Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Palace Job, by Patrick Weekes

Today I'm looking at The Palace Job, the first in a series called Rogues of the Republic by Patrick Weekes. As you might imagine from the title, this book is basically a fantasy version of the classic heist plot. As a heist it follows certain elements which you'll probably find familiar. (I actually don't watch many heist movies so I'm just kind of assuming that to be correct.) But, of course, it is a fantasy universe so they have to invade a flying city and get past magical wards instead of breaking into electronic security systems. Still, I think this book was pretty good.

The story follows Loch, a former scout captain for the Republic who was betrayed by her superior officer and sent to prison. What makes it worse is that superior is now Archvoyant of the Republic and he stole her family's lands, titles, and a rare elvish manuscript worth a fortune. And Loch intends to get even and get her family's treasure back. To do this she needs to break into the Archvoyant's palace, the most secure building in all of the Republic, and get into his personal vault. To do this, Loch recruits a misfit band of thieves, including a death priestess, an expelled wizard, and a shape-shifting unicorn. The odds are heavily stacked against them but Loch is determined to have her revenge.

One of the things I like about this book is the universe feels fairly well-developed. There are references to things that make the universe feel deeper and more complex than the standard fantasy universe. But Weekes doesn't go into giant pages-long bouts of exposition to explain his universe. You're kind of given bits and pieces as you move along and you have to try and put them together yourself. I never felt like I was hit with a massive exposition dump at once. Which can be a real challenge for fantasy authors when they're trying to create an entirely new universe.

I will say that since this is a heist there is an element of wheels-within-wheels to the plot so you're constantly guessing what the characters are really up to. Honestly I was kind of taken surprise by a lot of the stuff but I'm willing to admit there were a couple of reasons for this. First, I read this book over the course of three weeks so I was constantly picking it up and putting it back down for various reasons. Second, I am not the most subtle of people so cunning and complicated plans do not come naturally to me. However, I think it does add some re-reading value to the book because then I can go back and try to pick apart the plot.

I think Reese's greatest success is making his characters memorable and make me actually interested in what happens to them, such as Pryvic the Justicar, Tern the safecracker, Hessler the almost-wizard, and Desiadora the death priestess. Reese definitely has the makings of a good fantasy universe and hopefully he can build upon and expand his universe in later books.

I wouldn't say this book is perfect. There are still some things I don't really understand, such as the difference between the Learned and Skilled parties. Aside from one statement where one is described as tax-and-spend while the other is described as laissez faire, there doesn't seem to be terribly much difference between the two parties. But with that being said, I think this book was pretty good and definitely worth checking out.

- Kalpar

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