Book: “An Illusion of Thieves” by Cate Glass
Publication Info: Tor Books, May 2019
Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley
Book Description: In Cantagna, being a sorcerer is a death sentence.
Romy escapes her hardscrabble upbringing when she becomes courtesan to the Shadow Lord, a revolutionary noble who brings laws and comforts once reserved for the wealthy to all. When her brother, Neri, is caught thieving with the aid of magic, Romy’s aristocratic influence is the only thing that can spare his life—and the price is her banishment.
Now back in Beggar’s Ring, she has just her wits and her own long-hidden sorcery to help her and Neri survive. But when a plot to overthrow the Shadow Lord and incite civil war is uncovered, only Romy knows how to stop it. To do so, she’ll have to rely on newfound allies—a swordmaster, a silversmith, and her own thieving brother. And they’ll need the very thing that could condemn them all: magic.
Review: Cover lust! I love everything about that illustration, the vibrant colors, the style, it’s all very eye-catching and definitely served its purpose as it instantly drew me in when I was browsing through NetGalley. The description helped quite a lot as well, as I can never resist a good heist story, especially if there’s a fantasy element involved! And while my hopes were not fully met, I still enjoyed this book quite a lot in the end.
For the most part, I very much enjoyed this story. Particularly, I enjoyed the detailed take on the political and economical environment in which the story took place. I’ve read a bunch of stories where magic being illegal is a central theme, but when combined with the other world-building elements twisted into the story, it still came off as a unique take. Pacing-wise, the story could read as a big slower with many of the little details getting more attention than some readers may prefer. Likewise, the main plot often takes a backseat to smaller, character-driven moments. I can enjoy both types of fantasy stories, but those looking for a grand epic might find themselves frustrated with the lower stakes of this story.
It was also an interesting read knowing that the author plans to write the series in an episodic manner. Most fantasy series typically follow a grand arc that takes place over several books, and while smaller offshoots exist here and there, the main conflict builds and resolves through all the books, linking them closely together. I can see the stage being set for a different type of read with this book, and I’m intrigued by what Glass has in mind with this type of tale.
As for the characters, I really enjoyed Romy. She was a fun narrator and it was exciting to see her so competently put her skills to work when she finds herself back on the streets, poverty-stricken and desperate. I was also surprised to find that the story is also largely Neri’s as well. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this character. His character type, that of the young, arrogant, swagger-ridden boy-o, has some natural flaws simply built in. But those same flaws are the points around which his characterization builds, so they have to be there to see any growth.
I was also surprised to find the story lacked a romantic plot line, instead focusing on the sibling relationship between Romy and Neri a its emotional crux. I confess that I typically prefer some romance in my stories, and second best is a sister-sister relationship, but I was also drawn in by the tense relationship between Romy and Neri as they learned to get along throughout the book.
Overall, this book was an entertaining read. I felt that the plot was a bit light for me and at times the author seemed to almost lose focus on her main story, caught up in the details of her world. But the interesting characters and the slowly built up trust and respect between Romy and Neri was a point in its favor. And, again, I’ll never say no to magical heist stories!
Rating 7: A fun, lighter read with a compelling brother/sister relationship at its heart.
“An Illusion of Thieves” isn’t on any relevant Goodreads lists, but it should be on “Popular Fantasy Heist Books.”
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