We were the worst kind of people. For the best reasons.
After a robbery gone horribly wrong, cursed thief Cord broadens his horizons and plans to execute the heist of a lifetime. With fellow thief and knife connoisseur Nenn in tow, the two build their ragtag crew to target the heart of the kingdom – Midian, the seat of tyrant King Anaxos Mane. As treachery, horrifying creatures of nightmare, and opposition bar their path at every turn, the gang must depend on skill – intellectual, martial, and magical – to deliver them an endless summer and keep them free from the clutches of evil despotism. If they don’t sh*t the bed first.
Goodreads Link: River of Thieves
Author: Clayton Snyder
Genre: Fantasy/dark comedy
Rating: 4/5 stars
Note: this book contains cussing, graphic violence, sexual innuendoes, vulgar humor, and breaking the fourth wall. It’s not for everyone! If it was a movie, it would be rated R. Think Deadpool.
That said, I have to appreciate the humor. While it’s vulgar and gross, it doesn’t cross the line into truly offensive for me. For example, there are no offensive terms for minority groups (racist, homophobic, misogynist, etc.) or rape jokes. Sometimes “shock comics” throw in these types of horrible jokes just to rile people up, but the author doesn’t stoop to that level. There is bathroom humor, dick jokes, and worse, but it follows the example of “punching up.” It makes fun of the privileged people in power instead of kicking people who are already down. So while it sometimes had me a little horrified, it didn’t make me want to throw the book across the room or quit reading.
Also, I love the female protagonist, Nenn. She’s super relatable and very realistic in the way she’s written. I would love her no matter who wrote her, but I feel the need to call out that the author is male. I’ve complained about a few books from SPFBO this year because of problems with male authors writing female characters as stereotypes and/or sex objects. Nenn reads like women that I’ve known. I’m assuming that the author did his research when it comes to things like menstrual cramps because there were sections that had me clutching my midsection in sympathy.
It was a fun romp as the thieves sail around and have various adventures. I really enjoyed seeing all of the different places and troubles that the characters got themselves into. I’d watch an episodic TV show with this bunch as they encountered monster-of-the-week type situations. If I was just rating this book on the amount of entertainment, I would give it five stars.
Where it fell down for me was the jumbled story arc. About halfway through the novel, there are attempts to hint at a larger arc with a reoccurring villain and some involvement with gods who have plans for the characters. But a lot of this seems to get shoved to the side in favor of the next joke or wacky situation. If I tried to plot out the rise and fall of the action in this story, it would be all over the place. And that chaos wouldn’t be bad if, as I said, it was intentionally episodic or a rambling journey. But then it tries to sew things up into an ending that left me dissatisfied and a little confused.
It wasn’t labeled as a series when I picked up this book, and I originally felt it worked okay as a stand-alone. Now I see that there’s a new cover (see above) and it claims it’s “Thieves’ Lyric Book 1” (not sure if I’m reading that correctly). The author mentioned he’s working on a sequel. Maybe things will become more clear in a second book and things are left hanging because it’s leaving the door open for things to come.
LGBT representation: Cord and Nenn both seem to be bisexual/pansexual and are intimate with people of different genders. Lux also shows attraction to other women. None of this is called out as remarkable or in the minority, like maybe their society just takes it for granted that sexual attraction isn’t restricted by gender.
So I’m rating it four stars, maybe edging into 4.5. I would definitely recommend it to fans of dark humor and rogueish fantasy. If you like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels, and/or the movies Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Deadpool, and you enjoy cussing/R-rated humor, then you might enjoy the book. Come along for the ride but don’t try to make too much sense of the plot.