Lost Password

Book Review

Publisher's Note:

A dark and intricate fantasy for readers of The Book of Dust and Leigh Bardugo. City of the Uncommon Thief is the story of a quarantined city gripped by fear and of the war that can free it. "Guilders work. Foundlings scrub the bogs. Needles bind. Swords tear. And men leave. There is nothing uncommon in this city. I hope Errol Thebes is dead. We both know he is safer that way." In a walled city of a mile-high iron guild towers, many things are common knowledge: No book in any of the city's libraries reveals its place on a calendar or a map. No living beasts can be found within the city's walls. And no good comes to the guilder or foundling who trespasses too far from their labors. Even on the tower rooftops, where Errol Thebes and the rest of the city's teenagers pass a few short years under an open sky, no one truly believes anything uncommon is possible within the city walls. But one guildmaster has broken tradition to protect her child, and as a result the whole city faces a…

City of the Uncommon Thief

by Lynne Bertrand

Overall Book Review:

Imaginative and fresh, the fantasy world of The City of the Uncommon Thief will have the reader both intrigued and unbalanced from page one.  This is accomplished mainly through the narrative style.  There are no monologues on the world, magic, or the backstory; there are no mages to explain everything; there is no exposition–ever.  The reader only knows what they are told by the narrators, of which there are two.  The opening scene is by an unknown narrator, who is not revealed until he/she returns to deliver the final scene.  The majority of the story is told by Odd Thebes, but he is alternating between telling Errol’s story (in third person) and his own story (in first person) –oh, and skipping all over the timeline.  This oscillating style is disorienting and for most of the book the reader does not know what is going on because Odd and Errol do not know what is going on.  On top of that, the telling is sparse: a lot is going on fast and furious but not with a lot of context.

All this may sound like a bad thing, but amazingly, it was addictive.  One has to keep reading because the need to know is so compelling.  This artful stylistic choice combined with a cast of heroes, characters who disappoint, villains, and mysterious characters felt fresh.

The narrative ties up the immediate questions sufficiently, but not generously so readers who like abundant details and in-depth resolutions may struggle to be satisfied.  The book is not specifically listed as a first in a series, but the pathway to a second installment is definitely there.  As enjoyable as this one was, it might be nice in a second book to get more background on the fantasy setting and world because what little was in this book was wicked cool.

Review of a Digital Advance Reading Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Dutton Books for Young Readers

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  12 mild obscenities; 6 scatological words; 2 anatomical terms.

Violence/Gore:  Character and animal fall into abyss and character jumps in after; characters fall and are injured severely; property burned; character roughly handled and threated with execution by dropping from great height; tattooing; character dies from starvation; struggle and capture; branding of a person; character thrown over edge to death resulting in severe injuries; remembrance of a childhood scuffle; threat to kill with knife; animal cornered, hit with shovel and eventually dies from wounds; body found with incision in the chest; character finds human thumb and keeps it; character is attacked and bit, knifed, and left to die with knife in foot to keep them from escaping so assailants can return to remove their tattoo/skin later (several page scene); characters forced to fight to the death (several page scene); object inflicts cuts on hands; character observes someone being drowned; threat to kill someone if an object isn’t retrieved; description of infected wound; characters are found trapped in pits being starved and tortured; disturbing scene in which an animal is tortured and hurt by a mob in an arena; character dies in gaol; breaking of ribs; description of a cutting of the chest during a magical event; character bound; character beat up; character has part of finger removed; character is attacked, blade of knife driven through finger; report of violence; character knocked unconscious, imprisoned and tortured; talk about killing and torturing animals; confession of poisoning and other crimes committed; explosion resulting in deaths and description of a character disintegrating and another character bleeding as parts of him disappear; disturbing scene in an arena where a wounded animal is tied down so it can be attacked by another animal with a mob egging them on; report of how a character took brunt of a fall to save another; report of punch; punch character; character falls, with minor injuries; shirt lifted to show scars, with accompanying brief stories.

Sex/Nudity:  Various sexual references; flirtatious references; references to female anatomy; male rubs hips against female and she pushes him away; character asks for clarification of “spend the night’; rule in city that if you spend entire night in a tent with someone you are then bound to them; various (opposite sex) characters kiss upon occasion; character has feelings for/attraction to another character; character says he will do anything to get in the sack with someone; said someone has interest in “low women”; person is naked when changing in front of another (non-detailed, non-sexual); passionate kissing and caressing; character sits in the lap of another; character recalls his fantasies as a 12 year-old; female removes her shirt and kisses another; characters (17 year-olds) remove clothing and it is clear that they spent the night together and had sex, but no actual description; reference at different times to a woman having a third child with someone who was not her bound husband; married couple have sex, no description; passionate kiss and embrace; shirt lifted to show scars, with accompanying brief stories.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, murder, torture (humans and animals), slavery, theft, gladiator-style fighting.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Character is a known drunk and drinks often; character stops in bars; characters drink whiskey together.

Overall Book Rating

Share This Post

About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!