Among Thieves

Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick, Tales of the Kin #1

There is no honour among thieves.

Ildrecca is a dangerous city, if you don’t know what you’re doing. It takes a canny hand and a wary eye to run these streets and survive. Fortunately, Drothe has both. He has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers from the dirtiest of alleys to the finest of neighbourhoods. Working for a crime lord, he finds and takes care of trouble inside his boss’s organization—whilst smuggling relics on the side.

But when his boss orders Drothe to track down whoever is leaning on his organization’s people, he stumbles upon a much bigger mystery. There’s a book, a relic any number of deadly people seem to be looking for—a book that just might bring down emperors and shatter the criminal underworld.

A book now conveniently in Drothe's hands . . .


Among Thieves has been out for quite some time, first being published in 2011. The book then hadn’t escaped my notice and has been sitting on my to read list for quite some time now, luckily I have gotten around to read and review it, I have to admit that Among Thieves is one of those books that hits the right snares for keeping you hooked on what happens next and will stick in your thoughts for some time to come. Among Thieves is written by Douglas Hulick and features also has its debut into the fantasy genre, it is also the first in the Dark Fantasy series Tales of the Kin.

Among Thieves, as you can guess from the name is a book about thieves. The fantasy genre has seen a great collection of different "thieving" stories, going from the more comedian to the darker stories. Among Thieves falls into the latter category. The first few opening sentences really start in setting the mood of the story, a dark, gritty and shadowy setting that you feel resonating through the whole book; from the characters to the world of Ildrecca. There are a few humorous scenes in the book but most focus around the darker aspect, and readily shows how tough and competitive the world is for the Kin. This darker storyline really played nice parts for me in imagining the harsh surroundings of Ten Ways. Ildrecca and the characters in the story.

In Among Thieves you closely follow Drothe, the main protagonist. His story is being told in the first person narration, which was done in an great way, Drothe’s live isn’t with out it’s own perils and when he is fighting or discussing with others, this first person narration makes the whole storyline that much more intense. Drothe isn’t portrayed as the all omnipotent hero, he doesn’t leave each battle without a scratch. Douglas Hulick shows Drothe in such a way that he can be killed by a well calculated sword strike, he has his own flaws which makes he character come out even better. One of the greatest virtues that Drothe has and which is becoming more and more pronounced as the story goes along is his honourable side. There are several scenes that puts Drothe’s character in a different light that the ever dark that seems to be surrounding him.

Drothe is part of a criminal organization led by his boss Nicco. Douglas Hulick managed to create a very elaborate and intricate society based solely on the Kin alone, all along the story you as a reader, are being introduced to this. It all begins early on when you learn that Drothe is a Nose, which denotes his class in this organization, but next to Noses there are many others, Mouth’s, Arms and Ears and there a bunch more. Each of these have a specific job to do, Noses nose finding out the word on the street. Ears specialize in listing upon other people’s stories, eavesdropping, Arms are the warrior class and Mouth’s are the magicians here. I found this way of showing the different roles and being introduced to them in a dynamic manner, by showing what they did in action, rather than actually explaining by a static way, was done in a great way giving more grips on each of them but also giving me a: “Yes more of this please” kind of feeling. But there are a lot more rungs up the ladder in the criminal circuit, the bosses of the Noses, Mouths and Arms etc. are the Upright Man. Which are in turn being given order by the Gray Princes. The whole hierarchy that was introduces by this produced a definite sense that the higher up you look the more dangerous and powerful the respective players are. 

Another thing that I really liked about this world was how the Emperor to the story was shown. First I was “what?”  and did a bit a re-reading but it’s not just a “this is how it is” but Douglas Hulick neatly manages to weave this aspect into the main storyline. But with those incarnations the story became again that more interesting to read about and I am eager to learn more about this. And as some of you might know from my earlier reviews, I am a sucker for cool magic. Among Thieves isn’t an exception, now the magic duals don’t leap of the pages but is introduced in a subtle manner. Showing just enough to keep wanting to read more about the possibilities of it but not letting it overtake the general view of the story. The magic referred to as glimmers in Among Thieves is divided in a few as there is the more legal glimmers, the illegal glimmers and the imperial glimmers (strictly forbidden). These different glimmers all have levels of power, the legal stuff is most basic but the illegal and imperial is very powerful stuff. Some scenes neatly capture how powerful and dangerous these glimmer were, top stuff right there.

The story of Among Thieves is non-stop action. It starts off with Drothe interrogating a person in a pretty violent and bloody way, and Drothe discovers the first clues to relic, which eventually leads him to navigate the dangerous streets of Ten Ways and fending through an even thicker political web. The whole story focus around the relic that Drothe finally manages to dig up, but as soon as he finds it, his rather “normal” life takes a turn, being confronted by thugs send by other major players, finding corpses a float in his house and a lot more. I really liked the earlier revealing of the different important players like Solitude and Shadows and how they were out on Drothe’s relic, but also that Douglas introduced a few side trails that showed dealing with Kells and Nicco that directly influenced Drothe’s life and his actions as well. All in all a solid and well-rounded story, that shows in the end a great way for continuation as Drothe sees himself in a completely unexpected position.

If your into dark epic fantasy Among Thieves is definitely a must read for you, and if your not, its still an non-stop swordfight, fencing, magic action filled story. Among Thieves is both the first in a new series and the debut of Douglas Hulick into the fantasy genre, and yes Douglas Hulick does introduce us to a lot of the aspects that make the world of Ildrecca work but they don’t feel like an info dump at all. Since Drothe really stand central and you learn everything by his tellings of the world and different characters and he makes this come over natural and feels like you’re in training with Drothe. After this brutal, viscous action packed introduction it’s unfortunate to have to wait for the sequel Sworn in Steel which is set to be released early in 2014 in the UK.

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