Emily Gee is one of those authors out turned out to be a lucky discovery for me one day while browsing the shelves in a local bookstore. Her books caught my attention for whatever reason but in the end it was another book, The Laurentine Spy - her current new release at that time, which I chose to take home with me. I started it one night, meaning to read a page or two before bed… the light didn’t get turned out until almost 5am and even then that was only because I was so tired by that point that I couldn’t see to read anymore. I finished the book the next day and immediately ordered her other book, this book, reading it as soon as it was delivered.
Though I enjoyed this book, it didn’t consume me in quite the same way that The Laurentine Spy did.
When I went to look for another book in my read boxes recently, I found this book at the same time and was overcome by a desire to revisit it! This is how the book found itself back on my bookshelf for a week or two before I picked it up again.
Title: Thief with No Shadow
Author: Emily Gee
Target Audience: Adult
Length: 463 pages
Story: Melke is a wraith, which means she has the abilty to walk unseen. After being forced to steal a necklace, she is hunted down by the victim of the crime, Bastian sal Vere. He explains that the necklace was strung with tears, and that without it, Bastian cannot break the curse that is destroying his family. He orders Melke to regain the necklace, in exchange for her brother to be healed. But she had given the necklace to the salamanders, the fire breathing creatures that live underground. She must risk her own life. Meanwhile, Bastian becomes involved in solving a brutal murder of a young pregnant girl in the town of Theirry. This is a strong character-based fantasy, full of romantic tension and gritty storylines.
Thoughts and impressions: The world that Emily Gee has created in this book is vast and barely explored. It’s like if you read a book where all the events take place in the Scottish Highlands but the narration keeps hinting at the wonders of the rest of the world – the deserts of Africa, the fjords of Norway, the rainforests of the South Americas. Of course, it leaves you in a position where you’d really like to explore these distant destinations as well as the Scottish Highlands.
There are four mythical beasts that exist in this particular fantasy world: one for each element. Only two of the four creatures are really explored in any depth. Had she wanted to, I’m sure that the author could have returned to this world – another area of it with new characters to be sure – and woven a story that involved the other two creatures. In fact, the world is so vast that she could have set any number of books here.
As it is, I liked the psaaron of this story. For some reason when I read this story the first time, I pictured the psaaron as a genie-like creature – sort of insubstantial and distanced from anything I could have really pictured. This time around, I think I followed the descriptions more closely. The psaaron is, of course, described as being a sort of cross between human and fish with a general human build but the scales of a fish. The species is described as being very attached to their ancestors who remain with them in the form of a pearl formed by their last tear. It was the theft of a necklace of such ancestor-pearls that brought down the curse upon the sal Veres generations ago.
From my first read of this book, I remember being really frustrated with Melke for constantly going on about how she’d done the one thing that she’d always promised herself she wouldn’t do. She was constantly berating herself for having lowered herself to the base nature of a wraith (a person able to turn invisible) and stolen from the sal Veres. The fact that she’d done it in order to save her brother and then offers to follow in her brother’s failed footsteps and steal it back from the salamanders – essentially risking her life to do something her brother had already proven to be impossible – seems to get overlooked.
This time around, Melke didn’t frustrate me as much but Bastian did. His constant abuse of her and lengthy inner monologues on how horrible a creature she is got old fast but still they came. I understand where the character is coming from, of course. He needed this necklace to save his family’s legacy and have rain return to their lands, but more importantly to save his sister from being raped by the psaaron (one member of each generation being raped by the creature is part of the curse). This understanding did not allow me to be more accepting of his endless ranting. I got tired of him and wanted him to just get over himself and realise what it was that she was offering to do in order to right her wrong.
Thankfully the dog made up for everything! He was lovely. I seem to have a thing for canine companions in books. I’ve read a few books so far this year where the dog’s ended up being one of my favourite characters! The fact that this one could communicate with Bastian in the simplified way that animals are generally portrayed as having just made him all the more endearing.
To say this ended up as a two-fold romance, I was surprised at how little I observed Melke’s feelings for Bastian evolving. Right up until close to the end she felt detached from him, even scared of him. The growing relationship between the siblings – her younger brother and his younger sister – while only observed from a distance were fairly obvious. Even Bastian’s slowly changing view of Melke was clear. But I never really felt her coming to love him until right at the very end of it all. I’m surprised as this was one of the stronger impressions that I took from my first read so maybe it depends on my state of mind at the time of reading.
All in all, for a debut low fantasy, this book is very good! It has a fair few problems but I suspect a number of them are personal taste more than anything else. The story can be on the slow side at times but this allows the evolution of the characters themselves in a satisfactory manner. Emily Gee is one of my favourite low fantasy authors for a female audience.
Style: I really enjoy Emily Gee’s style. I suspect that it will appeal to female readers more than male, but on the whole I personally like it!
Final verdict: If I’m honest, my enjoyment of this book and the rating I’ve given it are likely tampered by my love of the fantasy genre as a whole. It’s probably really a 3 star book but the world building and the author’s style brought it up to 4 stars for me.
Extra notes: I didn’t remember there being any sex in this book, but that’s probably to do with the fact that the relationship between the main characters never gets physical. That doesn’t mean that the hero doesn’t get physical with others throughout the story! Sex is present. Bad language didn’t stand out.