Someone very wisely said something about second novels often being so much better than the first, and it was only just the other day, too. City of Thieves is such a book. I liked Ellen Renner’s Castle of Shadows, but have to say that with the sequel she has come a long way with her writing. Castle of Shadows had a hint of Joan Aiken about it, whereas this could almost be mistaken for an Aiken.
Where the first book concentrated on Queen Charlie, before Queenhood struck, this is the story of her faithful friend Tobias. And contrary to what I expected there is little contact between the two of them. They end up doing their bit for the nation of Quale separately. Charlie in her castle, and Tobias out in the town, where he finds himself uncomfortably close to his thieving relatives, the Petches.
So not only does Tobias have to contend with his biological father, the disgraced former prime minister, but his equally unsavoury adopted uncle Zebediah Petch gets his hands on him and trains him in the skills of thiefhood. It’s quite fascinating, really. A good little earner, and a skilfully set up company. You have to admire old Zebediah.
Between the thieves and the crooked politician and the scheming royals you get a fair bit of excitement. What will Tobias do? What can he do? His pal Charlie may be Queen, but what can she do?
Neither Zebediah nor the ex-prime minister Alistair Windlass are nice people, but they are awfully interesting. The Petch family also has some real characters who no doubt will be given an opportunity to do more.
Because, unlike Castle of Shadows, this book is not finished. You could have left things – just about – after book one. Now you’ll be panting for more, and fast.
I like very much.