Giveaway from the archives: The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (22/9/2014)

Berren has lived in the city all his life. He has made his way as a thief, paying a little of what he earns to the Fagin like master of their band. But there is a twist to this tale of a thief. One day Berren goes to watch an execution of three thieves. He watches as the thief-taker takes his reward and decides to try and steal the prize. He fails. The young thief is taken. But the thief-taker spots something in Berren. And the boy reminds him of someone as well. Berren becomes his apprentice. And is introduced to a world of shadows, deceit and corruption behind the streets he thought he knew. Full of richly observed life in a teeming fantasy city, a hectic progression of fights, flights and fancies and charting the fall of a boy into the dark world of political plotting and murder this marks the beginning of a new fantasy series for all lovers of fantasy – from fans of Kristin Cashore to Brent Weeks.

I suppose this only came out four years ago, but it feels like a very, very long time has passed, certainly long enough to have a moment of sober and self-critical reflection. The thief-taker’s Apprentice is certainly not the best book I ever wrote. Whether it’s the worst I suppose depends on where yout tastes lie. I happen to think that the sequel, The Warlock’s Shadow, is vastly better. It was my third (published) book and markedly differed from the first two in its focus. Where The Adamantine Palace sprawled across a dozen and more characters and locations, filled itelf with conspiracy and dastartdly deeds and sacrificed character development for pace and scale, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice went the opposite way. It is a small, quiet, intimate story focussed entirely on two characters and set almost entirely within the walls of a single city. It was originally intended as a young adult story for boys, which takes a little edge of the sex and violence (although only a little). It certainly has its flaws (Berren’s ‘love interest’ is a flimsy two-dimensional character, intended as a reflection on the shallowness of early teen crushes and to be contrasted against the passions of his first real love in The Warlock’s Shadow; but of course, you don’t know that when you read Apprentice, and so it’s just shallow. And then there’s the single scene which switches the point of view to show the reader something that the protagonist simply cannot know, and that was really clunky).

Reviews, such as they were, were consistent – decent enjoyable stuff, doesn’t set the world alight, so forth. But the world is a big place, so do go and enjoy the one evisceration it received: “The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice’ by Stephen Deas is another example of mediocrity that shouldn’t have been let past the editor’s desk,” Why? Well because it plot has been “thrown against the wall like the proverbial pasta to see if it’ll stick” with “one contrivance after another” and “Nothing is explained, everyone acts entirely unrealistically, and by the end of the book the characters you have been reading have as much depth as a sheen of water on the driveway.” I guess we weren’t made for each other.

On the whole I personally rate it as a 3-star book. It’s perfectly good, perfectly readable, nothing hugely special or memorable. It’s no Royalist or Crimson Shield or Dragon Queen, but it does start a story that carries on into Dragon Queen, which remains the best fantasy I’ve done. All of which probably isn’t much encouragement to drop everything and rush out and buy a copy, but fortunately you don’t have to, as I’m giving one away.

thieftakers apprentice cover

All you have to do to enter is comment on this post before the end of  September 27th and I’ll randomly select a lucky victim (the usual deal if you’ve been here before). If you have a favourite historical, fantasy or SF novel which you think is a hidden gem but which no one else ever talks about and which vanished without a trace, I’d love to hear about it, but a simple “hi” will do.

This is open worldwide. Although though no one has yet complained about how long it takes me to get to the post office and post things, it can take a while and if you live abroad then it can take even longer. Sorry about that, but they do get there eventually. I am currently up to date with posting things.

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12 Responses to “Giveaway from the archives: The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice (22/9/2014)”

  1. Adrian Marley says:

    Fantasy-wise, I think Racardo Pinto’s The Stone Dance of the Chameleon are very underrated. Perhaps a bit too bizarre for conventional fans, I think they’re wonderful and unique.

  2. Laura (@stars__Cascade) says:

    Ooo, that nobody seems to speak of?

