Berren's only ever known a life of crime. An excellent thief, he makes his living cutting purses and paying a percentage to Hatchet in return for his protection. But when he tries to steal money from Sy, a thief-taker, he gets more than he bargained for. Master Sy tracks him down and buys him from Hatchet to train as his apprentice.
Berren longs to be taught how to fight with swords. Instead he's forced to learn to read, write and basic manners. But there are some consolations, notably in Lilissa, the pretty seamstress who Berren protects. Soon though Sy and Berren find themselves caught up in an investigation into piracy, an investigation that plunges master and apprentice into a world of corruption that runs across all layers of society where everyone wants them dead ...
Stephen Deas's novel, the first in a new YA fantasy trilogy is a slow-burning but skilfully crafted affair.
Berren is a resourceful thief who comes to realise that there are other ways of living and who slowly decides that he wants to improve himself and his prospects. As far as he knows, he's an abandoned orphan but Sy seems to think that he reminds him of an old friend. Sy himself has a mysterious background - a prince who was usurped from his throne and forced to flee, he carries an old grudge against an unknown enemy and is cynical about those in power. In truth, Sy interested me more than Berren and I thought the book missed something when he was absent purely because Berren's story and character is such a staple in fantasy stories of this type. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Sy introduces Berren to his old friends and also his cynical reaction to both them and his own history.
There's a tentative romance between Berren and Lilissa, which is slow to develop and suffers from the fact that Lilissa doesn't appear very often. In fact, my main criticism of the book is that there's a dearth of female characters in this book other than prostitutes, which is a bit depressing.
There's a lot of set-up in this book, which affects the pacing but where there are action scenes, Deas handles these well. There's a relatively open ending, but I hope that the sequel will be a faster-moving affair and there was enough here to ensure that I'll read on.
on 22 September 2011
The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is a tale of bounty-hunters and thieves set in a historic fantasy world. It's not your fantastical creatures or special power type of fantasy, more an alternate world with temples, priests and the occasional witch doctor.
Berren is a teenage dung-sweeper and pickpocket. He is one of Hatchet's boys and lives a miserable life in Shipwrights by the docks. He shares a rotten floor with a lot of other unwashed boys, eats scraps of stale bread and basically stinks of fish and poop! Berren has a simple ambition: he wants to make money. He does this by cutting purses. He feels no guilt about his thieving. It doesn't weigh on his conscience. When there is a public execution in the centre of town, he goes to watch like all the other boys. He enjoys seeing the blood as the guilty have their heads chopped off but it is the lure of ten gold Emperors, which the Thief-Taker has earned, that really gets his blood pumping. All that lovely money! Berren is determined to cut the Thief-Taker's purse. He thinks that such a glorious sum could change his life forever. So he spends the rest of the day looking for the Thief-Taker and of course goes about his thievery.
It won't surprise you to find out that Berren becomes Master Sy's apprentice. I think it comes as a surprise to both of them though. At the beginning of the novel Berren has a rather romanticised idea of a thief-taker's work. He thinks it's all swashing buckling and sword-fights. The story follows Berren as he begins his education into what it takes to be a bounty-hunter. It requires patience, investigative skills and intuition. But there's no denying that it is also a very violent profession.
Both Berren and Master Syannis are great characters. Convincingly written, Berren is as lustful as any teenage boy. Deas portrays him as courageous whilst still being naive and motivated by money and power. The reasons behind Master Sy's offer of an apprenticeship are mysterious and seem to hint at an intriguing secret to be revealed in the future. It is the relationship between Berren and Master Sy that really make this book a joy to read. It leapt off the page through the dialogue and the grudging respect that Berren feels for his Master without ever him ever actually verbalising it. Their connection was endearing. (I don't think they'd appreciate me saying that though).
The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is the first book in a series but it is still a satisfying story and doesn't end on an annoying cliff-hanger. I think boys who enjoy fantasy but have outgrown a series like Spooks by Joseph Delaney will enjoy this. It had a boy-sy feel - I guess because of the descriptions of beheading etc. But the violence isn't at all gratuitous; it fits the story and the setting. Of course, girls like me who love high fantasy will also enjoy this. I can't wait to read the follow up The Warlock's Shadow and find out about the mysterious Sun and Moon temples and Master Sy's home land. The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is like Dickens' Oliver meets Graceling sort of. Well, it's great anyway. I recommend it.
on 30 January 2012
A good, short, entertaining read. The apprenticeship part of the story works very well, and is quite interesting enough in its own right. But the main mcguffin plot about finding the pirates seems a bit thin, and almost tacked on. The world-building is nicely done in small accretions, without any huge info-dumps. The main characters are well drawn. Only the token female remains a closed book, but I'm going to generously hope that she comes into her own more in subsequent books, which I will be reading.
I was surprised one of the other reviews said this was YA, but suitable for younger kids. I thought it was YA all the way through, but towards the end wondered if I'd got that wrong and it was an adult book. It is *very* unpleasantly violent towards the end. I don't say this in a disapproving way (I like Joe Abercrombie!), just slightly surprised.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The city of Deephaven is still recovering from a civil war that wracked it and the surrounding Empire several decades ago. The war left behind many orphans and unwanted children, some of whom have grown up with thievery the only option for survival. After unwisely making a thief-taker his mark, one of these boys, Berren finds his life transformed as he is recruited as the thief-taker's apprentice.
