Book Review: Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn (audiobook)

Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: Audiobook by Simon & Schuster Audio 2021

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

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.

Among Thieves has been pitched as perfect for fans of Six of Crows, and it has a lot in common with that work which many will enjoy, namely a ragtag crew from a criminal gang taking on a massive heist. The novel follows five POV characters as they are forced to work together, each with their own secrets and agendas. While I enjoyed Among Thieves, it didn’t quite keep me turning the pages the way I had hoped, especially for such a short, fast-paced Adult fantasy. 

In the opening chapters, we’re introduced to our main characters – Ryia, Tristan, Nash, Ivan and Evelyn. Three of these five characters had very similar backstories – they are on the run and their real identities are a secret that none of the others know. This similarity made it difficult to remember who was who at first, and also meant their stories didn’t feel unique enough to hold my interest.

The plot moved fast, was engaging, and the stakes were high. Inevitably, all their plans for the heist go wrong, and they have to adapt. Some parts kept me guessing, others felt a little too predictable.

Among Thieves has all the ingredients for an excellent heist caper, but something was missing. Although it made a change to read a short Adult fantasy novel, the restrictive length meant there wasn’t much space for the author to fully develop all five main characters. I felt distanced from most of them, and didn’t start feeling invested in their personal stories until near the end.

Ryia and Evelyn had the most character development, and the most interesting stories. Although there are five POVs, Ryia appears to be the protagonist. She was the character I got to know best, and who grew the most. Similarly, Evelyn changed a lot during the course of the novel, and had a satisfying character arc.

The other three POV characters, however, didn’t get as much screen time. Nash’s motivations for being part of the heist were never clear. We get tiny insights into her past and her family’s story, but that is never fully explored. Nash and Ivan both seemed to fade out of the story towards the end, which was disappointing.  

The hook for Among Thieves is the concept of five people working together but secretly planning to betray each other, a setup which has a lot of potential for juicy twists and suspense. However, for this to work, being invested in each of the individual characters is important, and it didn’t quite work for me.

Among Thieves appears to, currently, be a standalone, and the author has confirmed it was published as such. I therefore read this novel as a standalone, but it didn’t feel like one. So many plot threads were introduced and never resolved. There wasn’t a satisfying ending. This reads much more like the start of a series than a standalone, especially as most of the characters’ arcs were incomplete. If this were the first book in a series, it would have the potential to be an intriguing opening. As a standalone, not enough of the plot and character threads are resolved for it to feel complete.

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