My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the author C.S. Quinn and the publisher, Thomas & Mercer.
The Thief Taker tells the story of Charlie Tuesday, a young man living in 1665’s London where people are dealing with an oncoming plague. People are, quite literally, dropping dead after being infected by this plague which seems to have appeared out of nowhere, and travelling between places has become a problem without the right health certificates. Charlie, known to solve crimes involving theft (and perhaps secretly sells forged health certificates to those in need of getting out of the city) gets contacted by a woman named Anna-Maria, whose sister was found murdered after a visit by a so-called plague doctor. Soon Charlie finds that this plague doctor is anything but aiming to cure the ill and sets out to stop him.
This book. This book. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed it. From the very first pages, it somehow reminded me a little of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, which is one of my ultimate favorite stories. Though the setting in The Thief Taker is a lot more grim and dark and dreary, it somehow still reminded me of it and I was immediately hooked. The story is very vile at times, the author did not shy away from describing horrible scenes and situations, which made everything so incredibly believable. There is nothing charming about dying, people being killed, raped or otherwise attacked and the whole story was brought raw and authentic. I loved it (and I say that, trying to sound anything but morbid).
At the beginning I thought I had the story quite about figured out – I was expecting something to happen, I was filling in the blanks, expecting the story to go around exactly as I had envisioned and then…. I fell flat on my face. C.S. Quinn got rid of clichés, sudden burst of ‘heroism’ in the main character (these are situations in which the main character goes from being completely helpless to knight in shining armour with pretty much no explanation…), when characters were supposed to die because there truly was no way out, they died – realism, I love it!
The main characters Charlie and Anna-Maria (or Maria, because Charlie was too lazy to constantly say her full name, ha!) were lovely. They stayed true to their character as they were presented at the beginning of the story, but still managed to develop. Again, realism was a part of progression in the story – trying to evade pursuers by jumping in a pile of dead bodies – not particularly charming, but hey! It works! I found that a very refreshing element to the story and it stayed that way till the very end.
There was a returning Dutch element to the story – Charlie had memories of being raised while hearing Dutch, he and his brother spoke Dutch – Dutch, Dutch, Dutch. Surprise: I’m Dutch. Seeing so many references to my country and language was… weird, but awesome. I liked it a lot. One thing was that I wasn’t expecting any of the characters to actually speak Dutch, but they did. However, it was not always accurate if you’d ask me. I suppose this could be a part of ‘ye old’ Dutch, as I do know our language was different before, but a lot of things made me go, “That’s not Dutch, I’m pretty sure that’s German”, and in another case there were actual Dutch words but they weren’t accurate in the context. It was a little awkward and it was enough to bother me, but I understand more than well that our language is a tough one and I want to thank the author for incorporating it in her story nonetheless.
Briefly on the writing style: very well written, very detailed, I found it to be very immersive and just in general very well done. I basically felt like I was on the run with them the entire time, and that’s a good way to be immersed in a book.
Four out of five stars for C.S. Quinn’s The Thief Taker – in which danger lurks around every corner and reality demands you to be brave.
The Thief Taker is set to be published on September 9th 2014.