River of Thieves by Clayton Snyder (Thieves' Lyric: Book One)

Clayton Snyder’s River of Thieves is a hell of a funny book. The humor isn’t going to be everyone’s brand of bourbon, so if you’re unsure of what you’re getting into you can glance at the table of contents and preview some of the chapter titles. “Pirates are just Thieves with more Syphilis,” “Party Crashing and Insurrection for Fun and Profit,” and “I Kind of Miss the Dick Spiders.”

Still with us? Good, because underneath all the profanity and satire is a tale of some pissed off rogues who have had enough of a Trump-like shitheel of a king who’s been stepping on the necks of his people while spreading propaganda about how great he is. (Some of the king’s dialogue you may have heard before.) The story is told from the point-of-view of Nenn, a knife-wielding assassin who, along with her cursed companion Cord, has spent the last several years causing havoc and chaos to anyone who deserves it. Namely, loyalists to the king.

“In the stories, when someone wants to teach someone a lesson, it's because they've been broken or betrayed, or their true love was killed." Cord made a face. "Anyone that needs an inciting incident to do the right thing probably wasn't all that good of a person to begin with, I'd think.”

Cord is the brains of the outfit. He had to deal with a certain… unique affliction for pissing off the wrong mage and has been paying the price ever since. But Cord is tired of the small-time hustles he’s been running. He has a plan set to turn the kingdom on its head, but he needs help. Enter: Rek, a massive strongman with a penchant for kittens, and Lux, an insane magic-user with a disturbing past. What to call their outfit? “The Gentlemen Bastards!” one suggests, before scoffing and moving on. You’ll find many, many more examples of this tongue-in-cheek, self-aware humor laced throughout the story to balance out all the dolphin orgies and grandma-faced nightmare worms.

One of the book’s strongest aspects is the strength of its dialogue. Snyder has a talent for writing sharp banter that is not only humorous but also serves to deepen our connections to the characters’ histories and motivations while using an economical word count. Unlike my last sentence.

Sharp wit and a biting sense of humor made River of Thieves was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had this year. It is savage and profane but also relevant and heartfelt. I hope we can spend more time with Nenn and Cord and the rest of the gang sometime soon. And now that it’s all over, I, too, kind of miss the dick spiders.

9/10 Sharp wit and a biting sense of humor made River of Thieves was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had this year.

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