Review: Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn

A copy of Among Thieves rests on a gray blanket next to a candle and a dilute calico cat.

Alexis:

Among Thieves was actually the last book I read in 2021!

It’s a heist novel set in a dark, gritty world. We follow many POVs, but all of the characters are working for Callum Clem, the leader of the Saints gang. In this world, there are magical people called Adepts who are brainwashed and owned as slaves by the people in power.

There were many aspects of this book that I loved. Kuhn’s writing, and writing style, is great. She writes great descriptions, and she describes people especially well. Each time we meet a new character, we get a very Dickensen description, so that we not only know what the character physically looks like, but we get a sense of what each person is actually like, as well. 

The banter is fun and quick. The magic system is interesting and feels different from other magic systems. 

But there were a couple of things that kept me from being fully invested in the story.

  1. Cursing is realistic in adult fantasies like these, but I often felt like Kuhn could have been a little more choosy about where she inserted swear words, and it would’ve made more of an impact. Instead, the amount of cursing tended to pull me out of the story.
  2. The worldbuilding was thrown at you. I had a hard time getting through the first 100 pages because my brain was trying to play catch up, all while reading from multiple new POVs.
  3. And finally…I wanted a map. I know this is a small thing, but a map definitely would’ve helped me imagine the world a little better.

Overall, this was a fun read. I think if you like heist novels like Six of Crows but are looking for an adult version with a full cast of characters, then you might like this.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.5 /5 

Alexis’ Top 10 Books of 2020

Alexis:

Happy New Year, everyone!

I reached my goal of reading 50 books in 2020, and then I actually surpassed it by reading 51.

My top 10 books won’t be a surprise; I’ve reviewed most of them here already. However, I will include a short blurb about each one as a refresher.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 books of 2020, in no particular order!

  1. Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas

Maas is a guilty pleasure of mine. Her books have a way of wholly drawing you into her worlds, and this one was no different. Crescent City is a new adult, brash urban fantasy that follows Bryce, a half-fae. She teams together with Hunt, a fallen angel, to solve the mystery of her best friend’s murder. Craziness and romance ensue. 

  1. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Hardinge is one of my favorite writers; she always kills it! Deeplight is a slowburn YA fantasy with deaf representation that centers around toxic friendships. It has a large dose of monstrous sea gods. It’s an imaginative, dark, and wonderfully written book. 

  1. Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

While categorized as YA, I found that this West-African inspired fantasy book leaned more towards adult. I loved the writing, the intricate worldbuilding, and the plot. The plot itself is hard to explain; you’ll have to pick it up!

  1. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

While this historical fantasy starts out slow and a bit confusing, it morphs into a lyrical story about family and belonging. It’s full of other dimensions, and, you guessed it, doors. 

  1. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

This retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” is dark and gothic. The story focuses on sisterhood and death/murder, with a fun dose of dancing at balls to balance it all out. 

  1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This is a coming-of-age story and a retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus. It follows the romantic relationship of the two characters up until the Trojan War. Miller’s writing is fantastic, and she’s a Greek mythology genius.

  1. Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

Race the Sands follows two women in the desert world of Becar, where you can ride monstrous creatures called kehoks, who are reincarnated from the worst of the worst people in a past life. The story focuses on reincarnation, determination, and carving your own path in the world, and I found it to be a refreshing fantasy read.

  1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

This is whimsical and heartwarming, a great change of pace for adult fantasy. It follows Linus, a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, who is given an assignment to inspect an island full of magical children classified as dangerous. 

  1. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

This YA, Welsh inspired historical fantasy follows Ryn, a gravedigger who begins to notice that the dead are rising, and teams together with a boy named Ellis. It’s a classic journey story with great characters and an enjoyable plot. I loved the fresh take on zombies, or “bone houses.” 

  1. The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez 

Finally, a contemporary romance book somehow made it onto my list! I enjoyed this book far more than I anticipated. I loved the funny, snappy dialogue, the characters, and the romance. The focus on music, and the inclusion of the playlist, only added to the story. 

Honorary re-read favorites: The Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo 

I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom in 2018, and though I immediately classified them as some of my favorite books, I had forgotten a lot of the plot. I absolutely loved re-reading them in 2020! They’re Bardugo’s best works, in my opinion, with an intricate world and plot, and very well-drawn characters that you’ll be rooting for from the beginning (even the morally grey ones).

