This fantasy, heist caper gets much right as it careens toward a precarious resolution. Like a blend of the movie Ocean’s Eleven, television’s The A Team and Scott Lynch‘s excellent The Lies of Locke Lamora, this rollicking tale sees Cyriana, already with a price on her head from the start, gathering her misfit bickering crew: a forger, a pickpocket, a false-face, a sword-for-hire, a picklock, and a tag-a-long with total recall. The scheme is to rob the previously impenetrable university tower library known as Starwatch for a single scroll among myriads. If only literacy wasn’t an addition hurdle for the presumptuous thieves, but alas–
Also included is the prequel short story, “Backlash,” which shows Cyriana’s previous caper with pickpocket, Aelina, that ends with her getting the price put on her head. Deftly weaving this tale into the larger novel along with some of the other character history would have been a nice touch. But instead, the novel serves much sassy repartee representing the long associations of some of the characters veering this romp more toward A Team than Lynch. As one adversary astutely worded it:
“Does this banter typically charm others? Or endear you to those who might otherwise be hostile? Because in my limited experience I find your quips wearying.”
But charm you, they will in the end.