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Amra Thetys #1

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids

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Amra Thetys lives by two simple rules: take care of business, and never let it get personal.

Thieves don't last long in Lucernis. When a fellow rogue is butchered on the streets in a deal gone bad, Amra turns her back on burglary and goes after something more precious than treasure: revenge. Revenge, however, might be hard to come by.

A nightmare assortment of enemies-including an immortal assassin and a mad sorcerer-believe Amra is in possession of The Blade That Whispers Hate, the legendary, powerful artifact her friend was murdered for. And Amra's enemies will do anything to take it.

Trouble is, Amra hasn't a clue where the Blade actually is. She needs to find it, and soon, or she'll be joining her colleague in a cold grave, rather than avenging his death.

208 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 8, 2012

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About the author

Michael McClung

31 books358 followers
Michael McClung was born in San Antonio, Texas, but now putters around Southeast Asia. He has had the requisite number of odd jobs expected of a speculative fiction author, including soldier, book store manager, and bowling alley pin boy. His first book, the Sword & Sorcery novel "Thagoth," won the Del Rey Digital first novel competition in 2002 and was published by Random House in 2003.

In his spare time, Michael enjoys kickball, brooding and picking scabs.

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Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
November 12, 2022
This is an overdue review. In 2015 this book, hereafter named: TTWPOTB, beat out 267 other self-published fantasy books to win the first Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO or Spiffbo to its friends), a contest I set up to discover the best of self-published fantasy.

Anyway TTWPOTB doesn't really need any of that background info to support it because it's an excellent read that I would be reporting on in glowing terms had I just picked it up with no knowledge of it at all.

This is a pretty short book that moves swiftly and sucked me right it. It's told in the first person by the titular thief and she turns out to have bags of personality, also plenty of troubles.

The world building is done on the hoof and for such a short, action-packed book it's testimony to the author's skill that the world feels real and fleshed out with its own history, geography, and mythology, for all that the tale is told entirely within one city.

There's a vaguely noir feel to the book and plenty of gruesome violence but because the main character, Amra, is an upbeat sort with a good sense of humour it takes the edge off and the book felt quite "light" to me.

McClung is a very good writer with some great turns of phrase and he injects not only excitement and pace but genuine emotion too.

There's plenty of magic and lots of it is very powerful. Amra is not the one using it though and we don't get a magic system with a set of rules doled out, so if you're someone who demands that ... be warned.

The book reads well as a standalone but there is a series that follows and a clear reason for it.

I really enjoyed reading this and shouldn't have left it so long. Neither should you!

If you'd like to try a self-published fantasy book, this is a great place to start.

Read about the SPFBO competition here


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March 18, 2021
A fascinating start to a particularly intriguing series.

