Den of Thieves: The Ancient Blades Trilogy: Book One
by David Chandler
Cover Artist: RIchard Jones
Review by Steve Sawicki
Harper Voyager Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062021243
Date: 26 July 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Malden is a young thief, trying to make his way in the free city of Ness. In a very short period of time he finds himself called before the master of criminals and then, in a separate instance, hired by a barbarian and a sorceress for a particularly nasty job that could net him a fortune. All he has to do is steal the gold coronet of the Burgrave, the ruler of Ness. The coronet, it seems, is kept in a tower, guarded by traps and monsters, surrounded by a castle, with a nearly impenetrable facade, and full of soldiers.
Malden, of course, takes the job. How else to pay the initiation fee of the master of criminals so that he can become a full member and, a truly, free man. It also helps that the sorceress who hired him is very attractive, even counting the living tattoos that writhe over her arms and face. Malden does the job, nearly gets killed a couple of times, has to escape through a sewer and then swim to freedom, and then gets his reward. He returns to the master of criminals the next day and pays his initiation fee and everything is good. Well, not so much. Seems the coronet was more than just a crown and it seems that the real party behind the theft is a master sorcerer and it seems that the Burgrave is just a lump of meat without the crown, and generally there are some really pissed off people who want it back.
This is the first book of a trilogy--The Ancient Blades Trilogy to be exact--although it reads fine as a stand alone. The ending is a conclusion to all that has come before, there is no cliff hanger that will leave you waiting, and all of the plot problems are resolved in a satisfactory way. David Chandler has created an interesting world in the free city of Ness and populated it with even more interesting characters. This is not Chandler's first novel (he writes horror as David Wellington) and it shows in the craftsmanship, plot development, pacing, and story.
I enjoyed this book. Fans of sword and sorcery will find a welcome home here as Chandler plays with all of the familiar material but does so in a way that re-energizes the subgenre. The characters are also intriguing and beguiling, leading one to want to continue forward with the story in order to find out what happens next. And, perhaps the most skillful accomplishment is that, while the first book of a trilogy, the book works very well as a stand alone novel. I don't think many who read this book will want to stop here but, on the other hand, you also aren't going to be getting just a partial plot with cliffhangers used solely to get you to the next book. Highly recommended and a very fun read.