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The Thief-Taker's Apprentice
Stephen Deas
Gollancz, 282 pages

The Thief-Taker's Apprentice
Stephen Deas
Stephen Deas was born in Southeast England, in 1968, and mostly brought up in a town full of retired colonels. He has, at various times, been obsessed with mathematics, classical piano music, kung-fu, particle physics and Sid Meier's Civilisation (the original).

Stephen Deas Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

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Stephen Deas begins a young adult series with The Thief-Taker's Apprentice that takes place on the far side of the world introduced in his more adult-oriented Memory of Flames series. So far, the only thing that ties the two series together are the mysterious traders that make appearances in both. The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is a coming-of-age story with all the accompanying angst of a young boy growing up, but the well-developed world and intriguing characters raise it above the scads of YA fiction appearing today.

Berren is a pickpocket who lives with a gang near the docks of Deephaven, a city with an underbelly as seedy as its palaces are rich. After watching an execution, Berren attempts to steal the winnings from the thief-taker who brought in the victims but gets a purse with just a few coins for his trouble. But because he succeeded in getting the thief-taker's purse at all, Syannis offers him a chance to become his apprentice. While Berren wants only to learn to fight with swords like his master, Syannis's ideas of education include learning manners and letters.

Berren learns that thief-taking, bringing in thieves -- sometimes unharmed -- for a fee is far more complicated than he as first believed. Marketed as a YA novel, The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is a story for all ages to enjoy and includes some fairly violent scenes such as an occurrence when Berren meets his former pickpocketing pals. And while this novel doesn't have the same level of political intrigue as The Adamantine Palace, the first book in the Memory of Flames, Deas does introduce elements of corruption, showing Berren new aspects of Deephaven.

Deas paints vivid pictures of the city's market as well as the dark alleyways and network of narrow streets of the city's dock area and the shacks where those who are even poorer reside. Deas has a talent for dialogue as well, especially between Berren and Syannis as they become more acquainted. Berren and Syannis are especially well-developed characters, and I hope some of the supporting cast will have larger roles in future installments. Filled with intrigue and action, Deas keeps the pace moving at a brisk clip, and I found myself wishing for a longer tale.

Deas introduces a backstory about Syannis's mysterious past, and I'm eager to see how this fits into the larger picture. He has created an intriguing city with a mix of cultures that is a terrific backdrop for a fantasy series, YA or otherwise. The one thing that didn't really work for me was a change in voice for a short time during the book. It felt awkward, and as if he had no other way to pass on certain information. Overall, The Thief-Taker's Apprentice is an enjoyable read.

Copyright © 2011 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.


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