“‘What if humans can’t change… what if humans are doomed to stay just they way they are, bullyin’ everyone else?'” -Gray
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Cover blurb: “In a world where humans are evil, invading aliens and robots are slaves, Rigg is the youngest member of the Keymasters, a band of professional thieves who use their skills to defy an overbearing government known as the Hand. It is a world full of pollution, intrusive surveillance cameras, and injustice, where any who “give the finger to the Hand” are punished with death. The Keymasters are hired to steal a highly sought after treasure, but when one of their number is lost during the job, they find themselves the tools in a power play for said treasure — a mysterious lockbox that no one can open. To ultimately survive in the end, the Keymasters must battle their way through mechanical monsters, airships, and politics, literally going through shit (they travel through a sewage pipe) to make it out alive.” (taken from Amazon)
If you (like me) are looking for more diversity in the SF/F genre, I think I’ve found something you’ll be interested in. ‘The Thieves of Nottica’ is a dystopian action/adventure story and the main characters are all female (or non-binary), non-white, non-heterosexual, and they each have their own physical and psychological challenges.
Um… HELL YES!
Generally, steam-punk isn’t really my thing, but after learning a little more about the characters, I was willing to give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.
I don’t even know where to start. There are so many pieces I want to talk about, but I also don’t want to spoil anything.
Let’s start with the characters themselves. As I mentioned above, they are not the “typical” fantasy heroines, which was so, so refreshing. Each of the main characters is multi-dimensional, and throughout the book the Keymasters confront different prejudices and struggles.
**Minor spoilers about character development: As an example: Rigg, the main character, is a bisexual shape-shifting demon. Morganith, another Keymaster, is an intersexual alcoholic with a mechanical arm. The characters were unlike anything else I’ve read, in the best possible way.**
This is a very philosophy-heavy book. At different points in the story, the characters discuss gender and sexual fluidity, classism, racism, colonization, oppression and religion. It sounds like a lot, but it’s all built into the story in a way that makes sense, and feels authentic. In between those discussions, though, we have some shotgun-wielding, buzz-saw-staff bad-assery. I was happy with the pace of the book, but if you’re expecting 100% action, this book might feel unsatisfying.
The climactic conclusion played out much differently than I thought it would. It was equal parts frustrating and thought-provoking. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll simply say that the resolution felt true to character.
**Sensitive content warning: As always, I like to give a heads up about what to expect: sexual assault and rape do play a part in this story. Given the context and the world-building, I thought it was a legitimate addition. As readers, we don’t experience those events as they happen, but they’re relevant to the characters’ backgrounds. Gray does include a couple of “live” sex scenes, but they aren’t super long or drawn out, and those encounters are all totally consensual.**
It took me a little while to get into the groove with this book. It took a couple of chapters for me to really get hooked, but after that the story moves right along. This was the first e-book I’ve ever read, so I had to take frequent breaks, but if my eyes could have handled it, I think this would have been a one or two-sitting read.
I’d recommend ‘The Thieves of Nottica’ for anyone who enjoys SF/F or steampunk. Even if you aren’t in search of diversity, the story holds up on it’s own. If you are looking for diversity, though, ‘The Thieves of Nottica’ truly delivers.
Bonus: After reading ‘The Thieves of Nottica’, I had a chance to talk to the author a little bit, and get some behind-the-scenes insights. That interview will be up on Friday, April 7th. I also wanted to make it clear that despite contact with the author, I was not compensated in any way to write this review, monetarily or otherwise.