Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia Blackburne

Livia Blackburne's debut novel follows high fantasy conventions and tropes. High fantasy usually resembles medieval Europe with kings, queens, castles, wizards and sorcerers. Government is often some form of aristocracy and people are dissatisfied with the current rulers. Magic is an important element to the plot and the conflict generally involves political intrigues with a strong adventure component involving captures, escapes, battles, fantastical creatures, and perilous journeys. Not to be a bore, but I had to review these basics to determine why Livia Blackburne's novel shines in some spots and falls in others. While the world building and plot have gaps and the characters' actions can be conflicting, if you like action-fantasy with a romantic subplot then you'll be entertained by this tale.

Seventeen-year-old orphan, Kyra, has grown up in the Forge, stealing from wealthy people in order to survive. Working with her friend, Flick, and getting food handouts from the cook at a tavern, she manages to get by. Lately ends aren't meeting as she spends her money getting medicine for a sick younger orphan that she cares deeply about. When the Assassin's Guild, run by leader James, recruits her for purposes that are not explained, a series of events make her impulsively join them. She naively thinks they will only use her thieving skills but gets forced to do jobs she doesn't want to. When people start dying she tries to fix things but finds the consequences of her actions out-of-control.

The government is run by a Council and there does not appear to be a king and queen. The politics are such that there are Council members interested in their own interests and don't care about the people while others are more noble and interested in the welfare of the people. James is in a power struggle with the rulers and wants more power for the people. The only problem is that he is an assassin that doesn't value life. His character is not idealistic but power hungry. His actions are not explained and the reader doesn't know his motivations. I read that there is a prequel, Poison Dance, on his character. Perhaps it explains in more detail why he is going after the government and his ideology or maybe more will be explained in the sequel. 

James is working with the Demon Riders. They have been forced from their lands from a war in which the ground was poisoned, but again details are lacking. The reason the Demon Riders are at the Forge is they are relying on James so they can raid and steal food and goods from others. This didn't make sense to me because they are obviously predators on the top of the food chain. They have these viciously huge cats that humans cannot defeat. Why would they need James? Later on the reader learns more about their culture and it made even less sense to me. 

Kyra is a tiny thing that can't fight. It doesn't take much for full-grown men to disarm her and while I appreciate the realistic side to this, I prefer it when the character outsmarts the opponent. Instead Kyra is usually the victim and another man or woman or adult rescues her. My biggest complaint is when she takes on James. It didn't make sense until I got to the end. I believe the author is trying to show a character that is fighting her primal instincts, but she isn't developed with enough volatility. She's unhinged in the beginning by her "accident" and she's too moral to make decisions later that seem to go against them. For a street urchin, she is a bit too naive.

Tristam suffers the same fate as Kyra with his character development. He's horrified by the death of his friend but not by the death of another friend. The ending unravels a bit with the wishy-washy actions of the characters and felt somewhat rushed. I would have liked going back into Tristam's head. It seems that the second death was to show the Demon Riders disregard for life, but again it felt more manipulative than authentic. I did like the beginning and how Kyra and Tristam are horrified by death and how it deeply affects them. They were more hardened by it by the end which seemed contradictory to the start. Of course, a lot of people die so you might think differently.

The overarching theme is about choices made and the consequences of them. Kyra makes good and bad choices throughout the story. In the beginning her choices are naive and short-sighted. She gets in with a bad crowd and then can't get out. Her following choices are to try and fix things and do what is right. At the end she makes her own choice and is trying to break the cycle of being a victim of powerful people that are only using her for her unique talents. This victim-type character might or might not appeal to you, but overall,  I enjoyed it.

3 Smileys

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