Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids - Michael McClung

   2012; 231 pages.  Book 1 (out of 4) of the “Amra Thetys” series.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Dark Fantasy; Crime Mystery.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    There’s honor among thieves.  Camaraderie too.  So when Amra’s fellow thief Corbin asks a small favor of her, it is not unreasonable to accept.

    It’s such an easy thing, too.  Just hang on to a piece of stolen loot, a small statue of an ugly-looking  toad for a couple hours, while Corbin finalizes his getting paid for his service.  It seems he doesn’t entirely trust his client, and wants to hold back this key item as “life insurance”.

    Amra obliges, but unfortunately Corbin’s ploy doesn’t work.  He’s brutally murdered that very night.  Still, since nobody knows what Corbin did with the statue, Amra’s safe, right?

    Hmm.  Then why did a dreaded shape-changer try to break into her room soon afterward, and who sent the beast?

What’s To Like...
    The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids is a fantasy novel set in a city called Lucernis.  The protagonist is Amra Theys, is a young female thief, well respected for her burglary skills.  The sub-genre falls under musket-&-magic.  You’ll run across  bloodwitches, daemonists, shape changers, grohls, and mages, but no elves, dwarves, or unicorns.  There are also a slew of gods, each with their own temple and followers.  I liked the theological setup in the world-building here.

    There’s no Thieves’ Guild per se, such as is found in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, but there are similarities.  Thieves can be hired via a “fixer”, a go-between who determines the price of a job and what percent of that sum the thief is entitled to.

    This is a dark book, with lots of violence and bloodshed; balanced by lots of magic, and I mean that as a plus.  The cussing is a mixture of familiar epithets and citing various body parts of the myriad gods, such as “Kerf’s balls!” and “Isin’s creamy tits!”  I thought these inventive invectives were great.

    The story is told from a first-person POV (Amra’s), and Michael McClung develops some fascinating supporting characters.  I particularly liked the mage Holgren, the detective Kluge, Lord Osskil, and of course, the dog Bone.  The baddies are capable foes.

    Everything builds to a suitably-exciting ending, which also sets up the next book in the series.  This is a standalone, self-contained story, and that’s important for me.  The book’s title comes from a brief description of Amra at 69%; and I like all the other titles in this series.

Kewlest New Word…
Ensorcelled (adj.) : enchanted, fascinated, bewitched.
Others : Moil (n.).

    “I think I know you well enough to say that you’re wrong.  It’s become fairly plain that you, Amra Thetys, given the choice between fighting and capitulating, will pick a fight every damned time.”
    “So you’re saying I’m stubborn.”
    “Oh, yes, very much so.  Contrary as well.”
    “No I’m not.”
    “Don’t look now, but you’re being stubborn.  And contrary.”
    “I know you are, but what am I?”  (loc. 2881)

   “I don’t doubt you have the Sight.  But I’d make a distinction between seeing the future, however cloudily, and knowing what fate has in store for someone.  If fate even exists.”
    “Oh, it does, though I won’t bother trying to convince you of the fact.  But you are right in believing seeing the future isn’t the same as knowing what fate has in store.”
    “I wouldn’t have expected you to agree.”
    She shrugged her thin shoulders.  “To see the future is to see the likeliest route of a journey.  To know fate, my dear, is to know the destination.”  (loc. 3196)

Kindle Details...
    The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids sells for $0.99 at Amazon.  The other three books in the series all sell for $3.99 apiece.  You can also buy the whole series in a bundle for $12.96 which, if my math is correct, saves you absolutely nothing.  Michael McClung has two other e-books available, a short story collection (horror tales) for $3.99, and the first book in a new series (“Tarot Quest”) for $2.99.

 One of the privileges of being a mage, I suppose, is that you can be as strange as you like, and nobody dares comment.  (loc. 739)
    The quibbles are minor.  The action aspect of The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids is excellent, but the murder-mystery part is so-so and not very twisty.  The fantasy elements are great, but the setting is pretty much limited to the city of Lucernis.  However, I imagine the geography expands as the series progresses.

    The last 7% of the e-book is details the history, magic system, and god-&-critters list of Amra’s world.  This avoids a lot of tedious backstory telling, but I was content to just skim through it.  I didn’t feel hamstrung by not knowing all these details as I read the book, but I can see where other readers/reviewers would want this section if it weren't there.

    But I pick at nits.  TTWPoTB had a brisk pace, which kept me turning the pages.  Book 2, The Thief Who Spat In Luck’s Good Eye is on my Kindle, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    8 Stars.

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