Thief’s Cunning is a Young Adult fantasy companion novel to Assassin’s Heart. The protagonist of this story is Allegra Saldana, the niece of Lea from Assassin’s Heart (if you read the first book, you know who she is.) Allegra feels caged by her overprotective family, and she never feels as if she truly fits in. When she finally gets her chance to go to Lovero, where her parents died, she’s excited to get answers about who she is.
When she arrives, she meets a love interest, Nev, and discovers the shocking truth about her origins (not a spoiler if you read the first book, but I’m going to let you discover it yourself.) Convinced she knows what she’s doing, Allegra vows to leave the only family she’s ever known.
But then…something else happens! I can’t really spoil it here, but it’s a doozy. Let’s just say a giant monkey wrench is thrown in Allegra’s plan, as events that are way beyond her control seem to be deciding her fate. She ruefully reflects that she’s trading one cage for another. Will Allegra ever call the shots in her own life?
Thief’s Cunning winds up being a page-turner, and even though I am friends with the author I was surprised at the resolution of the novel. It was very satisfying.
Craft-wise, I offer a real tip of the hat to the Sarah Ahiers for writing companion novels in first person in which the main characters are clearly different people. Lea’s robotic pragmatism and laser focus in Assassin’s Heart give way to Allegra’s emotionally expressive narrative. Allegra is rash, and in some ways petulant, a product of living a life of safety and protection. Yvain is the backwater town she longs to leave, Born to Run style. And when Allegra interacts with Lea, the characterization of her older and wiser aunt is spot on. Readers of the first book will agree, “Yep, that’s Lea Saldana alright.”
Setting also plays a big role in both novels. I loved the pomp and circumstance of Lovero, but found Yvain’s canal system especially compelling. Loved the Dead Plains, where the ghosts can get you. These places come back in Thief’s Cunning, but we also get the rich description of Mornia, with their underground dwellings – and the Mornians who have their own strategy for handling the ghosts.
I enjoyed both books immensely, but in some ways I enjoyed the ride with Allegra more – she’s more of a moody teenager compared to the cold and calculation Lea. Additionally, the EPIC plot
really raised the stakes in a surprising and satisfying way.
If you recall from my review of Assassin’s Heart, I belong to the Zarella Family according to this quiz. Unfortunately for me, they are only the 7th ranked Family in Allegra’s time. Bummer. At any rate, I think it would be a pretty good idea to read Thief’s Cunning.
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