by Lynn Abbey
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
When Thieves World was first published in 1979, it became an instant classic, driven by memorable characters like Cappen Varra and Hanse Shadowspawn, Enas Yorl and Jubal. As the series continued, anarchy set in as authors ignored the creation of likable characters in an attempt to create more and more powerful figures. Following the twelfth book, Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey discontinued the series, relegating it to the shelves of used book stores. An occasional story, such as Robin Wayne Bailey's "The Stars are Tears" or Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Gratitude of Kings was published. Now, Lynn Abbey is resurrecting Thieves World with the novel Sanctuary, which will lead to an eventual anthology series.
Abbey has returned to the idea that Thieves' World should be populated by memorable, rather than powerful, characters. Her protagonist is Cauvin, an orphan who works at his foster father's stone works. The novel opens with the (perhaps too obvious) passing of the torch when Cauvin comes across one of the few living relicts of the original series, a nonagenarian Molin Torchholder. If Cauvin does not, at first, appear too memorable, it is because he seems to be an orphan working for a stone cutter and there is nothing particularly extraordinary about him. However, at one time in their lives, there was nothing extraordinary about Enas Yorl or others from the original series. Abbey seems intent on showing Cauvinís complete rise to power from a nobody to a complex character.
Cauvinís history is described, although Abbey intelligently leaves the more gory details to the readerís imagination. His world is filled with some of the typical Sanctuary haunts. . . the Maze, the Vulgar Unicorn and Pyrtanis Street. More important than his city are his friendships. While most of the friends from his childhood are dead, he maintains a strange, but close, relationship with Leorin, now a whore at the Unicorn. He has been taken in by Grabar, the stonemason, who has promised to make him his heir, and Grabarís wife, Mina. Most important is his protective relationship with his foster brother, Becvar. A string of other useful, but not as close, relationships are also revealed, giving Cauvin hooks for future misadventures.
In addition to the story of how Cauvin becomes Molin Torchholderís heir, Abbey has two other items on her agenda. She must provide a history of Sanctuary over the last thirty years since the end of Stealerís Sky. This is accomplished by having Molin relate parts of the tale to Becvar and by having Cauvin suffer strange flashbacks which are related to his eventual designation as the Torchís heir. In many ways, these are the most satisfying parts of the novel, mostly because they allow a reacquaintance with familiar friends, as well as a description of their eventually fates.
Abbey must also set the stage for the future of Sanctuary. This task is more closely woven into the story of Cauvin, who was a victim of the Bloody Hand, a Dyareelan cult which held Sanctuary in its sway for a period of time. While the Bloody Hand helped purge Sanctuary of many of the earlier rival factions, it did so at a cost which is still being felt, years after they Bloody Hand was destroyed by Irrune nomads. Abbey is clearly providing subsequent authors which a complex political situation which will almost certainly include a re-emergence of her new factions as well as some of the older factions.
While the novel does, at times, slow down, it magnificently achieves the goal of pointing to the past and the future of Sanctuary. Perhaps even more importantly, it recaptures the original flavor of Sanctuary and will make its readers want to re-read the original anthologies, either from their collections or when Tor reprints the books. As with the original Thieves World in 1978, Sanctuary provides the promise of great things in a collaborative world. With luck, Abbey has learned to control the more anarchic tendencies of authors and the series Sanctuary points to will not become another power-play for the contributors.
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