The Theif Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung

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I’m starting to go through all of the finalists from previous years, and I’ll probably be checking out many of the semi-finalists as well. This book won the first SPFBO contest with a respectable final score of an 8/10 from all of the bloggers so I was very eager to get started on this one. I actually read this one way back in March I think, but I’m just now getting around to the review. I listened to it on audiobook, and it was pretty decent if I recall.

It starts out with a woman being visited by an old friend named Corbin, this is a guy that gets himself into trouble since he’s a professional thief. He asks her if she can hold onto a statue for just a little while, and that he will come back and get it after his ‘meeting’ with a client. He tells her that if he doesn’t come back within a day that he is likely dead and that she can keep the statue he gave her, but to also please look after his dog. That’s rather ominous, and he does indeed wind up cut to pieces. The police are looking at Amra as a possible suspect since she went to check in on her friend and found him dead just outside his house and was still there when they arrived.

The detective is a mage, and pretty smart and intuitive – he knows that she didn’t kill him, but he also sees right through her carefully laid lies and knows that she’s holding back information. He puts a tracking spell on her, which she figures out because she’s also not an idiot. These two play mind games with each other and it was one of my favorite parts of the book. Amra has to find a way to clear her name, find out who really killed her friend, and stay alive while the finds out what’s so valuable about this stupid frog statue. She turns to help from an old mage who takes both the tracking spell and the dog from her to her great relief, she’s not really a dog person. She turns to an older mage for help, one with a well-known reputation and he agreed he would look into the statue’s origins and value while she figures out how to shake the cops from her tail, as well as track down a well connected and hidden crime syndicate that was responsible for her friend’s death.

I liked her character, she wasn’t exactly a noble bright character, Amra is also a thief and would be considered by many to have a tenuous grasp on morals – but she had sympathy and loyalty enough to care about her friends and keep promises she made to them.

Mages in this world are pretty removed from the general populous, people give them a wide birth and they can be very dangerous. Their power source is rumored to be draining, however, and they are one of the more rare types of magic users. Bloodwitches tend to be more common, and one stopped Amra in the street and went into a prophetic trance and told her about an “8 fold bitch” that’s going to cause trouble in the future. It was pretty creepy but there wasn’t a ton of magic in this book. It’s definitely high fantasy and magic is there, but if you want something in between low fantasy and magic packed fantasy this is that kind of book. There’s a third type of magic user, and I read it so long ago I can’t remember if they were really called necromancers or not – but they tend to try and open the gates to hell, so they’re hunted down and arrested or executed.

The tone for this wasn’t dark, but it wasn’t exactly light either, it was more on the adventurous/mysterious side of things. I liked the writing, this isn’t a long book and the writing was clean and quick so I read/listened to it in one sitting. I don’t recall anything standing out as awkward or confusing and since it’s single POV it’s easy to follow the story.

Overall I liked it, I thought the world building was neat and the characters were enjoyable to read about. The audiobook was decent as well, I hadn’t listened to anything narrated by her before, and audiobooks for indie’s can be hit or miss so it was nice to hit a good one.


  • female pov
  • thief pov
  • high fantasy
  • single pov
  • ancient artifacts of mysterious powers
  • mages, witches, necromancers
  • fast reads/shorter books
  • audiobooks


  • Plot: 11.25/15
  • Characters: 11/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 12/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7.5/10

Final Score: 76.75/100 – 3.83/5 stars on GR – recommended!



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