    The Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey. So beauqqtifully written, gorgeous language and a storyline that, though sex is pivotal to the plot it dosent become the plot – if that makes sense?

    Also, the Eli Monpress books, funny, engaging reads. Not heavy or taxing but fun and good as a gap filler between bigger reads. :)

  3. Kayla says:

    So many excellent novels in my collections (electronic and physical) that I’d be hard-pressed to find a favourite even with conditions attached. Plus my physical collection is in boxes (18 of them) in storage in preparation for a move, so scanning the shelves for that “one book wonder” is beyond me right now :)

  4. Lea Fletcher says:

    Ooh, someone beat me to the Eli Monpress series (I adore them). I have a deep fondness for the Obernewtyn sequence by Isobelle Carmody, which are hard to find in the UK, and I loved the weird little one off books Strange Powers by Mary Hoffman (I think), and Horsemaster by Marilyn Singer. I love my little-knowns. ;)

  5. Simon Bradley says:

    I’ve just finished Melusine by Sarah Monette, which I enjoyed a lot despite it being slightly troublesome. It’s described as yaoi in one of the Amazon reviews, and it does feature a damaged pretty-boy, but if the first few pages don’t put you off, the world is rich and deep. The cover might well have put me off if I hadn’t heard about it elsewhere, and if I hadn’t got it for free from the Kindle Lending Library (and since it’s on the Kindle, I don’t have to look at the cover).
    I’m not sure how much it counts as a hidden gem given that I heard about it from Jo Walton’s “What Makes This Book So Great?”, but that is the only place I’ve ever seen it mentioned.

  6. Mango Heroics says:

    Trying to think of a book to mention, but I’m coming up empty on something obscure. Hild by Nicola Griffith comes to mind, but there was a bit of a buzz about it when it came out last year. If you haven’t checked it out, I think you should. Guy Gavriel Kay does a great job, but he’s quite well known (understatement)! I’ll have to keep thinking….

  7. Mango Heroics says:

    Ooh. How about A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason? It’s about a team of scientists on a long space voyage looking for habitable planets (I know, right?). What’s different is the inhabited planet they find. Interesting culture-building. Introspective protagonista. There’s an e-book version that’s worth a look. Of course, I may like it because I’m an anthropologist!

  8. Peter A says:

    I was recetly advised to reasd Of Men and Monsters by William Tenn. it wasn’t the greatest SF, but it msust have stuck in the mdind of Terry Pratchett or he would never have written Carpet People or The Bromeliad trilogy. Receommend, though, as it’s good fun.

  9. Leila Benhamida says:

    Hi, sounds like a good read.

  10. Paul Livesey says:

    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis just about qualifies I think and is wonderful.

    A time travelling historian is sent back to the time of Jerome K Jerome to undertake a mission he can’t remember at a large family estate. It’s written with humour and panache and is at times a bitter commentary on Victorian principles and university economics.

  11. Ren Kuroya says:

    My absolute favorite hidden gems are both Sci-Fi and I can’t decide which I like more.

    The first is Blood Music by Greg Bear. A scientist is working behind his employer’s back to create a new form of life: Intelligent cells! When he is terminated and told to destroy all his work he inject a syringe of his altered intelligent cells into himself before destroying the rest. Since before they were altered they were his cells his body does not destroy them, instead they begin to multiply and thrive. But all is not what it seems to be on the surface after the cells take a mind of their own…

    The second is Endless Blue by Wen Spencer. A Russian starship captain is coerced into trying to solve the enigma of a slipspace drive covered in coral from a ship lost decades ago. When they jump to the coordinates he finds himself in imminent danger, an not even in the universe anymore! Will this clone of Peter the Great live to return and end the war threatening to exterminate human life?

    What do you think of them?

  12. Paul says:

    I think I’d have to go with CC Humphreys A Place Called Armageddon about the fall of Constantinople. Its a follow on of sorts from his novel Vlad which seems to pop up a bit but I know no one whos read this

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