I’ve read The Eagle’s Flight by Daniel Olesen which was a very detailed historical fantasy with incredible world building. I was sort of expecting the same thing going into this one, but what I got was more of a thief/heist book with a lot of humor in it. I always click well with books that make me chuckle from time to time, so when I got my first laugh out loud moment in the first chapter, I knew I was going to like this one.
It was purely a case of ill luck that saw him currently incarcerated in the Finger. He had done everything right. Among decent folk, it was called the Tower of Justice. Among the indecent, it was named after what it resembled, a giant middle finger sticking out of the ground.
Jawad is a smartass and a thief, after a heist goes awry he found himself in prison, waiting for his hand to be cut off as a punishment. Instead, he’s released from jail and was “hired” (more like involuntarily volunteered) by a very rich merchant to find the Prince of Cats – the ‘king’ of thieves. The Prince of Cats has been raiding the merchant’s warehouses and it’s cost him a fair amount of money and goods. He wants The Prince of Cats stopped. The line of logic here is that a thief can catch a thief. This new employer of Jawad’s is a fickle one and threatens Jawad’s life a number of times to ensure his cooperation. The merchant also assigned him a bodyguard, a man named Salah who is as dry as it gets. People who follow my reviews know that odd couples amuse me to no end, it’s one of my favorite tropes, and it’s been a while since I’ve read a good one. Where Jawad is sarcastic and verbose, Salah is dry and to the point. Where Jawad is more “cowardly”, Salah is brave. Where Jawad is typically disingenuous, Salah is honorable and honest. The two of these guys make for some awesome banter and I enjoyed watching them try and coexist without killing each other. I loved it more as they start to have a begrudging ‘friendship’ budding between them, Salah even tries to help Jawad a number of times knowing it was a risk to his own reputation. However, having a bodyguard hinders Jawad’s ability to overhear crucial conversations and get the right information out of people, so he constantly tries to slip his chaperone.
As his employer’s paranoia starts to rise, Jawad’s standing is getting more and more precarious, just wrong step away from imprisonment or death. He has to find out who the Prince of Cats is, and how to stop him before it’s too late.
To complicate things a bit, Jawad starts to get a crush on the merchant’s daughter, Zaida. She’s unusual for her ‘class’ since she works for her father keeping ledgers even though it’s not required, instead of lounging around as is her right. She’s also very diligent and intelligent, taking on intellectual projects like mapping the stars to help researchers in the north. She seems to be one of the few that ever gave any respect to Jawad, which goes a long way in his book. I really liked her and I got behind this pretty adorable romance.
It’s not a book that relies a lot on magic or fantasy creatures, but I didn’t even notice that until I was about 20% along, I was enjoying myself just fine without it. This had an Aladin vibe to it, given the Arabic setting coupled with Jawad, the loveable “street rat”. So, although I tend to prefer books with lots of magic, lots of fantasy elements, and stuff like dragons – I thoroughly enjoyed this more ‘low fantasy’ kind of book.
The pacing was excellent, it’s a shorter book and there wasn’t any meandering or overly descriptive passages – everything was relevant to the plot or character development which sped things along very quickly. Although the pacing was quick, I didn’t find it to be rushed. One of my biggest pet peeves is rushing a romance, or rushing the conclusion, which usually makes me feel like something was missing or things were going “too smoothly” for the character. There was a lot of character development, relationship development, and other essential plot points that were well explained and presented. While not being overly descriptive, I felt like the world was vivid and colorful – and I always appreciate a deviation from middle-aged euro-centric settings (although I enjoy those too, it’s nice to take a break).
I think what made this click for me was the overall tone – it was light-hearted despite the dire straits the character found himself in from time to time. Not only was Jawad a quick-witted character, the ‘narration’ itself had humor in it and kept things highly entertaining.
- non western setting (arabic)
- single pov
- third person writing
- humor/light hearted
- fast paced shorter books
- thief/heist stories
- Plotting: 12.75/15
- Characters: 13/15
- World Building: 12.5/15
- Writing: 12.5/15
- Pacing: 13.5/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8.25/10
Final Score: 83.5/100 = 4.5/5 – highly recommended!