Andy Peloquin always manages to surprise, and not always in a nice way. In fact, his books are often very nasty. This one especially so, because it starts out at the level of a rather seamy Oliver Twist, and slowly, ever so slowly, drags us downward through a spiral of increasing violence into the pits of hell.
Enough said about the merits of the plot.
Mr. Peloquin’s greatest talent (besides description of blood, gore, and agony) is the development of likeable, sympathetic characters. In this case he has it easy at the start: an eight-year-old girl sold into slavery in a thieves’ guild, undergoing cruel training. What’s not to empathize with? As her training progresses, she learns to do harsher and harsher deeds, but each step into depravity is always preceded by some worse atrocity done to her. As a result, we are persuaded that her actions are justified. Until the next time.
By the end of the tale she is a hardened criminal, able to visit the most horrible punishment on her tormentor – who deserves every bit of it – and we are still cheering her on. Which, when we stop and look back on it, doesn’t make us feel very good about ourselves.
My only complaint of the story is that the conflict is rather arbitrary. Since both the heroine and the villain stalk the same underworld, there is no causal reason for any of their meetings, and the reader becomes aware of the author’s control of the events of the conflict. We begin to wonder whether we are being introduced to a nice character solely so he can be killed off later to increase our horror.
The denouement is mostly satisfying, but open-ended enough to lead us on to the next book in the series, which we look forward to with anticipation. After all, how much worse can it get?
Probably a lot.
Recommended for fans of darkest fantasy. (4 / 5)