by Douglas Hulick (Author), Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
|I don't think Drothe really looks anything like this|
Ildrecca is a dangerous city, if you don't know what you're doing. It takes a canny hand and a wary eye to run these streets and survive. Fortunately, Drothe has both. He has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers from the dirtiest of alleys to the finest of neighborhoods. Working for a crime lord, he finds and takes care of trouble inside his boss's organization-while smuggling relics on the side. But when his boss orders Drothe to track down whoever is leaning on his organization's people, he stumbles upon a much bigger mystery. There's a book, a relic any number of deadly people seem to be looking for-a book that just might bring down emperors and shatter the criminal underworld. A book now inconveniently in Drothe's hands...
I almost didn’t make it past the first disk of the book. It starts with a kin (member of the underworld) literally over a barrel, and while Drothe’s hired torturer works to get some information out of him.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve read plenty of books where the protagonist engages in a variety of evil acts in the furtherance of their goals. I can’t think of another example where the first scene in the first book starts that way. It was a bit of a turn-off, and I have to credit Kirby Heyborne (the Narrator) with keeping me listening.
Drothe is looking for an Imperial Reliquary so that he can sell it. He doesn't get it's location, but he does get a name - Ioclaudia. The search for Ioclaudia, and the missing relic leads Drothe across the capital city of the empire. Along the way we get to see how the kin of the city organize themselves around upright men (bosses) and shadow princes (bigger bosses), and how noses like Drothe collect their information. The use of the canting tongue is a very flavorful addition, and helps set the tone of the book.
From there we’re swept into an race to find, and then to hold on to Ioclaudia's book that everyone from the Emperor on down seems to want. Even more important for Drothe is finding out why everyone wants it, while at the same time trying to protect those close to him. Most of the time Drothe doesn’t actually have a clear picture of what’s going on, and since the story is told from Drothe’s perspective, you only get to see what he sees. He is perfectly aware that he's playing way above his level, and has little idea of what's going on, or why. He just keeps going, and lets everyone around him think he knows what he's doing.
While Drothe manages to be the typical sardonic rogue with a heart of gold, Hulick puts him in situations that force him into awful choices. Someone Drothe cares about has to be sacrificed or betrayed, no matter the choices he makes.
Aside from Drothe, there are a number of other characters that stand out. I really liked the fruit seller, especially the way he's voiced by the narrator. The upright men Nicco and Kells were both well written, flawed characters. I did think that people were a bit too quick to start yelling at each other, though to be fair, everyone seemed to be under an awful lot of stress.
I ended up liking Among Thieves more than I thought I would. When Sworn in Steel (book 2) comes out, I hope the same narrator is used.
For your game:
- Ioclaudia's Journal - A book of mysteries that everyone wants. Maybe it has magical secrets, maybe it has heretical truths, or maybe it has the secret recipe to the crispy chicken that everyone loves.
- Thieves Cant - Among Thieves actually uses a basic thieves cant very effectively, and shows how you can incorporate it into your setting without too much effort.
- Ten Ways - There are numerous districts within the city, each one surrounded by a cordon. Ten Ways is one such district. It’s particularly run down, but with a lot of secrets in its long history. It would fit into Vornheim with ease!