I don’t believe in chance. I believe in cause and effect. (c)
One of the privileges of being a mage, I suppose, is that you can be as strange as you like, and nobody dares comment. (c)
Magic is a rusty hammer with which to beat reality into different shapes. Philosophy, the true Philosophy, is a pen with which to alter, and hopefully correct reality. (c) Gee, I could have been living to hear it said in a fiction book.
…I’ll see what I can see… (c)
I had a drink in their beer garden and watched golden bees do their thing in the late afternoon sunshine. I let my mind wander. (c)
I had seen what there was to see, and knew better by now than to try and force any sort of plan. It would all fall into place soon enough. Theft is as much art as it is craft. Reconnaissance work was a big part of that art, that craft. (c)
But I figured stirring up trouble would help keep eyes off me. (c)
Every room in my house has easily accessible knives. I’d had a lover for a short time that found it off-putting. He went. The knives stayed. (c)
Kluge and company would be scrambling to find someone to pin his death on, before Corbin’s family came to town with blood on their mind. Heirus, I could safely assume, would still be looking for what he’d been willing to kill for. And of course some cold-eyed killers would be arriving in the next few days, come to collect their pound of flesh for Corbin’s old man. From every perspective, all roads could at some point lead to me. It was too late for me to back out, even if I wanted to. I didn’t want to.
There would be interesting days ahead. (c)
I was planning a death, not a burglary, but in many ways that just made it easier. Taking a life was, in my experience, a damned sight less complicated than taking jewels from a hidden strongbox. (c)
And there was the whispering. Like he was trying to tell me things. Awful things. Terrible truths it was better not to know. Things that made my head pound and my chest constrict. (c)
Just seeing the outline of the thing made me want to kill it. (c)
If I had to guess, it was a sentry, making a circuit of the yard. But I didn’t have to guess. I had all night. (c)
And I think I should be half a foot taller, and rich as Borkin Breaves. Thinking something doesn’t make it so. (c)
Most of my peers wouldn’t think twice about breaking an oath. But why would you care about honor?”
“If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand. (c)
We watched each other’s back, and bragged to each other about scores. We lent each other money and we bet on the horses, and the cards, and the dice. The day before he died, he asked me to look after his dog. And the morning he died, I had to pull that howling mutt away from the smell of his blood. I’m the one that got to tell his lover that he’d died, and how. But somehow I’m the one who’s chained to a floor, and you’re the one laughing when I say I’m going to kill the man who did it. (c)
Prison, I found, was wonderful for clarifying your priorities. (c)
You see that mausoleum, the one with the gargoyles doing unspeakable things to each other? (c)
Bath chose to share a secret with me. I think I can stand to keep a secret about him. (c)
In a place like the Cock’s Spur, they don’t even bother putting out chairs or benches that don’t face the door. Nobody wants their back to any trouble that enters. (c)
I have an idea,” I said. “Let’s put away the blades and do some business. (c)
Yes. I can see it escalating, people trying to outbid each other. And every one of them paying a ten per cent, non-refundable commission to you. All that gold piling up will be very messy indeed. (c)
News indeed travelled fast, but Holgren blew through the motley collection of murderers waiting for us outside like an autumn storm off the Dragonsea. Quite literally. It’s hard to stick a knife in someone when you’re rolling down the street, being pushed along by gale-force winds. Holgren was proving to be a lot more powerful—and versatile—than I’d ever imagined. And I have an active imagination. (c)
“What do you say?”
“I say you talk too much.” (c)
“I don’t like him. He’s smelly and makes me feel like an idiot.”
“He makes everyone feel like an idiot. He’s the high priest of the god of knowledge.” (c)
He was the high priest of Lagna, god of knowledge. Which meant he was a jumped up librarian, since Lagna happened to be dead. (c)
“You want to know about the Eightfold Goddess?”
“No. I thought I’d ask just so you could feel superior some more.” (c)
Thus is truth distorted over millennia. (c)
And then the One Who Is Eight tore Shem to pieces with eight pairs of hands. They say that She made the Blades from his horns, his bones, his scales and claws and fangs.
“She is terrible, and beautiful, and no god or demon fucks with Her, for She is as mad as they come and eight times as nasty.” (c)
“Why have I never heard of this goddess?”
“You mean besides being generally ignorant? Probably because there aren’t many daft enough to worship Her. She might take notice. (c)
“Who is Kalara?”
“The Eight-fold Goddess has, try to imagine it, eight aspects. Kalara, Goddess of Assassins, is one. Let me see if I can remember all the others. Abanon, Goddess of hate. Moranos, deity of desire, Ninkashi, worker of retribution, Heletia, font of true sight and clarity. How many is that?”
“Then there’s Husth, goddess of deception and shadows. Very popular with thieves in Bellarius.”
“I’ve actually heard of that one. But go on.”
“Xith rules death and rebirth. And that leaves Visini, goddess of decay, inertia, chaos and despair. That’s eight, right?”
“Mind you, together they make one. The Eight-fold Goddess.” ...
And given the choice I’d rather not be in the same country as any of them.”(c) Reminds of Kali.
They’re the tools of an insane goddess, forged from the body of a demon lord. What did you expect? (c)
You’re a thief, not a hells-damned knight of the Order of the Oak. (c)
True wisdom lies not in knowing the correct answer, but in knowing the correct question. (c)
I’m seventeen hundred years old. Older than the Cataclysm. I saw the fall of Thagoth, and of Hluria. I was ancient when Havak Silversword was imprisoned behind the Wall. You people are mayflies to me. (c)
Because of the curse laid on me, every moment that passes feels like a hundred. Listening to you talk bores me to tears. Listening to me talk bores me to tears. I’ve experienced this conversation as though it’s lasted all damned day.”
“I’ll try and talk faster, ... (c)
I knew who he meant, but had no idea why he wanted to avoid a teenaged ascetic. It was a strange tic of character for the King of Assassins to have. (c)
“Do you remember the Cataclysm?” he asked.
“Not really, no. It was a thousand years ago.” (c)
You can’t improve on perfection. (c)
It’s become fairly plain that you, Amra Thetys, given the choice between fighting and capitulating, will pick a fight every damned time. (c)
The question itself matters, not who it belongs to. (c)
So, Kingmaker, Godslayer, why not answer the question? (c)
And what is Apathy? Best I can describe it is fatalism mixed with utter indifference. Things are as they are. Things will be as they will be. No point thinking about them, much less worrying. No point doing much of anything at all, as a matter of fact. ... A mote of dust drifted into my eye and it was meant to be so. Blinking was futile. (c)
I am no one’s tool. (c)
Some secrets cannot be shared. Some secrets must be discovered. (c)
I felt I had to stay still, or I would burn the world down. (c)
Secrets have no power. Not by themselves. It’s the control of secrets that’s power. (c)
How could I trust myself? I was riding a dragon. (c)
“Blade, can you end hunger? Poverty? Deformity in children? Can you heal the sick? Can you do one useful fucking thing other than destroy?”
“You’re bloody useless, aren’t you?”
I am the hate of a goddess made manifest. I am a Power.
“You know what I think? I think she discarded you because you were useless. No, more than useless. A hindrance. A liability.” (c)
October 22, 2021
🔪 Knives Are the Most Feminine Accessory Ever Buddy Rereread (KatMFAEBR™) with the MacHalos and StUfF 🔪

