The Shadow Thieves of Rouen, by Shawn McGuire

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Publication date – 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Aden is a thief. What is supposed to be a normal job starts him on a path that may affect the history of Europe.

Up against rival thieves, mages and the king of the nation of Europe he must wrestle with his past life, his future love and figure out where his allegiance lies.

Thoughts: This is a review that I had to take a while to really sort out in my head, because the book itself is actually a rather difficult one to rate. I had to really give it some good thought, and at the end I have to admit that the final teacup rating I was forced to give it really doesn’t speak properly to what I found within the book’s pages.

The story follows Aden, a French thief who is hired for a job and quickly becomes embroiled in something far more complex than he could have ever guessed. An interesting cast of characters followed in Aden’s wake, most of whom were decently developed and entertaining to read about. While the book is billed as straight-up fantasy, it seems to take place on an alternate Earth in which North America’s influence on the rest of the world has expanded, overriding traditional customs and culture. This is not stated outright so much as hinted at in various ways as the novel — or rather, novella — goes on.

But outside of the basic premise, that’s where things get a little dodgy, and harder to really pin down my thoughts and feelings on this.

On one hand, it was clear pretty quickly that the book still needed work. I found more than the average amount of typos and grammatical errors that were very distracting, especially in the final quarter of the book. The story suffered in some places, mostly for being undeveloped in some and overdeveloped in others. A good half of the story consisted of Aden and his sudden love interest, and that got rather boring to read when I would much rather bet getting back to the more interesting matters of a guild of thieves, international politics, large-scale betrayal, and magic. Battles were written out as a blow-by-blow, which wasn’t bad per se but really distanced the reader from the action of the battles themselves.

Also along with this comes the personal peeve of seeing yet another story in which two characters fall head-over-heels in love with each other within hours of their meeting. I’ve never liked that, and I doubt I ever will, but it still seems to be a popular thing in novels.

That being said, it’s still very clear that the author has some serious potential with his writing and style. It wasn’t always smooth and consistant, but some of the descriptions and phrases showed good skill with words, and the creativity evidenced by the hints at the world’s political situation are signs that McGuire definitely put good thought into his world-building. So while the book wasn’t exactly great and did need some improvements, it wasn’t exactly bad either, and I saw the potential for something great to come out of it all.

Ultimately, I think the book’s biggest failings were the pacing and length. For a 30k word novella, it was a good beginning to a story but didn’t really get far before it cut off and the reader must wait for the next book. I think it could have benefitted from both tightening the plot and expanding it. It’s a shame to have to say it, because as I said, I can definitely see potential for both the author and the story, but as it stands, those are the main things that I feel would need to have been changed to turn this from an average story to a great one.

(Book provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

One comment on “The Shadow Thieves of Rouen, by Shawn McGuire

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