Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn is a high fantasy adventure featuring a merry band of queer misfits who must work together to pull off an impossible heist. Sounds manageable enough…unless they’re all scheming to double-cross each other the entire time. Brought together by a common enemy — the Guildmaster who rules over the five kingdoms of Thamorr — Ryia Cuatella and this plucky group of outsiders must carefully tread the line that glimmers between monster and menace to dismantle an oppressive magical system that could change life as they know it.
From the summary, I expected Among Thieves to focus solely on Ryia, but each chapter is told from a different character’s point-of-view. Ryia, Evelyn, Nash, Ivan, and Tristan all come with their own motives and backstories, so initially, it was difficult to understand who we’re supposed to be rooting for. I kept muddling through chapters that weren’t about Ryia because I was waiting to return to the story and character that initially sparked my interest. Fortunately, I was able to appreciate the storytelling format as I got further into the heist plot, but the alternating chapters meant it took a long time to get my bearings.
Kuhn’s ability to develop characters and personalities that can blend well together and stand apart is the driving force behind this novel. It’s a delight to witness this ensemble cast transition from enemies to reluctant allies to something like friends. There are so many comforting found family moments balanced by thrilling fights and blindsides that make for a gripping story that isn’t too easy to predict. Character foils Ryia and Evelyn are my favorites, but I have to admit I have a soft spot for Tristan, too!
Among Thieves is full of twists and turns and doesn’t read like a typical debut. Kuhn’s worldbuilding is impressive, full of intricate details that make for a memorable romp in this high fantasy world. I love a good anti-hero story, but the one thing that’s a bit of a speed bump with this one is it’s challenging to keep up with a plot that’s constantly stretching in at least five different directions. Still, the suspense ramps up as the novel progresses, and that ending is going to leave you begging for the sequel!
Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books/Saga Press for sharing an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Among Thieves at a glance
Title: Among Thieves
Author: M. J. Kuhn
Publisher: Gallery Books/Saga Press
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Page Count: 352
In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick — not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.
For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster—the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down…but even the most powerful men can be defeated.
Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all…but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.