“I’m not terribly feminine. I’ve a scarred face, a figure like a boy, and a mouth like a twenty-year sailor.”
“I’ve been called a pessimist. And a suspicious bitch. And then there were those who weren’t interested in compliments.”
“Every room in my house has easily accessible knives. I’d had a lover for a short time that found it off-putting. He went. The knives stayed.”

And the moral of this rereread is: Amra Thetys, a girl after my own black, withered heart. (Which is most certainly NOT as withered as Kerf's crusty old balls testicles, FYI.)

P.S. Holgren is still as shrimpalicious as ever, in case you were wondering. And still as MINE MINE MINE .

👋 To be continued and stuff.

· Book 2: The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye ★★★★★
· Book 3: The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate ★★★★★
· Book 4: The Thief Who Wasn't There ★★★★★
· Book 5: The Thief Who Went to War ★★★★★

· Short stories: The Last God ★★★★★

[July 2018]

Previous rating: 4 stars.
New rating: 5 stars. Because DUH and stuff.

And the moral of this reread is : I first told you Little Barnacles about this Most Deliciously Scrumptious Series (MDSS™) THREE YEARS AGO. And you are still NOT READING IT. What the bloody shrimp of the stinking fish is wrong with you, Puny Decapods? My original crappy non-review was way too crappy and you need more incentive? Would the sudden and totally unexpected unleashing of the murderous crustaceans on you help? I thought it might. Watch out, incoming!

Note to self: why the bloody fish didn't I kidnap adopt Holgren the second I met him?! Because I'm a total nitwit, that's why. Good thing the Silly Arthropods have been reading crap instead of this series otherwise engaged these past three years, and never learned of his existence. MINE MINE MINE! Holgren is MINE!

