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Thief With No Shadow
Emily Gee
Solaris, 464 pages

Thief With No Shadow
Emily Gee
Emily Gee is the daughter of famous New Zealand novelist Maurice Gee. As well as credits in Ancient Greek, Chemistry, and Canine Behaviour, she has a Bachelor of Science (Geology) and a Post Graduate Diploma (Rehabilitation). Her varied career includes stints as a field assistant in Antarctica, a waitress on the Isle of Skye, and a rehabilitation instructor in New Zealand. She currently works in the wine industry in Marlborough, New Zealand. Thief With No Shadow was her debut novel.

Emily Gee Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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Driven by the need to ransom her brother back from a vicious group of inhuman creatures known as salamanders, Melke steals a necklace whose value is greater than she could ever have imagined, for it's actually the key to breaking a deadly curse laid upon the sal Vere family. Caught between honor and desperation, Melke makes a deal with Bastion sal Vere and his sister, Liana: if they'll take care of her grievously wounded brother, she'll steal the necklace back from the salamanders, using her bizarre ability to become unseen. Now this unlikely foursome must learn to live together and work together to overcome the odds stacked against them. Not only do they have the fearsome salamanders to brave, but the being who cursed the sal Veres, an ancient water elemental, is coming to collect the necklace, and if it's not present, it'll exact a horrible payment upon Bastian and Liana. Can Melke hone her skills, overcome her self-loathing and fear, and retrieve the necklace from the salamanders in time to save Bastian and Liana and break their family's curse, or will everyone involved pay a price for her failure? The answer isn't as obvious as one might think. Of course, in the end, it may just be that Melke's worst enemy really is her own psyche, as she wars with her feelings, both good and bad, for her brother and their hosts.

I'm really torn on my opinion of this book. It's my sincere opinion that three of the four main characters desperately need intensive counseling and therapy, since Melke, her brother Hantje, and Bastian all suffer from major bouts of self-loathing, doubt, self-pity, and unreasonable biases towards one another. There's a lot of "I deserve this because I'm bad, or evil, or wrong" and a lot of "She deserves this because she's evil, and a thief," and even more "I deserve this because I let someone get hurt..." and so on. Melke suffers from self-hatred because of the perception of her powers as something bad, and the perception of herself as a thief. Hantje suffers from guilt and distress. Bastian blames himself for his sister's problems, hates Hantje for being a thief, and loathes Melke for being a thief and a Wraith (as people with her powers are known). Of the four, the only one with a clear head and an open mind is Liane, who finally takes some matters into her own hands in order to get things accomplished. It's obvious that the events of the book serve as catharsis and therapy for the characters to some degree, but it's not easy to get through a story where so many of the protagonists aren't just broken, they're barely held together with duct tape and a prayer.

Worse still are the horrible moments inflicted upon Bastian and Hantje, both of whom endure some upsetting moments in order to protect, save, or redeem the women of the story. Both times involve the "unhealthy" sexual appetites of non-human beings; a salamander has its way in order to exact a price out of one person, while the water being (called a psaaron) indulges itself on another. There was just nothing pleasant about either scene, and while they certainly furthered the plot and added more depths to the characters in question, they also fueled the above moments of self-hatred and punishment, making for an uncomfortable aftertaste while reading.

That's not to say that the book is bad, or unreadable, or not worth picking up. Emily Gee has certainly laid out an interesting setting, with believable non-human species and hints at a larger world to be explored. There are some fascinating elements that she could work with, and I think it might be good to look at more of the world and the beings that inhabit it. As it stands, I found this to be an awkward story, with characters who were a little too flawed in the execution. I think with more enjoyable characters, and a somewhat larger space to play in (for overall, this story felt claustrophobic and closed-in), Gee could probably do quite nicely. I'll keep my eyes open for her next offering, to see if it appeals more to me, as she does have a good style and a lot of promise.

Copyright © 2008 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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