The Nine (Thieves of Fate #1) by Tracy Townsend

the nineI enjoyed this book so much that I’m actually nervous to write a review – this is not a thing that happens often, not because my reviews are brilliant or simply flow from my brain into the written form with ease and flair, but because I really want people to read this book and this makes me worry in case I don’t do the book justice and you read this review and feel simply ambivalent or worse.  So, before I have a chance to mess this up – read this book.  It is that simple.  This will, without doubt make my end of year ‘best of list’.

I just loved this book.  I’m gushing on a little bit now but that’s because I have such high hopes for the rest of this series and frankly I’m excited – because finding a new series like this is always a thing of joy.  The imagination at work here is wonderful, I loved the world that the author has created and more than that I loved the characters.  It’s complex and intricate and yet brilliantly simple all in one.  Complex because of the characters and the roles they play, intricate because of the detail and attention that bring everything to life for the reader and simple in that the plot fundamentally revolves around a book.  It hooked me from the first few pages and then reeled me in until I was completely absorbed in this world.

As the story begins we make the introduction of Rowena Downshire, a young girl who works as a courier and is about to take on more work as one of the other couriers has gone missing.  Rowena works for a black marketeer called Ivor.  Nobody double crosses Ivor.  He’s a nasty piece of work all told and although he may provide a roof and a crust to those in his employ this is not benevolence but business.  Rowena finds herself on route to the Alchemist with an important delivery when she is attacked and robbed.  Her choices are simple, she can continue on to the Alchemist and seek help, although his reputation is little better, if not worse, than that of Ivor, or she can face her employer and a beating that she might never wake up from.  I don’t really want to give a lot away about the plot, there is murder and mystery, there’s the whole issue of ‘the book’, there are many threads being woven together in terms of the different parties in play here, there is adventure and recklessness, banter, bravery and, well, everything else that I want in a book and then some.

The world building.  Townsend has created this wonderfully dark world that feels seedy and grimy, it reminds me of some sort of mash up of Dickens and Lynch in it’s settings that take us through poorly lit slums, to debtors jail, to sumptuous masked balls and underground tunnels.  I loved the world created here.  It’s has a period feel in terms of the clothing and means of transportation, and then I can’t decide whether this is gaslamp, flintlock or steampunk – I’ll leave better brains than mine to figure that out although ultimately the definition matters not one whit – I’m sure you get the general feeling I’m going for and perhaps Ms Townsend defies definition.

The book is full of imagination and new ideas.  Firstly we have the religious/scientific aspect to the book.  To be clear, this is not a book about religion and isn’t trying to sell any ideas or preach to the reader.  The concept here revolves around ‘creation’ being an experiment, an experiment that is still in progress.  That’s all I’ll say about that side of the story.  In terms of the other species here we have the Lanyani and Aigamuxa.  What creations are these!  The Aigamuxa are quite terrifying – imagine jungle book in the style of Pan’s Labyrinth, well, that’s about the closest I can come to describing them.  Similarly the Lanyani – an equally fascinating creation that puts me in mind of a tree ent combined with all the endearing qualities of a triffid.   These two just blew my mind.  The thing here, these aren’t overly used or discussed and yet they feel fully formed and completely intriguing.

And, I’ve saved the best bit – although there are no bad bits – to the last.  The characters.  How I love these characters.  All of them, good and bad.  They all come together in the most perfect way to make this story a rollercoaster of emotions.  Rowena.  She’s a tough little cookie.  She may be small and skinny but don’t underestimate her.  Rowena has grown up on the mean streets of Corma, she is threaded through with steely determination and yet something in her undoubtedly brings out the better side in others – as it will do in you the reader.  I really cared for Rowena.  She’s fiercely loyal, stubborn and doesn’t always think things through but she’s an excellent character.  The Alchemist, also known as the Bear, is also a wonderful creation and one that I just loved.  One of those characters that’s all bristles and bark but really, underneath, there’s so much more to him.  Finally, Anselm.  Oh dear God what has happened to me – I loved his character too.  I’m undone.  It’s just that he plays his role so well.  And the three of them together.  What can I say.  Just read it and you’ll see what I mean.  There are of course other characters and to be honest they’re all well drawn – in particular I must give a shout out to Rare.

I have no criticisms.  I could probably dig around and try to conjure up something but I’m feeling on a book high and I don’t want to dampen the mood.

The only thing I would say about this book is that you need to fully immerse yourself.  This is a book that needs reading and digesting.  It’s not a difficult book to read at all but there are plenty of characters and a whole web of ideas – they of course all come together quite beautifully but in the meantime you have to gather all the threads and keep them in your mind, ready and waiting until they fulfil their course and spin a thing of beauty.

So, if you fancy a dark fantasy, packed with ideas, full of intrigue, populated with imaginative species and characters you can love, hate and fear then grab yourself a copy of this.  I can’t say enough good things about this book, although I’ve given it a good try.  Do yourself a favour and give it a shot.

I received a copy through Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher – for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.