A very private message from this Slightly Awesome Book (SAB™) to Clueless Barnacles everywhere:

[Original review]

Kerf's whithered testicles, where did you come from Amra Thetys?! I cannot, for the life of me, remember how I found out about you. I could kick myself when I think that I abandoned you in the cold, lonely depths of my Kindle for three whole months before giving you the attention you deserved. How could I forget about you? Damn. To think of all the crap I read while you were there, patiently waiting for me. Damn. To think of all the wow-yeah-this-is-so-cool stuff I missed. Damn. I'm such an idiot mostsometimes. But hey, it's never too late to fall in love right? And let me tell you, I am most definitely in love with Amra Thetys. Yes I am.

►► Why am I in love with Amra, you ask? Because she's not feminine. Because she's not pretty. Because she curses like a sailor. Because she's straightforward. Because she's sarcastic and cynical. Because she's honest with herself. Because she doesn't take crap from anyone. Because she's a thief. Because knives are her favorite toys. And because she kicks ass. Oh yes, in love I am.

Yeah, I know what you're probably thinking: "Blah blah blah blah, Sarah's fallen in love with yet another badass heroine, so what else is new?"

►► Well I'll have you know that:

My DNF track record is much more impressive than my Damn-I'm-So-In-Love-Right-Now stats. And don't you doubt that for a second.

My beloved Amra is not the only reason I loved this story so much. No, she's not. Cross my heart, hope to die and all that crap. What else did I LOVE about this book then? Apart from the entertaining, fast-paced, action-packed plot, you mean? And the shrimpalistic world building? And Holgren, Amra's sidekick? And the magic & sorcery bits? And the cool creatures? And the blood-and-gore-yay? And the humor? And last but certainly not least, the absolute, total, utter lack of freaking romance? Well, I'm afraid these are the only few things I LOVED about this story. That's not much now, is it? Right. But hey, you know me, I love to give high ratings to crappy books that don't deserve it ← that thing right there? It's called sarcasm ← just making sure everyone gets it ← just in case and stuff.

►► This is a novella. This is free. This is the introduction to one of the best series I've ever read in the entirety of my entire life. What more do you want? Nothing, huh? That's what I thought. Read this people. You can thank me later. And you might want to consider thanking Michael McClung, too. Maybe.

Bye now.

Pre-review nonsense :

Fantasy, magic, very cool knife-wielding heroine, very cool magic-wielding sidekick, lots of action… This was pretty fantastic. Sigh. Yet another series to add to my to-read list. Double sigh.

►► Crappy review to come. In a year or two. Maybe.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,009 reviews1,328 followers
March 22, 2021
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

“True wisdom lies not in knowing the correct answer, but in knowing the correct question.”

I am a fan of self published books and it is becoming a fact among my friends and followers that I do support those as much as I can. In fact, one of my favorite books of all time is The Sword of Kaigen which won the SPFBO contest last year and The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braid is the contest’s first winner! It is hard for me to read all the finalists through all the years so I am going for the winner’s for the time being. My friend Yuri loved this series and recommended it to me which encouraged me to pick it up much sooner!

The story follows Amra Thetys (Whom the name of the series is based upon) who is a thief and tried to mind her own business. Amra’s life however becomes much more complicated when one of her friends/ colleagues asks her for a favor and then founds himself in the grave and Amra is thrown in this whole mess and then is looking for revenge!

So yeah, it is a kind of a revenge story with morally grey characters. The writing is good and although it is a dark story, it is merged with humor which lightens the story and makes it an easier read. I loved the way the characters were introduced because it was gradual and easy to follow. I liked Amra but I loved Holgren, her magician friend who is my favorite in the book and I think we will be seeing much more of him in the rest of the series.

The pacing is fast and it is full of action, the world is nice to discover but don’t expect much complexity or a defined magical system. The magic is kind of without rules and expect everything from it. I think I was not bothered by it because I wanted something light and this delivered it!

“Fate is a slaver, bloodwitch, and I refuse its chains.”

