Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Title: Midnight Thief
Author: Livia Blackburne
Series: Midnight Thief, book #1
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

Midnight Thief was full of surprises. It would have been a great novel to use for my "Review in a GIFfy" feature, if only to use a lot of GIFs with shocked faces. I read the novella last fall after the author graciously sent me a copy, and I think she did so to throw me for a loop once I got to Midnight Thief. Poison Dance is a prequel to this novel and provides the backstory for a very significant character in Midnight Thief, one that seems very much changed...or maybe affected is a better word choice. If you decide to read that story prior to this full-length novel, I recommend keeping in mind that the author wrote the prequel because she had lingering questions about one of her characters.

The characters in Midnight Thief were nothing like I was expecting, especially after reading the prequel story. They were so much more, and I'm actually pretty satisfied with the direction the author took with each of their stories, even if it did take a bit of deliberation to get to that point. I won't make any justifications for any of the characters, but I feel like their actions -- and what led them to them -- were fitting. Kyra is a very talented thief, one with cat-like grace who can circumvent palace guards and deadly assassins alike. But she isn't a skilled fighter. Her successes have all come from her need to survive and look out for the few people who depend on her. Tristam is a privileged knight, dead-set on avenging his friend's death at the hands of the Demon Riders. The story is told from both of their perspectives through alternating chapters, and when I got to nearly half-way through the novel, I started to wonder if the two main characters would ever meet. But meet they did, and what an encounter that was!

I really enjoyed the writing in this story. It's not high fantasy with crazy names for people and places, or one where I needed a map at the start of the book to get some sense of the land, but there is a seriously fantastical element having to do with the Demon Riders that I wasn't expecting at the onset of the novel, and that more than made up for the slightly slower pacing in the first quarter or so and kept the story from feeling generic. I did find that it was fairly easy to guess the nature of the "startling secret" mentioned in the summary, but it didn't detract from the story. In fact, I think knowing that made it easier for my brain to take a break and ignore clues to other goings on that might have made parts of the ending less astonishing. What I mean to say is, though some aspects of this novel may seem slightly predictable, the novel as a whole lends itself to an air of unpredictability, much to my delight. I'm horrible about trying to guess every secret a story holds, and I love a book all the more if it can keep me guessing, as Midnight Thief did.

I've found lately that a lot of summaries for fantasy novels like to mention assassins in the story and then not a whole lot of assassinating actually happens. Kyra is NOT an assassin, nor does she wish to become one. Honestly, there isn't much in the way of assassinations in this novel, but there is plenty of intrigue, death and betrayal, and I don't think that's too far off. Also, I appreciate that this summary makes little to no mention of a romance because this was most certainly not a swooning, fall into his arms kind of story. There are a few moments, and they were spectacularly handled -- both by the characters and the author -- but romance is definitely not where the author's focus lies in this first book. I loved where the author left things, with questions and uncertainties for both of the characters but no one's life is left hanging in the balance. Though there are definitely some major changes coming for some of the characters.

Midnight Thief is an excellent fantasy story that is sure to keep you on your toes. This novel will surely appeal to readers looking for a fast-paced story, full of danger and intrigue and just a hint of romance. It was riveting and damn-near unputdownable, and I hate that I now have to wait another year for more of this story. If you're contemplating reading this story or still unsure, I highly suggest picking up the novella, which is free for Kindle and Nook right now.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

I was a neuroscience graduate student at MIT, conducting research on the neural correlates of reading, where I took the analytical approach I used for my experiments and applied it towards the process of writing and publishing. After earning my doctorate, I've switched to full time writing. My debut YA fantasy novel MIDNIGHT THIEF will be coming out with Disney-Hyperion in 2014. The goal of this blog remains the same though: study pieces of writing, break it down into component pieces, and try to see what makes it work.

Find Livia:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads


  1. Eeeeh! I'm so glad you liked this one because it's one of my highly anticipated for the YEAR and I'm sooo freakishly excited for it. I read Poison Dance, too, and while I liked it...I kind of thought it would've been better to know more of the world before reading the teeny tiny prequel? Mm. Not sure. But it DID whet my appetite. I'm sad that it's not about assassin's again. What's with assassin's not being assassins these days???

    1. I kind of agree...I think I would have preferred to read PD *after* MT, especially with what goes down in the full-length novel, but reading it first didn't detract from the story for me. And there is quite a bit of death...it's just that Kyra doesn't become an assassin herself, if that helps.

  2. ya know, I wasn't really interested in this book till now. I just downloaded the novella. I have to say this cover is pretty bad ass and I'm unsure why it wasn't on my radar. I'm intrigued. I think it's probably because it's not contemporary. I've been brushing over other genres.

    1. Yay! I've been reading so much contemporary lately; it was nice to take a break and read some fantasy again. And I'm so glad it was GOOD fantasy. :) Hope you like the novella and decide to pick up the full-length. You can borrow my ARC if you do. :D

  3. I'm so excited to read this one! I received a copy of the novella last year as well, so it will be interesting to see its place in this greater story. I'm honestly quite all right with fantasies featuring complex character names and worlds that require maps, but I'm also okay with those that don't. And twisty stories really are the best. I will definitely be reading this one when it publishes.
    Great review!

    1. I'm okay with complex fantasies, too, but I know that not everyone is, so I wanted to make it clear that this wasn't one of those. :) I think you'll be surprised by how that novella plays into the full-length novel. :D

  4. Huh. Well, ok, then. While this cover is striking, it didn't really call to me in any way. I don't think I've even read the synopsis before. It sounds really interesting and quickly-paced, though, so I'll give it a try. Thanks for the heads-up. Great review!

    1. I honestly didn't even notice the cover at first. I just saw "assassins" and knew I had to read it. :P I hope you do give it a try. I'd be curious to see your reaction to reading the novel and THEN the novella, since I read them the other way.


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