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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids (Amra Thetys, #1)

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braids (Amra Thetys Book 1) - Michael McClung

Never let it be said that I don't judge a book by its cover.

I clicked over to the preview pages because the cover drew my eye. Okay, so the price--Free!--did as well. But, I'm all about covers. This one wasn't particularly dynamic, but the simple, balanced composition suggested "professional," as opposed to the badly Photoshopped (with ugly edge matching) disasters that still typify the self-pubbed market.

So...the book's contents.

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braid's is an entertaining yarn. Amra Thetys is a thief, and "kick-ass" in a genuine, believable manner. In other words, she doesn't talk tough, but turn into a helpless ninny when the obligatory love interest arrives on scene. This is may be due to the fact that there is no love interest, which, coincidentally, may be the story's strength.

I love romance. And a truly sexy sex scene. A good romantic subplot is almost a necessity for me. Unfortunately, the trend lately has been to take a perfectly good heroine (or hero), introduce her to the love interest(s), and immediately devolve her into an addlepated lust monkey. Which is why so many of the urban fantasies I've read recently have been a disappointment. This novel isn't urban fantasy, but the premise, structured around a mystery, is similar to a lot of urban fantasy. Too often romantic fantasy novels plots are a series of poorly conceived coincidences designed to get the couple together (and fucking at inopportune moments).

Amra's goal is simple. To find the person who killed her friend Corbin and make that person dead. Though assassination isn't her M.O., makin' stealthy and creeping unnoticed into habitations is. Naturally, she assumes that killing Corbin's killer will be easy once she identifies the perp. The problem is Corbin's killer may be more than the usual tough guy.

Finding that she's over her head, she enlists the help of her buddy, Holgren, a mage. The nifty thing about Holgren is that he isn't a Gandalf. Meaning he doesn't exist solely to issue cryptic-prophetic statements, but otherwise stand around with his thumb up his butt, only using his powers as a last resort. Holgren is more than happy to turn a baddy into a cloud of bloody mist. Or cook up a super-speed spell. Holdgren's the kind of mage you want to have on a quest.

Other characters round out the plot, but the Amra/Holgren duo are at the core of the action. Amra isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, but she doesn't escape unscathed from her take-charge approach; instead she emerges from her adventures, bloodied, broken and scarred. Or, rather, more scarred, since she apparently carries some significant facial scars from events in her past. Which leads to another point in her favor; she's not particularly pretty. I.e., no blather about how hot she looks; or worse yet, descriptions of her makeup routine and wardrobe.

As character arcs go, Amra's is pancake flat. She starts and ends the story as pretty much the same person; she never has a dark moment (e.g.,"fuck this shit, I'm retiring to a tropic island"). That degree of depth, however, would probably conflict with the story's light, adventurous tone. I'd imagine, if the series continues through several novels, Amara's apparently complicated past will give subsequent stories a darker tone.

Recommended to readers in search of a genuinely kick-ass, capable heroine in a fast-paced, fantasy adventure.