I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an Honest Review
Alright, before I even get to the blurb I need to warn you. This review will HAVE SPOILERS for the first two books, The Palace Job and The Prophecy Con, in it. And some minor ones for the Paladin Caper. I have to do this because I need to explain why I am going to give it the rating I intend to give it. If all you want to know is if I recommend this book, then the answer is no, and its going to get a 2/5. If you want to know the WHY then read on. The cut will come after the blurb.
The Book Blurb: “A thief’s good deeds are never done.
Loch and her crew are determined to stop the ancients from returning to reclaim the world they once ruled, but a kidnapped friend throws their plans awry. When a desperate rescue turns into a shocking reunion, the ancients return and seize power. Determined to stop them, Loch and the crew look for a way to close the gate to the ancients’ world, but this time, they find themselves up against an enemy that has insinuated itself into the highest ranks of the Republic. Cruel, cunning, and connected, the ancients target the crew’s families and histories, threatening to tear friendships apart.
If that weren’t bad enough, Loch must deal with her treacherous assassin sister, her turncoat ancient friend, and a daemon who has sworn to hunt her to the ends of the earth. In order to save the Republic and pull off her largest con ever, Loch will need her friends…and maybe her enemies too.”
Alright lets get the good out of the way here. First and foremost, this is more of Loch and her crew, and for the most part we get their usual banter and hilarious antics. The world building is fantastic, although a little odd at times. The ending is solid, and a bit bittersweet in some ways, with everyone having changed in some fashion after the final success of the mission. On the technical side the writing is solid and I did not run into any grammatical or spelling errors.
And if that were it, I would have been happy with this book. But two major things bothered me about this book. One was the actual tone of the story, and I want to discuss this bit first.
You see, In The Palace Job we as readers got a story very similar to say the Italian Job, or Oceans Eleven. A fantasy Heist movie. We watched Loch and Kail escape their prison, assemble a crew of professionals, and take on Heavens Spire and rob the man who betrayed Loch’s family, tried to get her killed, and stole her lands and birthright. During that story there were both ups and downs, lots of action and humor, and a generally upbeat feel. Sure, Loch and her team got knocked down a few times here and there, but they always came back and succeeded. There was a back and forth to the story, and at the end Loch and her team won in a logical fashion.
In the Prophecy Con, the story became more like an Indian Jones or James Bond story. We left the confines of Heavens Spire and started to explore the world. The emphasis was less on planning a heist and more on a chase. We had a really awesome Train battle, a high stakes poker game, and at the end a massive betrayal by Ghylspwr as it turns out that he has been working with the real bad guys, the Ancients, this ENTIRE TIME. It was a huge deal. But still the overall feeling was generally upbeat, with a similar back and forth between Loch and the bad guys.
But in The Paladin Caper there is a MASSIVE Tonal Shift. At the start, Loch and crew succeed in smashing an Ancient stronghold…and that’s really it for major wins. Most of the book is them being outsmarted at every turn. Its like they are always on the backfoot, reacting to the enemy. Every time they start to seem like they are going to succeed they barely survive and end up running. Its maddening. Further, the entire time the book just has taken this much darker tone. I get that the concept of the world almost coming to an end could and would make things this way but it was very depressing. It was not a subtle shift either, which did not help.
Further, a character dies once, is trapped in an alternate dimension another time, and yet somehow gets rescued by the same person each time. Yes, a character dies and is prompted raised from the dead later. This would have been a big thing if it had not been reversed almost instantly.
Now lets talk about the second thing that bothered me, and the thing that REALLY caused me to rate this so low. This book has Political and Social commentary. That alone is not a big deal, plenty of stories have that. However, this book does it so heavy handed its almost like getting smashed over the head with a hammer.
First, we have the villains. The Ancients. You see, they are spirits, so they need bodies. First, the device that lets them steal bodies is called a Paladin Band. Its a wrist band…that has a magic calendar, gps, and communicator. Oh hey look its an Apple Watch. But that’s just a silly thing. Really what’s bad is that the Ancients generally only want to inhabit the bodies of White Male Nobles. They thing women are beneath them, and think the Urujar (aka Blacks) are barely more then animals. And Dwarves and Elves ARE animals? This sound familiar?
Cause if you started thinking about the “1%” nonsense then hey guess what you are right! The Ancients are literally an analog for the 1% we hear about on the internet, the Rich White Man who thinks they are better then everyone else. Women? Nah nobody pays attention to them? Blacks? Nah they are only good for tilling the fields (Seriously, the Ancients used the blacks/Urujar to literally farm land for food, that was their purpose), and hell if you are an Elf or Dwarf you are nothing more then an animal. There is a spot where one major elf character has their throat slit by an Ancient…because the Ancient can’t stand seeing an animal suffer.
But it GETS BETTER!
Next, you got the media system, ie the Puppet Shows. In the first two books they are just little silly commentary bits about what’s going on in the world. But in this book, once the Ancients take hold, they become something else. He uses them to show how the media can be used to control the masses, in the most blatant way possible. He clearly shows how the Ancients use them to manipulate people. Further, at one point its almost like I am reading Fox News, as they start to use Lochs skin color to make her out to be a criminal, because as we all know all Urujar (blacks) are criminals! This line is literally used! Followed by the statement the “Well why are the only criminals Urujar? No white person would dare commit a crime!”
Ham-handed commentary like this completely takes me out of the story. And once the Ancients show up its all over the place.
Finally I want to talk about the ending. So, remember when I said that every moment in the book felt like Loch and her team were kidding the hell kicked outta them and no matter what they tried they failed? Apparently that was all planned somehow! Because at the end, Loch revels that everything was fine and that everything went according to some plan but everything that was planned happened off-screen! What a twist! It came out of left field. Because every time the scene shifted away from a character, apparently at that time they did something that, at the end, came out as the perfect solution. Also the ending of the second book was invalidated by the ending here in a sense.
Overall, the book would have been fine but the heavy handed socio-political commentary ruined it for me. The tone did not help this either. I don’t like having this stuff shoved into my face when I am browsing the web and I sure did not want to have it shoved into my face this hard while reading. As I said, I rate this one a 2/5. Its a sad finale to an otherwise fun series. Read the Palace Job, and maybe the Prophecy Con and then just leave it at that, is my advice.