Title: A Thief in the Night
Series: Ancient Blades Trilogy (2)
Publisher: HarperCollins (2011)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Circumstance made him a criminal. Destiny may make him a hero.
As a thief, Malden is unparalleled in the Free City of Ness, and happy there. But by saving the life of the knight Croy, Malden has bound himself to an ancient, noble brotherhood . . . and he now possesses one of only seven Ancient Blades capable of destroying demons.
Malden fears accompanying Croy and the barbarian MÖrget on their quest to dispatch a foul creature of nightmare . . . nor does he want to disturb the vengeful dead. But with an assassin on his heels, the young cutpurse is left with no choice. And there is the comely sorceress, Cythera, to consider— promised to Croy but in love with Malden—not to mention the fabulous treasure rumored to be hidden in the depths of the demon’s lair . . .” GoodReads’ blurb.
I have said somewhere else that I’m a fan of the most classical epic fantasy. Books like A Thief in the Night are the reason: reading them feels like coming back home after a long and weary day.
Admittedly, the plot might not be the most original one I’ve ever come across: there’s a brotherhood of sorts between wielded of demon-killing swords, one of them seeks out another wielder, they bond at once and pack it off to adventuring land.
The characters might even be slightly stereotypical: the barbarian, the knight the thief, the dwarf and the female. Both barbarian and knight keep up with expectations, for the most part.
On the other hand, the thief, who is the main character as well as someone who could care less about demon-slaying and who is landed in the whole venture while trying to save his own hide, was quite likeable. Malden never wanted to be a hero, which is a pretty common trait for real heroes, by the way. What he wanted to do... is to steal the girl from his reported best friend! Who can not like him, just on that premise? And when the friend in question results to be the knight, well... I was in.
The fact that the girl kept saying that she didn’t love him and that she was so going to marry the knight only made it better, because I like my heroes to suffer a little (insert evil smile here).
But still. Malden didn’t join the expedition for love. He joined because someone else was trying to kill him, and as it turns out Malden was not the most skilled rogue in town – this mystery killer has the upper hand. Putting a good distance between death and his running back only seemed wise, and I did not complain at all when it put him in position to wreak havoc with the emotional life of the knight.
Sorry. As a rule of thumb, I don’t like knights, even though Sir Croy read more than decently.
I haven’t accounted for the dwarf: amusingly enough, he’s not a warrior. He’s not a warrior, because Dwarves have signed a treaty wherein they are forbidden to so much as touch a weapon. They can be artisans and merchants, but they can’t fight – at least, not in direct confrontation. They can very well place a trap, and if someone happens to be damaged along the way, oh well, their loss.
And that takes us to what did make A Thief in the Night a more than original read, if anything else: not just the love triangle, not just the headstrong girl and chauvinistic knight and cranky thief, but the worldbuilding.
Humans appearing out of no-where and invading a land populated by Elves and Dwarves, and stomping all over the place, is a somewhat accepted vision.
That the elves are considered evil and treacherous, and that they have been killed in a genocide hundred of years before while humans warred against them, now.... that’s another thing.
That dwarves would be allies with the elves, until they switched and had to suffer the penalty of never ever touching a weapon again, now... that is original stuff.
And the fact that the history of the world as I’ve just told you (and as you believe from the beginning) is utter bogus was the perfect twist.
The last third of the book meticulously picks everything you think you know apart. Evil and good get mixed around in what we could call “the mechanics of war”. Events that have been forgotten, and rewritten by the winning side, are uncovered. Even the Lady Sir Croy worships gains a dark twist as the author hints at who this Lady was.
This part was great, and I loved to read it, but it’s also the one to blame for my overall feelings in regards to this one: there are too many things without answer. Too many issues that need to be addressed, and while I understand that this is a trilogy and that the next book, Honor Among Thieves, is coming out right away... Well, depending on how the author handles those issues things can soar or go sour, pretty hard and pretty fast. For example, I need to know who wanted to kill Malden and why. And I need to know what will happen now that the barrier of Vincularium is down and all of its secrets are there, for the world to see? We will meet our friend the barbarian again, and I’d like to know how that one goes over. The importance of this issues should be obvious in all cases, but it is specially big in a novel with the plot and worldbuilding of A Thief in the Night, although I can’t say anything more without seriously spoiling the whole thing.
So, for now, I’m just going to say that this book was highly enjoyable, that I really liked Malden’s character (and his dialogue!) and that the romance was not only... romantic, but also better, more developed and more entertaining than I’m used to. I will wait till I read Honor Among Thieves to proclaim it as a must-read, though, because I’m kind of scared....