Review: An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass
Series: Chimera #1
Published by Tor Books on May 21, 2019
In Cantagna, being a sorcerer is a death sentence.
Romy escapes her hardscrabble upbringing when she becomes courtesan to the Shadow Lord, a revolutionary noble who brings laws and comforts once reserved for the wealthy to all. When her brother, Neri, is caught thieving with the aid of magic, Romy's aristocratic influence is the only thing that can spare his life—and the price is her banishment.
Now back in Beggar’s Ring, she has just her wits and her own long-hidden sorcery to help her and Neri survive. But when a plot to overthrow the Shadow Lord and incite civil war is uncovered, only Romy knows how to stop it. To do so, she’ll have to rely on newfound allies—a swordmaster, a silversmith, and her own thieving brother. And they'll need the very thing that could condemn them all: magic.
I really enjoyed this one. It was an impulse request because when I was looking for my next book to read, it just sounded like a better fit for what I was in the mood for than anything I had on hand. I started reading it immediately and am quite glad I did. Turns out there’s a great story here.
As with so many books I love, this features a strong female protagonist. Romy started life in Beggar’s Ring, the poorest and most downtrodden part of the city. However, her family sold her at a young age to what is essentially a training program for courtesans (yup, her family sold her as a child to become a high end prostitute). This is kind of a mixed thing. Of course it is bad, no one would choose to be sold for anything, much less for this purpose, but it also gave her an education and training that would never have been available to her otherwise.
Her life as a well and diversely educated courtesan gives her a unique background. But one of the most unique qualities is that she is able to do magic. Magic is forbidden, only people from Costa Droga are ever born demon-tainted (aka have the ability to perform magic) but no one really knows why. Romy has worked hard to hide her abilities because if she were discovered, it would mean death. No matter how well she might seem to blend in, she is never really herself of fully open as she is always shielding this part of herself from everyone.
She’s a character that in some ways doesn’t seem to be belong to any of the different social groups, but can navigate her way through any of them. Romy has been enjoying the life she has been given as much as she can. She has become the favored courtesan of the Shadow Lord, who appears to care for her. She enjoys having intelligent conversations with him and others at court. She might not have chosen this life, but she finds things to appreciate. At least until she receives a message that tears her back to her original life, living with a brother that she loves but doesn’t always like that much. But Romy is a survivor and a fighter, and what she does and the characters she encounters along the way make for a very intriguing story (I debated how much detail to give, but decided to leave it vague…. but it does involve a heist of sorts, scheming and magic with some swords and action thrown in… definitely a very fun read).
My only slight criticism is that the end felt a bit rushed, and there was some pretty blatant set up for the books to come. I don’t mind set up, but something about it felt a bit unnatural or forced. BUT … the good news is I actually love how the book ended and the potential it left for the upcoming books. Like really love the concept and I think there’s great potential there for the series.
So overall, I definitely recommend this one and am really looking forward to the next one! I had originally thought this was an amazingly strong debut, but then saw that it is a pen name for Carol Berg, who I have heard highly recommended. Now I need to go see about reading some of her other books. Any recommendations?