Page Count: 247
Release Date: June 5th, 2015
Series: AMRA THETYS, Book 4
Rating: 4.5/5 – Really Liked It!
Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead for earlier books in the series. You can find reviews for those books here: THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE’S BRAIDS, THE THIEF WHO SPAT IN LUCK’S GOOD EYE, THE THIEF WHO KNOCKED ON SORROW’S GATE
Amra Thetys is missing. After saving the city of Bellarius from total destruction, the thief turned (very) reluctant hero has disappeared. Holgren, Amra’s partner (business and romantic), has magically determined that Amra isn’t dead just…somewhere else. Which means she can be retrieved, if Holgren can just find out where she is. But doing so takes very complicated magic and plenty of concentration, something that is continuously interrupted as competing factions in Bellarius struggle for control of the ruined city. All the factions are convinced that Holgren is a dangerous competitor for power. But those who try to end Holgren quickly find he is something worse: a mage who only views the factions as obstacles to be removed by any means necessary.
THE THIEF WHO WASN’T THERE is a fantastic next installment in the grimdark world of AMRA THETYS that asks you to root for a character is very often on the dark side of the grey scale. Holgren has been trying to put magic behind him, both because of some wayward steps made as a young sorcerer, and after being magically compelled by an ancient being to use his powers against Amra. He didn’t like the person magic made him – and it turns out, Holgren might have been right to worry.
Holgren knows that magic is the only way to retrieve Amra from wherever she went, and he plunges back into the deep end of the pool without a moment’s hesitation. You know that trope of a detached wizard who can’t be bothered with the petty squabbles of the common man as they’re too wrapped up in their own projects? Now imagine that as a first-person POV character and you have the tone of THE THIEF WHO WASN’T THERE. McClung does an excellent job of shifting the voice of the story to Holgren’s, and manages to make both a thoroughly entertaining story that also makes you very concerned about the main character’s state of mind.
You see, Holgren is a man with one goal: Bring Amra back. And he really, REALLY doesn’t care about anyone or anything else. So when the civil war in the city of Bellarius spills into his life, Holgren just tries to remove that annoyance as efficiently as possible (with varying degres of success). And if that means casually killing people, so be it. Readers are put in the uncomfortable position of rooting for a character while at the same time going “Umm…maybe…maybe don’t do that?” Holgren’s actions are mitigated slightly by the fact that Bellarius is a very grimdark world, and pretty much no one in it is a saint, but it becomes fairly clear that without Amra to remind Holgren where the line is, Holgren doesn’t really see a line at all.
Returning to this story is Keel, Amra’s hired assistant from the last book who has now attached himself to Holgren. Keel is as close to a saint as you get in this book, a former gang member who now is the one stabilizing influence on Holgren, reminding him to do things like eat and sleep, and generally taking care of the mundane parts of life Holgren keeps forgetting about. Keel is the bright spot to remind you the world isn’t a TOTAL loss, and I hope he continues to return in the next book.
THE THIEF WHO WASN’T THERE is tailor-made for people who like to sink their teeth into a good character over all else. There’s plenty of conflict going on in the book, but all of that is extraneous to Holgren and his quest. The star of the book is Holgren, who at the end of the day really isn’t that good a person, but who you still find yourself utterly compelled to watch as he steamrolls his way through Bellarius and beyond. It’s definitely a darker installment in the AMRA THETYS series, but one that is absolutely worth the read.