Friday, June 7, 2013

eBook Review: Magic of Thieves

In a province where magic is forbidden and its possessors are murdered by the cruel Praetor, young Ilan, born with the powerful gift of her ancestors, has only one hope for survival. Concealment. In the shadow of Dimmingwood, she finds temporary protection with a band of forest brigands led by the infamous outlaw Rideon the Red Hand.

But as Ilan matures, learns the skills of survival, and struggles to master the inherent magic of her dying race, danger is always close behind. When old enemies reappear and new friendships lead to betrayal, will her discovery of an enchanted bow prove to be Ilan’s final salvation or her ultimate downfall?

** spoiler alert ** **I'll warn you now, there's character development spoilers, but not actual story spoilers**

This was more of a 2.5 for me. Like some other reviewers I found it hard to connect with Ilan. While Greenwood does a good job setting the world, she makes the main character so unbelievably unlikeable.

Its not that Ilan spent a lot of time bemoaning the fact her parents died horribly--other than a few throw away mentions of nightmares involving her parents she doesn't seem that disturbed by it. Nor does she complain about the life as an outlaw in a (steadily growing more) infamous band of thieves. Instead she complains that her guardian, Brig, is being too protective. That she's never allowed to go out on the 'fun' (the raiding of travelers). That no one recognizes her worth. Or that in a land where people were butchered wholesale because of their magic she has no one to talk to about it.

Add to it the outright ingratitude she shows at times towards Brig and the malicious glee she seemed to take in treating Terrac like dirt, I couldn't figure out what exactly was so commendable.

She didn't have a BAD life. Despite the fact she was the youngest in a band of all men--men who turned to thieving, but had few other vices--her life wasn't that hard. She ran errands, did chores and was in general protected almost like a mascot. Their leader, Rideon the Red Hand (or the Hand for short) wasn't exactly a cruel man--he just had total indifference to everyone (possibly including himself). He cared for the results. He took calculated risks and had very few hardfast rules (don't injure folk unnecessarily, don't kill them if at all possible, don't give away our secrets) and adapted to changes to teach others a lesson.

All things considered things could have gone A LOT worse for Ilan. Death, slavery or worse could have occurred, but she's caught up in her own little problems. Which on the one hand makes sense (I think she's maybe 15 by the end of the book?) because she's a teenager, but on the other was just frustrating.

Many of the other characters took my focus moreso. Brig--who's wife took their children and left him when he took to thieving, Dradac--who seemed half philosopher when he spoke, Terrac--the would be priest boy who struggles to adhere to the path he wanted, Rideon--what drove him to this life and kept him going and later Hadrian--another priest that Ilan runs afoul of who gives her a lot to think about. I wanted to know more about them, but Greenwood treated them as carelessly as Rideon treated his men's lives.

Also, and this is a problem I seem to be having more often in fantasy, We're told about the atrocities the Praetor commits (and those that commit it in his name). Endlessly. From both Ilan and Rideon, as well as several others. Yet we're not actually told why. Why did he target the magickers? Why is Rideon so bent on creating issues for him? Why why why. There's another two books currently out (Book 2: Betrayal of Thieves & Book 3: Circle of Thieves), with a fourth due out soon so I imagine some of these questions may be answered.

I hope.

But as it stands right now I'm far less satisfied then I had hoped I would be.