My 2021 reading goal is to branch out a little more outside of YA fantasy. My classes will help with this, of course (I can’t believe I’ll finish my last semester in 2021!) I also currently have Kindle Unlimited, and I’m excited to dive into some thrillers and historical fiction!

Review: Shadow and Bone; Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Alexis:

I’ve dedicated this past week to reading the first two books in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and hopefully I can get the last book from the library next week!

I read the Six of Crows Duology last year and I absolutely loved it, so I was looking forward to reading the first books in Bardugo’s Grishaverse.

I seem to agree with everyone else (at least on Goodreads) that the second book in the trilogy is better than the first. I was surprised to find that the first book relied on some tropes, the most prevalent of which is the love triangle. However, I thought that Shadow and Bone did a great job when it came to worldbuilding and introducing the Grisha’s powers. 

The second book’s plot is much more intricate than the first. It honestly reminds me of The Hunger Games. Politics come into play, and Alina starts to become a powerful symbol of hope. I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced, but I felt like Mal’s character wasn’t as strong as he was in the first book. However, Bardugo’s keen sense of humor comes out more in the second book.

Minor spoilers below:

One of the biggest issues I have with the two books is the way that male characters interact with Alina, which, unfortunately, only gets worse in Siege and Storm. Multiple male characters touch and kiss Alina without her consent, and the way the Darkling interacts with her makes me sick. In Siege and Storm, no one respects that Alina and Mal are in a relationship, and she gets kissed and even gets marriage proposals. I understood all of this happens for plot reasons, but here Alina is, in a different love triangle than in the first book, and she even enjoys the attention from Nikolai.

I feel like I say this in every review, but despite my issues with the books, I did enjoy reading them. I love the Grishaverse and I’m interested to see where the third book goes. I just can’t help comparing this series to the Six of Crows Duology. It’s interesting to see how much Bardugo’s writing has evolved.

Shadow and Bone: 3 out of 5 books

Siege and Storm: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Alexis: Read 1/25/19

I couldn’t help but compare The Gilded Wolves to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The heist plotline and the similarities in the gang of characters made it impossible. Prepare for a long review; I have a lot to say about this book!

Pros:

The Gilded Wolves is packed with detailed information. The story is set in an alternative 1889 Paris in which certain people can Forge, or magically manipulate objects, metals, and/or plants, etc. I have to admit Paris is not one of my favorite cities, but I really enjoyed the setting for the book. Chokshi did a great job of exploring the city’s history, both the good and the bad, and I thought she described the city well. Her descriptions of the Eiffel Tower, mostly from Zofia’s point of view, were unique and interesting.

I enjoyed reading the snippets of Séverin’s past. Overall, Zofia was my favorite character because of her uniqueness. Plus, it was refreshing to read about a woman scientist and mathematician.

This book is an interesting mix of history, science, and mythology. I really enjoyed the mythology, as the book explored Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. I loved the diversity of the characters; it painted a more accurate portrayal of Paris in 1889 and helped give the characters unique backgrounds and perspectives. I also enjoyed Chokshi’s descriptions and appreciated that she tackled themes of racism, prejudice, and identity.

Cons:

Though the voices of the characters were each distinct, I only really started caring about Zofia and Enrique once I reached the halfway point of the book. They felt the most real to me. There was a death at the end of the book, and, unfortunately, I didn’t find myself caring about it as much as I wanted to.

I wasn’t really a fan of Hypnos. Though I appreciated the diversity his character brought, he felt like a stereotypical gay character to me, and I had a hard time understanding his motives and his character.

Though I loved the blend of topics, sometimes this book felt more sci-fi to me than historical fantasy. I also felt like the book wasn’t as deep as I wanted it to be. I almost wish Chokshi will write a prequel to this; a lot of events happened before the start of this book.

I have to mention that it took me a while to get into the story. The beginning was a little too chaotic, and I found myself having to re-read paragraphs to make sure I understood what was happening. The Order confused me. I also felt like the climax of the book was a bit rushed. Though I enjoyed Chokshi’s writing style, the overabundance of adverbs irritated me (that’s my English major coming out!) “‘You lied to me,’ she said loudly.” “‘Ready?’ she said brightly.” “‘I know,’ said Hypnos solemnly.”

Despite my issues with the book, I did enjoy reading it, so. . .  

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books