Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
I forget when or how I came upon this book, but looking back, I sadly wish that I’d passed it by; I put it on hold at the library to have another queer fantasy book to read, but I ended up finishing it in about an hour feeling sorely disappointed. The reviews promised Six of Crows but gayer (of course you have my attention), but what I read ended up being a shameless Six of Crows ripoff.
Enjoy this week’s review!
Ryia Cautella is an infamous assassin, earning the name of The Butcher with her axe-wielding tactics. What she hides, however, is her past; after narrowly escaping the Guildmaster, the tyrant ruler of her kingdom, he and his lackeys have been searching all over the city of Callowwick for her. The only way out is to find her way into the Guildmaster’s highly fortified stronghold, and it’s a job she can’t do alone. With the help of Cal Clem, the head of a failing crime syndicate, and a band of criminals and misfits, Ryia may finally have a chance at freedom. But will her search for freedom cost Ryia her life?
TW/CW: slavery, violence, dismemberment, mentions of branding
I’ve noticed a trend over the past few years with YA; after the dystopian craze (mostly) blew over, fantasy heist books in the vein of Six of Crows started becoming far more popular. Unlike a lot of the dystopian books that came after books like The Hunger Games, however, the fantasy heist trend actually produced plenty of really fun, memorable books with a lot of originality. However, with every book trend, there come books that are obvious, blatant ripoffs of their inspiration. I hate to say it, but Among Thieves is one of them.
Now, I try to preface my negative reviews with this: I 100% understand how hard it is to put yourself out there into the book world. And there’s some slack I’m willing to give Among Thieves since it appears to be M.J. Kuhn’s debut novel.
That being said…all I can really say about Among Thieves is that it’s basically a Walmart version of Six of Crows.
Soon after the book started, I noticed all the pieces falling into place for a vague Six of Crows ripoff; apart from a little gender-swapping, most of the characters were nearly carbon copies of the iconic characters from Six of Crows; the only major difference I found was that there was a sapphic romance (sort of?) between Ryia (Inej, basically) and a gender-swapped version of Wylan (Evelyn), and that Cal (Kaz) just stood there on the sidelines. Otherwise, it was almost offensive how much these characters were almost carbon-copies of SoC characters—most notably Ivan, who was so, so similar to Matthias that it nearly gave me a headache. Same appearance, same vaguely-Northern/Western-European fantasy background, same personality…the only difference was that he was a forger. That was it. It’s always great if you take inspiration from certain books when you create your book—in fact, it’s impossible not to take some inspiration from something—but if it becomes as blatant as a ripoff as this, it’s just a steaming, unoriginal pile of garbage.
Nothing made much sense after Cal and Ryia assembled their crew. Granted, as soon as I saw how ripped-off the characters were, I started to lose faith in everything else. That being said, most of the heist made little to no sense, and the progression just felt like being tossed around to random places with seemingly no sense or purpose. They’re trying to break into this stronghold, and…now they’re in a prizefighting ring? Now they’re at sea again? It just felt like “now we’re in an airplane!” kind of nonsensical plot progression without any rhyme or reason.
As for what the reviews described as “Six of Crows but gayer,” I felt…more than a little let down. There was sapphic representation (sort of a will-they-won’t-they romance between Evelyn and Ryia), but they seemed to be the only queer characters. I would’ve liked it more if I was more invested in the characters, but it was…just alright. Nothing groundbreaking, and it wasn’t exactly “gayer” than SoC, since it had the exact same amount of queer rep that SoC did. I love sapphic fantasy any day, but it left me wanting a lot more. Most of the book did, really.
All in all, a half-baked ripoff of Six of Crows that seemed far too obvious for its own good. I slapped on a half star to my rating since Kuhn’s writing style had moments of being good, but that’s about all of the positives I can think of for this book. 1.5 stars.
Among Thieves is M.J. Kuhn’s debut novel, and the first novel in the Thieves series, followed by the forthcoming Thick as Thieves, slated to be published in 2023.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!