Digging through the fantasy bestseller lists for something other than Brandon Sanderson or Robert Jordan leads me to think that the only stuff being published at the moment is dark, gritty, bloody fantasy. Having expressed my distaste for Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch, I was rather hesitant of picking up Hulick’s Among Thieves, first in his Tales of the Kin series. What decided me in the end was the lure of the first person narrative, something rather uncommon in the genre–oh, and a pretty good opening, since I sampled first and then couldn’t stop (however, this same thing happened when I picked up both Abercrombie and Lynch’s books).
At the end of the day, this book was neither so bad as Abercrombie and Lunch’s books nor so good. Vulgar language was limited to moments of duress for the characters, and there was not a bloodbath to wade through in the reading. But Hulick is simply not the same quality storyteller as the other two. Now, Among Thieves is a good read. It throws in a few kinks along the way, though they all seemed somewhat predictable–maybe not in the sense that you know exactly what’s going to happen, only that you know something is going to happen and so you aren’t surprised when it does. Also, the ending of the story was for me the weakest point, as Drothe receives a rather unlikely “promotion”…
Oh, well, let’s talk about Drothe, our protagonist. He is an interesting one, and Hulick does a remarkable job of balancing all of his loyalties on a knife’s edge. His relationships with his sister, best friend, and boss are particularly well-written, and it is gut-wrenching to say the least when they begin to fall apart after Drothe’s various actions. The amazing thing is that although Drothe is a criminal, a murderer, a liar, and a traitor (to some), Hulick manages to make you respect the man for one singular trait: honor. Despite all the horrible things he does, you always feel Drothe is actually trying to do the right thing. It adds a nice layer of irony to the tale when you step back and remember what he does for a living even while battling to maintain his sense of right and wrong.
On the whole, this is a fun book. For a supposedly dark and gritty fantasy, there is an awful amount of comedy going on–and not just the black kind–and you actually feel bad for the “hero” when things go bad. I never had that response to Abercrombie or Lynch’s characters. Hulick’s book may not have reached the storytelling heights of those of others, but he is off to a good start. I can say this much: Whereas I shall like never pick up a second book by the other two authors I’ve mentioned, I do await Hulick’s sequel to Among Thieves eagerly.
My Rating: ★★★★★