This review will contain spoilers!
In many sentences:
Giant Thief is a fast-paced book full of action and plenty of comedy. I found myself laughing out loud numerous times throughout the book. Unfortunately, the carefree rogue
Han Solo Easie Damasco is not enough to carry this entire novel. Here are some of the jokes I enjoyed:
"'Nothing we can talk about here and now. Suffice to say you're only one detail of a bigger picture.'
'Not to me.'" (90)
"[T]here are only so many absurd promises you can make to a horse." (357)
The book starts off strong with the following first line: "The sun was going down by the time they decided to hang me." This is a pretty good opener. I learn a lot about Easie in this short sentence: he approaches serious circumstances in a carefree manner and he puts himself into situations where people want to kill him. (Spoiler Warning: the narrator doesn't die in the first five pages.) Unfortunately, that's about all we learn about Easie for a long, long time. The book starts from this little line, and jumps right into a series of chases in which Easie is simply trying to survive. While in and of itself this is exciting, I knew so little about Easie that I hardly cared whether he lived or died.
This began to change as more characters were introduced (in particular the scene where Estrada and Mountebain are fully introduced). Again, though, we get a little dialogue and exposition about the characters when suddenly they are all fleeing for their lives yet again. I think this book would have been served a lot by a slower beginning in which we learn about Easie, the world he lives in, and who it is that wants to kill him.
That brings me to the next problem I had with this book: who is Moaradrid, why is he evil, and why should I be scared of him? Easie continually tells me about how scary Moaradrid is, but I never felt like I understood why. Sure, he commits some murders throughout the book, but so do numerous other characters, and if not for Easie's fear, I wouldn't have thought much of Moaradrid as a villain.
A similar complaint could be raised against the war that is going on throughout the book. Again, I never felt like I really understood who was fighting or why. I get that Easie himself didn't care much about these things, but I think the story would have benefited from a richer background through which he could be chased. It would make the chases more exciting, and helped me care more about Easie's survival, and a successful revolt against the evil Warlord.
The writing felt really flat. By that I mean nothing about the work surprised me - everything seemed to play out the way I expected it to, and the writing was similarly expected. Tallerman frequently used a technique where he would describe something in a paragraph, and then have a single sentence paragraph that followed as a sort of sarcastic aside. This became far too frequent and a little annoying pretty early into the book.
There was also a moment where Easie commits a heist and is attempting to escape, and afterwards he freaks out a little. "My entire body felt like jelly, jelly someone had pounded with a hammer. I leaned against a window ledge and drew long breaths, until my knees stopped threatening to collapse." Hasn't he been stealing for years? If so, why is this such a big deal? Shouldn't he be used to this by now? If he's spent years being a thief, I wouldn't expect one single robbery to impact him so strongly, even if it was a career heist.
In some ways, all 400 pages felt like the introduction to a bigger story. I think if it could have been condensed so that this was just leading into a bigger story (which it is clearly meant to), it would have been a denser and richer experience, with characters that are easier to engage with.
I've listed quite a few criticisms here, but I still found the book to be enjoyable. It has some issues, and could potentially benefit from more exposition at the front, but if you like fast-paced fantasy that doesn't rely on magic to solve every problem, definitely give Giant Thief a read.
David Tallerman the First Line of Giant Thief
David Tallerman the Last Line of in Giant Thief