If The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids was grimdark-adjacent, it’s sequel THE THIEF WHO SPAT IN LUCK’S GOOD EYE felt much more like a classic heroic fantasy story with modern trappings. When the Duke of Viborg puts out an open contract for a substantial payout in return for anyone who can locate the lost and legendary city of Thagoth, where the secret of immortality is said to be found, our intrepid thief Amra Thetys agrees to accompany her mage pal Holgren on the search. Unfortunately for them the god Kerf feels like he hasn’t meddled in human affairs for a while, and now that magic has begun to leak out of the world, now is his last chance to forge the world’s final heroes, and so sets Amra and Holgren on a collision course with the Shadow King, an evil sorcerer who is also seeking the secret to immortality so that he may dominate the world under his rule.
This was a very different book to its predecessor and, except for the presence of Amra Thetys herself, it didn’t feel like their was any connective tissue between the two books at all really. I feel like McClung had an idea for a square story and tried to hammer it into the round hole of a world and character he’d already come up with, when really it should have been its own separate thing. It felt like that right from the start, where we begin in the familiar city of Lucernis, except it felt like McClung just didn’t want to write about Lucernis at all and actually couldn’t wait to get the story out of there. So we get this very clunky, rushed set-up where Holgren gives a very lifeless info dump about his own motivations for needing to find the secret of immortality, there’s some hand-waved preparation and research, which takes months of real time in the book and then BLAM they’re off to Thagoth. Now, I don’t need to see every little piece of preparation for a quest in a fantasy book, but the stuff McClung writes two sentences about here sounded so cool; he mentions how Amra has to hunt down rare and ancient texts on magical theory, maps and lost traveller’s accounts and how difficult they were to track down and how the only way she can obtain some of them is to steal them. Show me her stealing them pleeease. I want to see Amra breaking into a museum in the dead of night, or trick her way into a noble’s soiree in disguise so she can slip away and crack a safe after setting off a suitably entertaining distraction. We get none of that and unfortunately there’s not a single bit of thievery or burglary in this book at all. Which for a book specifically about a thief, was somewhat disappointing – especially after only getting one lone reconnaissance scene in book one as well. Hasn’t been a whole lot of thieving at all in these books so far.
Once he’d wasted a bunch of time and words and reader’s goodwill forcing this character into this story though, the story itself was actually pretty good, in a very classic plot-driven ‘don’t think too hard about whether any of this makes sense’ kind of way. It’s much more a heroic fantasy romp in the vein of an ’80s dungeon crawl epic, where deities are interfering in the realm of mortals and human wizards are trying to ascend to godhood and our heroes have to battle shadow creatures and nightmarish abominations on their quest to beat the big bad. It was fun and I enjoyed it and it made me happy. But it’s not an Amra Thetys story, it’s just not. Almost to the point where if future stories in the series return to the style of the first book, I might just pretend this instalment isn’t canon haha. It was different characters this book happened to. Emra and Holden. Part of that’s obviously cos they had to be shoehorned into the story in the first place, but also because of how very, very disappointed I am in the decision to introduce romance into Amra and Holgren’s relationship. It just didn’t work man. I can see the reasoning in the decision; Amra needed a reason to care enough about Holgren to put herself in mortal peril to save him. But Michael, buddy, being super close friends is all the justification she needed for that. And they were super close friends, it was explicitly stated how close they’d got after the events of the last book and I just don’t want to see these two platonic buddies kissing and banging 😦
I’ll reiterate that I enjoyed the story for the story it actually is and I’ll just pretend Amra Thetys wasn’t in it, and I also want to say that, while the snark did wear thin on me at times (sarcasm isn’t good or interesting humour for me), I do very much enjoy the aspect of Amra’s personality that’s just sheer bravado and tenacity. She has an argument with a god in this book where she basically screams in his face that he’s a worthless piece of shit and waste of space hahaha and I believe her exact words are “I don’t really care anymore, you selfish, obsessed, immortal puddle of vomit. Godhood was wasted on you, you miserable tick”. Priceless exchange. So yeah, I think this book was weaker than its predecessor cos it should have been written as a separate standalone with new characters that actually fit the story, but if you push that to the side it’s still an entertaining fantasy romp.
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