I’ve read one other book written by this author and enjoyed myself, so when I saw this one go on sale, and the fact that it had an audiobook to accompany it, I gave it a try.
I think this book would most appeal to those who enjoy both the child-thief trope as well as training sequences and story-arcs. This story is essentially the coming of age story of Viola, who was sold by her father to the Night Guild to pay off his debts. The Night Guild is a huge umbrella for different sects of thieves that all work together and have their own niches in society – The Hawks take to the rooftops, the Foxes are on the streets, the Bears are the enforcers, the Grubbers are the beggars and handicapped, the Scorpions are assassins and so on. In order to make it to be one of those members, though, the training is brutal and many don’t make it.
Viola is stripped of her name and assigned the number 7 in her first bout of training as a new ‘recruit’. She’s forced into meaningless and hard physical labor, starved, beaten, and picked on since she’s one of the smaller recruits since she’s a girl and most are boys. As she works her way up she’s faced with different challenges, she’s recruited into the Hawks since she’s light on her feet and put through a different set of vigorous and dangerous tests of skill. These guild members don’t have immunity from the law, they haven’t successfully bought their way out of trouble by bribing the guards, if she gets caught, she hangs.
She has a bully that follows her throughout her storyline and it gets more outrageous and extravegant as the book progresses. Her bully becomes stronger and gets more powerful as he’s recruited into the Bears and uses his House members as backup to constantly give Viola, now named Alana, a ton of shit. Honestly, by the time this arc came to its conclusion I was a little sick to my stomach, things take a very dark turn, and then a darker turn… and then a darker turn. The book progressively gets more bleak as Alana loses people she cares about, gets the ever loving shit beat out of her and more shit along the way it became… a little much for me.
This is a low magic low fantasy kind of world, there’s really not much in the way of a magic sytem at all, it’s more of a Lies of Locke Lamora kind of feel with a rough city with rougher citizens and a gang of orphaned children being trained as thieves. I would have liked to have seen a little more of the world outside of the guild, this must be a huge city to support so many thieves of so many different kinds and still have a functional economy and society. I really would have liked to have known more about this enormous tower and the madman who lives inside it, it didn’t come into play until later on in the story and I think it would have had more impact had it been a part of the story the entire time.
The writing was very fast paced, there was almost always something happening to keep you going, and there were flashbacks/dream sequences to give you an idea of who Alana was before she was taken into the Night Guild. The writing style also sped things along, there was not a ton of time spent on descriptions or time spent on scene building. The prose got out of the way of the story and kept things moving.
This read like a backstory to a big character in another series – and given the series name is Queen of the Night Guild, that makes sense. There aren’t many women in the Night Guild, it’s not unheard of, Alana isn’t the first – but she’s one of the few. She also wants to change things for the better, at her core, she’s a decent person despite the fact that she’s a thief.
I felt like the audio was well done, I hadn’t listened to this particular narrator before but if I saw her narrate something else I would definitely pick it up.
Overall, I think this will appeal to people who like character focused stories as this was a coming of age story that very much so focused on how a young girl went on to be a major player in a dangerous organization.
- Plot: 11/15
- Character: 12/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 12.5/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6/10