The Thieves of Nottica by Ash Gray (Amazon)
Good Friday, my literary foodies, it is time once again to throw open the pantries and pick up a (hopefully) delightful meal to read through! This week, I have an intriguing steampunk fantasy meal on my plate, distinctive at the very least for the unique cover. The Thieves of Nottica has a notable subtitle as ‘A Humorous Steampunk Adventure’, so without further ado, let’s grab our forks and knives to get started carving down to the truth!
Before we gather our tools, let us put our hands over our hearts and recite the Starving Review oath:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
Have you ever taken the first bite out of the first course of a meal with a certain hesitancy, only to be overtaken by the need to devour the thing as soon as possible? That is how Thieves turned out for me. Yes, perhaps I am spoiling my own review yet I know of no other way to really start this off. With that out of the way, let’s take it by the courses, shall we?
First up, the base of any literary meal: the characters and, as with any fantasy world, the worldbuilding. In many recipes, I’d tackle these as two separate ingredients but in this case, they are closely intertwined. With a fully whole-cloth world as this, the way the chef mixes up the world forms the spongy layer cake for the flavorful layer of the characters. We need the world to help frame the characters and their relationships is what I’m saying.
In this endeavor, our chef performs excellently. The world we are given is one both wholly alien yet strangely relatable and populated by native demons, invading humans, and strangely human robots. It forms a framework where, in the midst of a rousing fantasy, we can dive into themes of prejudice, culture, race, sex, and gender issues without any of that feeling like a burden on the tale.The fully-rounded and ‘breathing’ characters magnify this feeling. Our main crew of demonic thieves and agitators, despite how it may sound, are imminently understandable with thoughts, feelings, motivations, and wants that make perfect sense for all the alienness of their origins and world.
The fully-rounded and ‘breathing’ characters magnify this feeling. Our main crew of demonic thieves and agitators, despite how it may sound, are imminently understandable with thoughts, feelings, motivations, and wants that make perfect sense for all the alienness of their origins and world. To put it mildly, I was fully invested in eating every bite of this meal after meeting these dinner companions for merely a few moments.
The plot isn’t stifled or overwhelmed by this, though. The courses of the meal move in a clean, swift fashion. It relies, which works best considering the strength of our characters, on a character-driven plot, focusing on the interactions of our cast. Still, Thieves doesn’t shy away from some explosive action moments and bits of strange arcana and steampunk technology to add flash to the fantasy.
If I have any minor quibbles over the meal, there are the occasional choke points that a meal with so much necessary exposition can have. While most of the needed information is worked through at a natural pace, there are the rare moments when it tarries overlong and the problem is more often from the occasional repetitive wordsmithing in such passages. To be fair, these points are barely noticeable and did little to detract from the read, smoothing out entirely by the halfway point to nothingness.
To sum it all up … which I somewhat did at the very start, The Thieves of Nottica is a fantastic, fun, and surprisingly moving steampunk treat! If you have any love of steampunk, romantic fantasy, or fascinating new worlds, I’d strongly suggest picking this one up. However, I would not suggest this one to the less mature set, as there are some frank moments of violence, sex, and talking about such topics over the course of the meal.
FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A fantastic, fun, and surprisingly moving steampunk treat!)
This guest review was contributed by Musings of a Starving Author. This blogger provides book reviews with sprinklings of culinary humor. Also included are musings about life and the overall craft of writing.