Summary: I think I can see why TTWPOTB is the first winner of SPFBO! The story is light, humorous, full of action and fleshed characters. The pacing is fast and the writing is good and I am not asking for more! I am definitely reading the rest of the series.
Have you ever read an SPFBO book?
Profile Image for Gavin.
862 reviews392 followers
May 10, 2016
I must admit that the only reason this book came to my attention was because it was the winner of the first Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off, hosted by Mark Lawrence. I like the idea of a competition that seeks to separate the wheat from the chaff in the murky world of self-published fantasy, so I decided to go ahead and read the book deemed the best of the best.

I'm not super keen on the wordy title or the books cover, but did think the synopsis was quite intriguing. Was the story itself worth the reading? Definitely. It was not a rival for any of the books sitting on my favourites shelf, but it was a solid Swords and Sorcery fantasy tale.

Amra Thetys is a thief with morals who finds herself on a quest for vengeance after a friend, and fellow thief, is murdered after a job gone bad. The story was quite enjoyable. Amra was not at all what I was expecting. She was tough, gritty, cynical, and kick-ass for sure, but she was not particularly bitter or angry at her lot in life. I found it easy to like her. The secondary characters were a likeable bunch. The best of the lot being the mage Holgen.

The world was an interesting and fairly original one. We only got glimpses of it while reading this first instalment and I was left wishing for a bit more backstory long before the story concluded. As luck would have it that explanation arrived at the end in the spectacular form of a brief guide of Amra's World written by the hilariously cantankerous old priest Lhiewyn, the High Priest of the God of Knowledge.

The story itself was a nice mix of mystery and action, the plot moved along at a nice pace, and the world was full of some cool magic and creatures.

This was an enjoyable read. I'll definitely be reading the sequel as I think there is more interesting tales to be told in this world!

Rating: 4 stars.

Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
780 reviews131 followers
November 26, 2022
The first-ever SPFBO winner, I'm going to give it the highest praise I can give a self-published book: it's good enough to be traditionally published. Come at me, indie boosters; I've dwelt in those trenches, I know what I'm about.

The only thing making it "not-to-market", if the author even had any interest at any point in a traditional publishing pathway, is that it's too short. At under 200 pages (with some delicious additional material at the back, a world guide narrated hilariously in-character) it would have been a tough sell these days. But I say, bring on the shorter fiction of yore, because this was a perfect experience.

The setting reminded me of Lankhmar; a gritty, almost Wild West-inspired city, somewhere between medieval and renaissance, with real and careless gods, baneful magic, and friendship despite the odds. The main character, our scarred, clever mid-range thief Amra, surprised me in her subtler moments, particularly when she was taken aback that others could actually like her.

The writing was sublime. McClung must be a proper Strunk & White afficionado; this is the unencumbered wordcraft that I yearn for.

In short, it's a retro fantasy experience with modern quality, and I'll eat it up any day.
Profile Image for Justine.
222 reviews59 followers
September 28, 2020
"But why would you care about honor?"
"If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand."

Trouble comes knocking when Corbin Hardin appears on Amra Thetys' doorstep with an unknown artifact in tow, requesting she hold onto it for safekeeping. The two being thick as thieves, both in literal and figurative senses, Amra agrees without much question. When Corbin fails to retrieve the item the following day as promised, Amra is immediately swept into a whirlwind investigation of his heinous death, set on bringing justice to her friend’s murderer. Her path of vengeance is hindered by deceit, magic, and immortals, but she refuses to let this crime go unanswered. With aid from unexpected places and a thief's network of resources, she'll go any length, and face any adversary, to lay this nightmare to rest.

Kerf's crooked staff! Wonderfully concise with all the fat smartly trimmed away, The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids is a truly remarkable, thrilling, and unforgiving story, perfectly wrapped in a little package. The surface is decorated with blood, treachery, and cynical banter, but on the inside is an inspiring account of loyalty and dedication. It's a tale of how the need for vengeance clouds one's judgement. Of the power of secrets and jealousy, and the absolute control they hold. How the worst feeling anyone could ever express is apathy - the indifference the enemy from within that's more potent and dangerous than any external threat.

