Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Review: Among Thieves (A Tale of the Kin), by Douglas Hulick

Among Thieves is a fantasy story, set in the fictional city of Ildrecca. Slightly unusually it’s written in the first person and focuses entirely upon Drothe, a member of the underworld, known as Kin.

Drothe’s had a problem with delivery of a relic, and then his day goes from bad to worse when the worst hellhole in the city is plunged into an underworld conflict. Aided by blind luck, night vision and his ally Bronze Degan, Drothe tries to unravel the reasons behind the conflict before there’s an outright war and the empire’s enforcers go for the jugular of the criminal fraternity to restore peace.

It’s a pretty gritty read, but Mr. Hulick doesn’t overdo it. Ildrecca is done in enough detail (separate criminal cordons, some mention of imperial history and the foreign Djan etc) to be interesting without info-dumping all over the place. Exposition is generally concise, and the action is commonplace and frequently bloody. By chance, it’s (in those regards) almost the exact opposite of Tigana, which I finished reading a few days earlier and also liked a lot.

There’s zero romance (the closest Drothe has to a relationship is his possibly mariticidal sister), and magic plays an important role (both in terms of story and action).

I raced through the book. In fact, now I come to think of it, I only bought it two days ago. The moral ambiguity of keeping promises or breaking them to protect people, lashings of blood and criminal shenanigans kept me thoroughly entertained. I also enjoyed reading about the history of the empire and the creative approach the author took towards the emperor.

My only real complaint is that Mr. Hulick has yet to write another book, though his next (Sworn in Steel) is due out in June.


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