The Scroll Thief by RF Long

Disclaimer: This book is from Samhain Publishing – who publish my books. In fact it was the excerpt printed at the end of my own book that made me want to read it :D However, I have striven to be impartial and have used the same criteria for marking as usual.

Note: This book is not for the squeamish.

Malachy and his sister rely on his talents as a thief to survive the dangerous streets of Klathport, former capital of the once-great kingdom of Ithian. Stealing a few papers should have been a simple job. Instead, it nearly costs their lives and throws them into an improbable alliance with a shape-shifting official, a desert tribeswoman, and a healer of enchanting beauty.

Cerys is far more than a simple healer—and the roots of her mission go deeper into the past than anyone can know. She needs Malachy's skills to recover a stolen scroll, one that can be used to rewrite history and, in the wrong hands, release the dark powers of the Demon Realm.

Her mission was supposed to atone for a dreadful, long-ago act. Instead, it unleashes a chain of events which sees them pursued through city and desert by the fearsome Dune Witch and a killer known only as His Lordship. Romance, tragedy, and adventure blend in a tale of a magical land on the brink of war, and five unlikely allies who, by putting their lives—and their hearts—on the line, have the opportunity to finally set things right.

But at a terrible cost.

The premise is the sort that intrigues me and the world-building here is quite detailed. Klathport is a decaying city, precariously balanced between its old Royal glory and its new, and not so glorious, Council and criminal underbelly. Tensions are stretched, with Councillor vying against Councillor and a racial tension simmering under the surface. Into all this we have Malachy – a thief who, despite his murky occupation, is immediately shown as bit of a sweetheart, and no match for the Enforcer whose home he just broke into….

Enforcer Trask is another animal entirely – Highly moral and determined to defend the law and his ideals, even though he's struggling with what's inside him too. A thief of a different nature.

The characters (always the most important thing for me) are mostly well realised, very human and always behaving in character. The atmosphere is nicely wrought too, with a few twists and turns along the way.

I do, of course, have a few nits. When don't I?

The backstory and how it fits into the current struggle was somewhat confusing for me at times, and the occasional switch to a POV character we hadn't seen for a while made me think 'Hang on, who?' ( although that could be my memory!) I also found several of the councillors a little interchangeable, which made for some interesting oopsies in understanding on my part lol. A few more visuals and some more concrete building of secondary characters would have helped me here. I wasn't so sure about the character of Cerys, who seemed a little on the flat side…but that was more than made up for by the vividness of the male main characters.

The characters are mostly shown very sympathetically so even when forced to do things that are Not Nice, you can always see why this was the only choice they had, or at least the best choice they had – stuck between a rock and a hard place. There's nobility and sacrifice and sweetness and an ending that fits the story in a satisfying manner.

So overall, while maybe not destined to knock literary giants off their pedestals, this an enjoyable, entertaining romp through the bloodstained streets of a city rife with ethnic hatred, soul sucking witches and councillors who don't know quite what they've let themselves in for…

7/10 An enjoyable, entertaining romp through the bloodstained streets of a city.

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