“It seemed that Loch was a feather, not a rock. If you wanted to catch a rock somebody had thrown, you grabbed fast and hard to make sure you got hold of it. But with a feather, you watched carefully, spread your hands, and waited.”
I was very excited when I finally found a copy of this novel in my local used bookstore, as I am a huge fan of the video game series Dragon Age and Mass Effect in which Patrick Weekes has previously worked as a writer, and I was anxious to see how his story-telling skills would translate between mediums. Acting as the first installation in a larger series and taking place in the fallout of a thrilling prison escape, this novel follows Loch: a former solider… and her right hand man Kail as they gradually put together a rag-tag team of specialists to assist in pulling off the heist of a priceless elven manuscript which once belonged to Loch’s family. Comprised of a shape-shifting unicorn, a lock-smith, an especially nimble and flexible imperial, a death priestess (and her magical talking hammer), a mage who specializes in illusions, and a boy who accompanies him, the team sets out on a quest filled with tense action, several twists and a good dose of humor to boot… and while there were some aspects of the writing which held it back for me personally, it was still a very entertaining read.
Initially I wasn’t completely in love with Loch as a protagonist because of how guarded she seemed, but as you learn more about her family, past and motivations, it becomes clear as to why she starts out that way and she became much more enjoyable to me as the novel went on and she grew closer to her new companions. She certainly wasn’t ground-breaking as a protagonist, but it was very easy to root for her as a strong, competent and resourceful leader. Now I’m a huge sucker for heist stories built around an eclectic cast of supporting characters with unique skills, and in that respect this novel did a good job… although I feel like it could have been a bit better. I was certainly intrigued by the unique roles that each of these characters filled beyond that of simply “the wizard” or “the fighter” as is sometimes the case… I mean, any novel that advertises itself as a heist that involves a shape-shifting unicorn is definitely going to catch my attention. However, I felt that their personalities, while enjoyable enough, lacked a greater depth than what I was hoping for (but I understand that this is the first book in a larger series, so it is quite likely that these characters receive more development as the series goes on). That being said, Hessler (the aforementioned mage illusionist) was a definite stand-out for me, as his dry humor contrasted very nicely with his more discreet kind and caring demeanor. I also think its worth giving props to this novel for having an nearly equal number of men and women in it’s main group, as this is surprisingly rare!
Overall I would say that my biggest issue with this novel is the pacing, but not the overall pacing… if that makes sense. Within each chapter the settings and/or perspectives changed multiple times, rarely giving any particular moment more than a few pages to breath. As a result the novel felt very jumpy at times and I think it would have benefited the overall depth of the story if each scene was given more time to develop. Despite this, I thought the over-arching plot was paced quite well, not taking too long to get the team together and set on formulating and executing their plan.
Despite my complaints, I had a lot of fun reading this novel! I can definitely see resemblances in the overall tone to the video games series on which Weekes previously worked. The story and characters definitely got me invested enough to want to check out this series’ next installment and I can easily recommend to book to anyone craving a good fun heist narrative! 3.5/5