The Thief's Gamble by Juliet E McKenna
Review by Cat Fitzpatrick
The Thief’s Gamble is Juliet E McKenna’s debut novel, the first of her Tales of Einarinn. It follows the fortunes of the thief Livak as she tries to make a quick pile of gold from a stolen item, but ends up getting caught up in a world of wizardry.
Wizards have been self-exiled to the isle of Hadrumal after years of war turned the populace against mage-born. Here, they are trying to regain the magic and knowledge lost to the past when mages were hunted and libraries burnt or left for ruin. The theory that heirloom objects may keep traces of past memories leads a water adept, Shivvalan to investigate this on the mainland, and hires Livak to use her skills of theft to obtain pieces which the owners haven’t been willing to sell. However, they aren’t the only ones who wish to know more about the old empire and a strange race of blonde men wielding a lost magic are killing people to get these items. When one of their party is kidnapped, it’s a race against time find out who these strange warriors are.
This is one of the first fantasy novels I remember reading and it has stayed with me ever since. For a debut, it’s amazing. The story sweeps you up immediately, led by the strong female lead of Livak who has a quick wit and dubious morals, making a living through occasional housebreaking, but mostly through fixing games of runes and fleecing the unwary. With no knowledge or experience of wizards or magic, we learn through her about wizards and elemental magic as she gets pulled deeper into the mystery of who these blonde murderers are who appear and disappear and can affect people’s minds. McKenna is clearly somebody who knows how to craft a story, and how to leave you wanting more at the end of it. I highly recommend.
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