Among Thieves as a fast paced, heist story with a group of morally grey and treacherous thieves, con men, mercenaries and smugglers, set in a murky fantasy world.
I blasted through this book in a week and at around 300+ pages this is quick and fun read. The downside is that there isn’t a huge amount of depth in the worldbuilding and not all the characters are fully formed. This is more of a personal gripe rather than a criticism of the author as I love my worldbuilding complex and detailed. At times I did find it difficult to form an image of where the characters were and what kind of time period the book was set in.
I found in a few instances that some of the language used by the characters was quite modern sounding which, for me, clashed with the period setting.
But where M. J. Kuhn excels at is dialogue and character. Ryia, our main protagonist, is a sarcastic, dangerous, mysterious woman and I found her character arc fascinating. Kuhn feeds us titbits of information about her dark past in a way that keeps you turning the page. Other characters in the ensemble don’t get as much attention but Kuhn gives you enough to invest in them as characters and care about where they are and where they, and the story, are going.
As I mentioned above, I loved the dialogue in this book. It was fast paced, witty and full of innuendo and intrigue. There’s a fair amount of cussing, so if you don’t like that in your fantasy, this isn’t for you. We are dealing with dangerous, treacherous people who will turn their backs on one another if it serves their purpose. Each character has an agenda and Kuhn pits them against each other cleverly.
The chapters are split between the ensembles pov. We get to be inside the heads of all our principle characters which simultaneously amps up the mystery and deception but also makes for unreliable narrators.
I also really enjoyed the magic system, and learning about how it works through the story is effective and tied in well with Ryia’s arc.
This is an assured and confident debut from M.J Kuhn and I think this book is perfect as a palette cleanser if you’ve just read a huge epic fantasy and need a fun, easy read next. I am looking forward to seeing what she does with these characters in the future and hopefully see the world expand a bit more.
I give this a solid 4/5.