- Author: Andy Peloquin
- Genre: Grimdark
- Cover images link to each book’s page on Goodreads
I’ve barely moved from my reading spot on the couch in the living room today.
I finished the last twenty percent of book two this morning, and now, late afternoon, I’m done with book three. The coffee’s long since cold.
The last few weeks have been rough for me, and this was the escape I needed to get a break from it all.
The first book in the series, Child of the Night Guild, begins with a young girl being sold to the thieves guild by her drunkard father. Then it gets worse, and worse.
Except, that’s not quite fair. The strength of the main character, Ilanna, is a beacon of light and hope in what’s otherwise a dark and uncaring world. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Peloquin’s books, and I’ve been wanting to check this series out – except it says grimdark on the cover, so I’ve been reluctant.
It’s not that bad, though, at least not at the start. Several times during the first book, I found myself questioning whether my understanding of grimdark was wrong, or whether I was missing something. Sure, it’s not a nice world Ilanna grows up in, but it’s not that terrible.
Except (again), it is. I got distracted by the adventurous joy of the hawks running across the rooftops, and by the camaraderie of the novices at the aerie. Ilanna’s triumphs as she mastered a new skill, or the satisfaction when she overcame yet another adversity. It felt great, and I didn’t notice the darkness come creeping out of the corners until it was far too late. By that time, was already hooked.
I’d grown attached to Ilanna, and I couldn’t just leave her to whatever cruel fate the world had in store for her next. In some way, it was almost comforting to know that things would get worse. It helped me prepare mentally for when it happened.
…and happened, it did.
It’s that kind of story. It pulls no punches, but to me, it never really seemed like it was for shock value, or just to gross me out. The setbacks all felt like they fit with the nature of the story, and that made them bearable.
That said, I want to be clear that the story as a whole is thoroughly enjoyable. I’m glad I read it, and I’m happy to recommend it to others, with the caveat that it includes some “very bad stuff.”
The first book had several long dream sequences that didn’t work for me at all. Thankfully, they only appeared in the first book, and then not again.
The whole “thieves guild” thing is at once both really cool and completely implausible. It seems unbelievable that such a large organization could manage to stay hidden for as long as they have without their hiding place being found out. Fortunately, the intensity of the story made it easy to mostly disregard questions like that, but they did pop up from time to time.
What I’ll Gush About
These books are intense. The storytelling is tight, and the writing is excellent. Even in the calm moments between the exciting ones, there’s still that urge to keep reading just to find out what happens next. There’s never really a good time to get up and make a new cup of coffee.
Ilanna is an amazing character. Her ability to pull through and bounce back from whatever ugly hand she’s dealt borders on the supernatural. She’s like a force of nature that stands up against the darkness of the world – and of being human.
Sense of place. The world building as such isn’t all that interesting, but the sense of place is amazing. The city of Praamis, with its rooftops, tunnels, and sewers feels real and tangible in a way that really adds to the immersion. It helps make this series the kind of story that can make one forget the real world for a little while.
If you want tense, fast-paced, and action packed fantasy, about clever thieves, backstabbery, and defiance in the face of adversity, then Queen of Thieves is definitely something to look closer at.
There is a fourth book in the series, which I’ve not read. It begins some time after the third book ends, though, and it’s described as a standalone.