The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is the start of a new trilogy by Stephen Deas, author of the Memory of Flames Trilogy (The Adamantine Palace, The King of the Crags and the forthcoming The Order of Scales). It is set in the same world, apparently on a continent on the far side of the Taiytakei homelands, but a couple of mentions of the Taiytakei aside, there are no links between the two series (yet, anyway). It is also nominally a 'Young Adult' title, but Deas actually pulls few punches in the book to accommodate these younger readers. Particularly amusing (and actually effective) is the use of corrupted Cockney rhyming slang to get around restrictions on swearing, whilst the violence is not particularly sanitised (although not gratuitous, either).
The book is pretty traditional. Whilst Memory of Flames has the politics of the dragon realms and the use of dragons as horrendous weapons of war going for it, The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is much happier employing standard tropes. We have a young main character (albeit one whose morality is a bit greyer than the standard young boy cliche), an older mentor (a disgraced nobleman from a distant land), the romantic interest, the nemesis and so on. Those looking for something surprising and new might be disappointed here. However, Deas takes the standard material and infuses it with great pace and some impressive depth, given the modest page count. The city of Deephaven, with its myriad districts, street gangs, commercial interests, sense of traumatic history and politics (seen here only at a far remove), is depicted very well, whilst there's some good character moments, particularly with Syannis the conflicted thief-taker and some minor characters like Kasmin. Berren himself and romantic interest Lilissa are less surprising, but likable enough as antagonists.
Where the book falters is that it hints at some more interesting developments to come, but then ends just as the story gets going. Given the book's slight length, it feels like it could have been longer and pursued certain storylines further.
The Thief-Taker's Apprentice (***½) is a likable, enjoyable story but one that whets the appetite rather than fully satisfies. The sequel, The Warlock's Shadow, is due next year. The book is available now in the UK and on import in the USA.
on 14 February 2015
Enjoyable sword and sorcery, though I did find myself skipping over rather pedestrian descriptions. I found most of the characters to be rather one-dimensional, and the main protagonist is in turns feral, trusting, venal and caring. Rather mixed and not entirely believable. This first book is VERY obviously set out as the first of three. The three novels could easily have been written as one, and would have benefitted from more coherence, I think.
Still, I read the three of them, but there is better out there. I am interested to see how Deas progresses.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Stephen breaks into the Young Adult Fantasy Market with this offering and to be honest its an offering that will soon win him some younger fans. The writing style is beautiful, the prose ideal and to be brutally honest one that really will help the reader imagine the city in which the tale is set.
Add to the mix great combat, some magical twists and an author who plays for keeps which makes this title a book that really was a real joy to read. Fans of Stephens adult titles will definitely want to recommend this title to younger family members and will enjoy this title just as much themselves. A great kick off to the Gollancz Young Adult publishing business and if the quality is kept will soon make them a serious name for Young Adult quality fiction.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 3 December 2012
Amazon you need to respect your customers - stop abusing your monopoly over Kindle e-book distribution by overcharging. It should NEVER be more expensive to buy the e-book version than a hard copy version. Can you imagine how galling it is to receive endless spam e-mails from you telling me that the hardback version of a book is cheaper than the electronic version. And pay your taxes like everybody else.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2011
I don't know if I would have know this was YA if I hadn't read it somewhere, and because of that it works just as well for a young reader as for an adult reader.
The main character is a thief named Berren, he is somewhere between 12 and 15, an orphan and a tough young boy that has seen the city at its worst. I did like him, one have to, he steals to survive and he is smart enough to realize (after a while) that being an apprentice to a thief-taker could get him out of his old life. But he is also smart enough to see that his new life is pretty messed up too, he will surely have to kill someday. His new master Sy, is an enigma and I like those. Slowly we learn more about him and why he does the things he do. There are a few others we meet too but in this book the young Lissiana stands out the most. Young heroes always have crushes.
The book was bloody too, perhaps that is what made it better for me. That might sound wrong, but life was harsh and I like it to show in fantasy. People do die, and here they did, and nasty things happened, lives were in put in danger. But it is never too violent, too bloody, and the main characters never get too hurt. There is always hope.
I quite enjoyed this tale about Berren, and the best part for me was also the part that makes me wanna read book 2. In the beginning Sy says that Berren looks like someone, then someone else says it too, and of course I am dying to find out what that is all about. Just as I wanted to know who Sy really was.
A good solid fantasy story for all ages. There is danger, adventure, that first crush and secrets, and those are always the best. It's not that long either so I read it fast. I do look forward to book 2 to find out more. Recommended.
on 8 September 2011
I thought this book was a nice change, it's different and all in all I thought, a nice idea.
It's rather interesting and did include some elements of a twist throughout the plot. A nice, easy read.
on 3 March 2013
This is a really good book for people who enjoy chases in alleyways and Gore . It's a really good book but not my favourite. I hope you find this review helpful