It is now over twenty years since I started to record the details of books when I finished reading them in one of what has become a large collection of notebooks. The very first book I finished reading at the start of January in the year 2000 was The Thief’s Gamble by Juliet E McKenna. It and the succeeding books in the series have rested on my bookshelves ever since and I think that I’ve only read them once in the following years. In order to clear some space on my shelves I thought that I might give these books away but decided to reread them since they were to hand. I’m glad I did.
This book is proper adventure fantasy with a group of ill-assorted people coming together on a quest, each bringing their own skills. It’s well plotted and it moves along at a rapid pace. The main character, and narrator, is Livak, a professional gambler and occasional thief who lives by her wits and becomes entangled in the affairs of wizards. This is not a young fantasy book, Livak is an adult who has lived a bit and has few illusions about the world. She decides to steal an ancient item from a man she despises and sell it to a group of men who are asking for similar objects. It transpires that the group consists of a mercenary, a wizard and an academic who have been tasked with collecting such items. Livak is blackmailed into helping the group and they then attract the attention of some deeply unpleasant people who also want the items. Although the main stories in this book are resolved by the end it does form the basis for four further books which introduce more characters and build the story further.
There is nothing particularly original in this novel but it is well thought through and put together. The world in which the characters live is believable and their motivation makes sense. The story is not hugely predictable and by the end of this book you can see that there are more secrets to disclose and mysteries to uncover. The delight of the story is the narrative voice of Livak who is world weary and yet optimistic at the same time. Her wry observations about the world around her and perfidy of wizards are highly enjoyable. The book is not as dark as those by authors such as Joe Abercrombie and nor is it as light as The Belgariad by David Eddings.
I’m glad that I decided to reread this series – I very much enjoyed this novel.