among Thieves has been able to draw a favorable amount of attention. In fact it quickly became one of the most anticipated debuts amongst SFF bloggers, including myself. Being sold as something of a cross between Brent Weeks and Scott Lynch, Among Thieves had a lot to live up to. Certainly, Hulick’s first draws easy comparisons to the works of Lynch and Weeks, but it is very much its own beast, and a quality one at that.
There is no honor among thieves...
Ildrecca is a dangerous city, if you don’t know what you’re doing. It takes a canny hand and a wary eye to run these streets and survive. Fortunately, Drothe has both. He has been a member of the King for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers from the dirtiest of alleys o the finest of neighborhoods. Working for a crime lord, he finds and takes care of trouble inside his boss’s organization - while smuggling relics on the side.
But when his boss orders Drothe to track down whoever is leaning on his organization’s people. He stumbles upon a much bigger mystery. There’s a book, a relic any number of deadly people seem to be looking for - a book that just might bring down emperors and shatter the criminal underworld.
A book now inconveniently in Drothe’s hands...
Set in the atmospheric city of Ildrecca - imperial capital and wild criminal playground - Among Thieves, though a part of the ‘Tales of the Kin’ is really more Drothe’s tale. Told exclusively from his (first person) point of view, the story is an exciting one in the style of the best assassin/thief fantasies out there. We’ve been here before numerous times with the likes of Sprunk, Weeks, Buchanan or Lynch, but now Hulick is here to add his own distinctive voice to the lot. Ildrecca has it’s own particularities: a reincarnating emperor, its very own original magic system and the prolific - yet divided - Kin, to name but a few.
Since it is his story, Among Thieves greatly benefits from having a strong protagonist in Drothe. He is a ‘Nose’ - an intelligence collector - for a major thief and Ildrecca. But Drothe likes to play a risky game and so has the tendency to get himself into more trouble than absolutely necessary. Drothe is a character with a past, and it is conflicted - he has strenuous ties with multiple personalities and these ties play directly into the book’s conflicts - but he also radiates a certain confidence, experience and knowledge of his work. More importantly perhaps, Drothe also posses a sharp tongue and slightly cynical sense of humor, which helps alleviate tension in some scenes and renders some of the dialogue more interesting.
Hulick proves himself a deft plotter, weaving plot threads this way and that before bringing them all back to a very satisfying and self-contained conclusion. Furthermore the story he tells in Among Thieves is a joy to follow. Watching Drothe battle the seemingly unsurmountable forces of the criminal underworld is riveting. At shallow level, Among Thieves serves up plenty of well-written action, intrigue and excitement but Hulick goes further by fleshing out all of his characters. In this way, Drothe because a much more flawed character full of contradictions - there are times where he simultaneously displays genuine naivety and experience. Also, though we root for him all along, Drothe is in fact more of an anti-hero what with him being a criminal and killing people and robbing people and... you get the point, I think.
Though things get wrapped up rather nicely at the end of the novel, there is very much a sense that this is only the first of multiple chapters in Drothe’s story, and indeed it is as Among Thieves is only the first of Hulick’s ‘Tales of the Kin.’ Some of the developments in literally the last pages of the novel suggests some very big things for Drothe and any forthcoming novels.
In essence, Douglas Hulick’s debut is a mouth-watering beginning to an all new thief-fantasy. Drothe, his companions, and their tale manage to be both familiar and evocative of other fantasies that came before them while forging their very own identity. This unrelenting, action-charged novel goes far in building anticipation for its sequels while maintaining a high level of quality as a standalone. The characters will charm you, captivate you and amuse you. The prose and plotting a realized as that of few debuts hard and I’m coming up short on finding any true faults with this novel. In short: read this book.
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 15 and up
Douglas Hulick's Website: http://www.douglashulick.com/
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