Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Among Thieves - Douglas Hulick

Among Thieves
A Tale Of The Kin
Douglas Hulick


When you look back on it, this whole thing is really the fault of one Athel the Grinner. Who, as it happens, is definitely not grinning when we meet him. Because he’s being tortured. Because he stole a reliquary for which Drothe already had a buyer. It’s bad enough to get ripped off like that, but even worse when relic hunting is pretty much a sideline, and a deadly one at that. If the empire catches someone trading in holy relics or artifacts, that someone ends up dead. Dead is exactly what happens to Athel, too, although not via the empire. Before he expires, he gives Drothe a name: Ioclaudia, a name not used in centuries. Among Athel’s thing, Drothe finds some twisted bits of paper with ideograms on them. Those would be clues.

Drothe’s normal line of work is as a Nose, or gatherer and sorter of information. He’s one of the Kin, a loose association of individuals who work outside the law and are governed by local bosses. Drothe’s boss, Nicco, is known for his near-psychopathic temper, so Drothe hesitates to tell him about rumors floating around that another boss is attempting to make a move on him. This hesitation backfires in a big way when someone else in the organization tells Nicco first. Long story and many rumors short, it looks like there’s a war brewing in an area called Ten Ways between Nicco and his former partner, Kells. This is bad because nothing brings out the empire (and their executioners) like a war among Kin. Another little wrinkle in his day? Everyone seems to be looking for a holy book. Everyone thinks Drothe has it. No one is going to be polite about getting their hands on it.

Drothe and his friends and associates are criminals. Some more than others, true, but they’re all part of what the p.c. police would call the ‘criminal underbelly of society.’ There are definite hierarchies, and there’s a lot of politics and intrigue. The difference is, if you insult the wrong Kin the right way, you’re dead. It makes for a lot of excitement, but dicey job security. While the Kin are criminals, they have their own code of conduct. There are penalties for certain acts and a clear understanding of possible consequences if you decide to go up against someone bigger or more powerful than yourself. The bosses aren’t just guarded by swords. Some of them have glimmer: magical protection. It’s expensive, but you might feel your life is worth it.

AMONG THIEVES is a grand adventure set in a fully-realized world. The history of this world and its empire are integral to the story, and the author manages to set it all out for the reader by weaving it into the narrative. Each character has a distinct point of view and goal, and they all act according to those mindsets. Since many of them are used to using deceit, some of those goals are obscured until late in the proceedings. It all works perfectly and produces a story that has twists right up until the end. This is one of the rare books that, upon finishing, you may want to start all over again, now that you know the truth about things. Readers of fantasy who also enjoy a good dose of action – and not a little language and violence – will love this, the first installment of what I hope to be a long-running series. Highly recommended.

Rating: 8 ½
May 2011
ISBN# 978-0-451-46390-6 (paperback)


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