Inaugural winner of the SPFBO competition and I can totally see why this will have picked up high scores across the board.
We get a first person narrative from professional thief Amra Thetys who is a fantastically engaging main character. She has a hard and cynical outer shell beneath which lies honour, bravery and loyalty.
The city of Lucernis is arguably the second most important character. Everything is set here and you get a great feel for its streets, which suits the noir detective style plot. There are some dark and horrible and some noble and some somewhere in the middle characters living there. The book has been edited so tightly that you KNOW there is a much wider world beyond the city, that no doubt gets explored later in the series, but there is no wasted worldbuilding. I found it quite amusing that the author dumps all this extraneous worldbuilding in an appendix at the end, like he had been holding his breath the whole time.
But this story is all about Lucernis and it makes it a focused, relatively low stakes tale of vengeance, treachery and criminality. Amra navigates her way through this. I suppose a bit like a hardboiled detective, she is often saved by others or by events rather than her own actions. She’s certainly not an all powerful character and that makes her more admirable in my eyes. While she does some spying etc I don’t recall her doing a lot of thievery or using her skill set to further the plot, which I often think is a shame when you have thieves as main characters.
It’s not a long book by any means which I found entirely appropriate given the type of story. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and makes you keen to read more.