I have a theory about book faults.
If you are in love with a book, you will tear through it and enjoy the story for what it is, no matter how unruly the mechanics are.
What’s this, an info-dump? Don’t care, gotta read. Hm, a plot hole? Doesn’t matter, gotta read. Stupid dialogue? DON’T CARE, GOTTA READ.
*flip, flip, flip, flip*
It’s really quite amazing—not to mention impressive—what a book can get away with if the storytelling resonates with you. (Harry Potter is a prime example that I hope springs immediately to mind.)
The inverse of this, however, is that it can create a terrible snowball effect for books that are just “meh.”
Once you start down this insidious path, every little thing starts bugging you and it all compounds into utter frustration.
See, there’s a difference between being excited to read, and being excited to finish, and unfortunately Thief’s Magic falls into the latter category. Even worse, this snowball effect took over and ruined the book for me.
Now, I don’t want to turn this review into a mega-rant, but suffice it to say that a lot of things bothered me about Thief’s Magic.
Everything feels like we’re skimming the surface. The characters, the places, the world, the plot…nothing feels deep. It’s got the smoke and mirrors feel of short story world-building rather than the iceberg situation you see in novel-length epic fantasy (where you only see 10% of what the author knows, and everything else informs the writing but stays hidden).
For the plot…things just happen. And you don’t care. And then you move on with no particular connection to anything.
The Writing Excuses team talks about the magic triangle of character development: being competent, being proactive, and being sympathetic. If two of these are high enough, the third can be low. The problem here is that Tyen and Rielle have none going for them. They are unlikeable, not good at what they do, and the plot influences them rather than the other way around.
Justin Landon says it best in his review:
“As characters, both are on journeys of self-discovery, a bildungsroman of a sort. Such narratives are always compelling in their quest to discover who someone will become. Unfortunately, Thief’s Magic makes the choice to force that development not through the character’s desire to be something better, but a crucible of personal tragedy manifested by others’ attempts to appropriate our protagonists’ freedom. This lack of agency is noted and the process of identifying with and imprinting on Rielle and Tyen becomes more difficult as a result.”
In the end, this book takes a whole lot of words to ultimately say nothing. Finishing a book should be satisfying, not a relief.
As a set up novel, Thief’s Magic could perhaps work for a series (big emphasis on “perhaps,” there). I, however, will be stopping here and not continuing.