Review: Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Series: The Streets of Maradaine #1
Also by this author: The Thorn of Dentonhill
Published by Daw Books on March 7th 2017
Also in this series: Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe
Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, The Holver Alley Crew is the first novel of Maresca’s third interconnected series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine-- The Streets of Maradaine
The Holver Alley Fire incinerated Asti and Verci Rynax’s plans to go legit and live a simple, honest life. With no home, no shop, and no honest income, they fall back on their own ways and begin staging what should be a simple heist.
But the plans go awry when the brothers discover that the fire was no accident. Their new mission is vengeance—and they’ll do anything to take down those who burned them, no matter what the cost.
Holver Alley Crew is the first book in a new series by Marshall Ryan Maresca. I have to say, I find this publishing schedule a bit fascinating. Keep in mind, all of his series are executed in a way that (at least so far), they can be read in any order and can be read independently of each other. This is the third series Maresca is publishing, and the other two trilogies are not yet complete. But, that’s not because he writes slow, on the contrary! These books are being released at a pretty good pace. I love the idea that this third one will keep the story going after the other two finish. It’s just interesting, and I’m not sure I’ve seen concurrent series quite like this before.
Now, for those unfamiliar with Maresca’s other two series, Maradaine and Maradaine Constabulary, despite being concurrent and in the same city, they can easily be read independently of one another. The first starts with The Thorn of Dentonhill which is set in a magic school, but also gives a view of the city’s crime through the eyes of a vigilante (who happens to also be a student at the magic school). I find this series incredibly fun. The second series starts with A Murder of Mages and is the perspective from detectives working in the city. This is one is also really good, I love the lead female character, who manages to juggle a demanding career and also be the sole provider for her family, but personal reading preferences that bias me a bit against detective stories means it is not my favorite.
This new series, The Streets of Maradaine, gives eyes inside the criminal element in Maradaine. Can I just say, it’s about time! I mean, not that I really noticed we didn’t have it before, but now that I do have it, I love it. Who doesn’t love rooting for the bad guys, right? Sometimes its fun to break rules, and since I am not much of a rule breaker, I love living vicariously through my books. And these “criminals” are the best kind as they are just likable. The Rynax brothers are really good guys that just happened to be born into a life of crime, compliments of their father. He taught his sons all the tricks of his trade, from how to spot a con to using and concealing weapons. They really didn’t see many other options growing up in this gang infested, harsh city.
However, despite all this, Asti and Verci Rynax both found ways to clean up their act and rise above their life of crime and establish legal professions. But when someone burns their entire block and they lose everything, opportunity means they may just have to use what they know from their former lives to get back on their feet and regain what they lost. And they are motivated not just for themselves, but also for their community and all their neighbors that have also lost everything. There is a great sense of standing by one another in this. I think Maresca’s execution of this was very important. He chose the right type of character to really let us still root for this crew, but not be turned against them from the other series that are more focused on fighting crime. The criminals in this crew are more victims of circumstance than really bad guys. I am very curious if in the future, Maresca will have the characters of one series pitted against characters of another. It could actually make an extremely interesting scenario if you have background and connections with both sides of the story, it will make everything much more complex than a simple black and white, good versus evil.
The story covers the brothers as they formulate a plan to pull off what begins as a challenging mission to steal a well guarded statue as it is being transported through the city. But instead of being a one and done job as they expected, Asti gets information that turns their job into a mission of vengeance and what could very well turn out to be the biggest heist the city has ever seen. Provided they can pull it off.
What can I say, heists are fun and exciting! And Maresca crafted a fresh and thrilling heist story that moves at a great pace. This is the type of book you just fell the need to read cover to cover, looking/wishing for the pause button on real life until you finish. And this story earns added bonus points as when the job gets more complicated after Asti’s discovery, it also requires growing the team. In response, Maresca includes a great mix of varied characters, each bringing their own strengths and skills to the job. They also each have their own story that helps flesh out what it is like to live in Maradaine. Every character adds something. There was one young female character, Mila, who I particularly enjoyed. She is fierce and independent and very bright. Everything I love.
Overall, this may be my favorite of his series so far. It’s a tough call, as I loved The Thorn of Dentonhill as well, but this one may squeak just past that one. If you have not read Maresca’s work yet, I definitely encourage you to give one of his series a try, and personally, this one if my favorite yet.
Review originally posted on The Speculative Herald.