Of my many favorite aspects of this book, the beautifully developed characters, their relationships, and their refusal to conform to stereotypes definitely tops the list. Amra, lucrative thief and heroine with an unremitting loyalty to those she holds dear. Everything from her looks to her morals seems to be about balance - she's neither pretty nor ugly (regardless of her scars), neither noble nor malicious. Inconspicuous, unnoteworthy, yet witty and more than capable. She swears like a sailor and commands great respect from those surrounding her. Holgren, a mysteriously powerful mage who's atypical of your traditional mage. He's willing to help others without asking for recompense, and has a sociable personality with a cynical sense of humor. It's obvious there's more lurking beneath the surface and hopefully we're able to explore that in future books. Bosch…absolutely repugnant. Bosch's employer…you'll see!

The city of Lucernis and surrounding territories are handsomely crafted, everything from the upscale villas upon the cliffs overlooking the Dragonsea to the ramshackle abodes bordering the charnel grounds, each region is illustrated in vivid, immersive detail. Rich history is hinted at by introducing various deities and describing them by the actions and personalities of their priests and acolytes. Descriptions don't take up too much real estate, the world speaking for itself as you're dragged along the sprawling streets at a breakneck pace. The darker and grievous facets of the story balanced with a sardonic tone is, in my opinion, the perfect recipe for an amusing and engaging adventure.

Looking back, I originally shelved this book at the beginning of 2017…2017! I'm literally chiding myself for waiting so long to finally dive in. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have already ordered the rest of the series to catch up on the misadventures of Amra Thetys. If you're looking for a quick and entertaining read of thieving, mystery, and magic, this is the one you're looking for. Onto the next!
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,253 reviews130 followers
January 28, 2023
Reread it, as I got the double feature audio book, and I think I loved it even more the second time around!

I found this on the SPFBO list, bought it and then had it sitting on my ereadet for a while.
Now I'm wondering why it took me so long to pick it up!

It started of fine, but I fell in love with about 100 pages (about 50%) in.

A short mage fight, with a gory end and a lot of humor thrown in had me shaking from laughter for quite a while! Afterwards it gets stranger and darker and more amazing.

I liked the main character, who defied any stereotypes, but just was herself! I need more adult women who's story is not about romance! She's very no-nonsense and trying to fix all the crap that happens in a "oh fuck it, here we go then" way.
My favourite sort of people!

If something can go wrong, it probably will. Some people are lucky like that... Especially if you do have a good heart, and can't help yourself but try to save the world, even if you curse a lot about it.

I enjoyed the writing style and the side characters a lot. (and of course the dog. I always love the dog...)

The plot was interesting and had some unexpected twists. So even though it's a fun and easy read, it's not predictable. 
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,223 reviews2,052 followers
July 6, 2016
Who could resist that delightful title?
This turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy romp with thieves aplenty, an interesting world and some really excellent magic going on. Holgren the Mage almost stole the show from our feisty heroine and I must admit it will be mostly for him that I continue the series. Fast paced, clever and always interesting - an excellent beginning.
Hey ho - another new series - thanks Carolyn for recommending it:)
Profile Image for mich.
650 reviews233 followers
September 2, 2015
Thief fantasy adventure stories are kinda my thing -- I LOVE ‘em! And add revenge to the mix? Oh yeah, sign me the hell UP!

Overall, I enjoyed this one. 3.5 stars!

The good stuff:

Amra Thetys. In the increasingly overflowing pool of snarky kickass heroines out there, she’s one of the better ones and I’ll even go so far as to say that she’s memorable. Her dry, sarcastic humor instantly endeared her to me and I have no doubt will pull in a lot readers. She makes this book.

Action. Adventure. Fun. Check, check and check! I found the action sequences in particular to be very well written. Good stuff, man!

Could use some work:

Plot and world-building. These two probably shouldn’t be lumped together like this, but *shrugs* Whatever, I’m feeling lazy. The plot left a bit to be desired, and the world-building - even more. (If you like these types of books like me, but prefer a more layered plot and richer world-building, check out Thief's Covenant - also a great series!) Although I felt these two aspects were a bit weak in this book, I'm definitely game to trying the next one to see if there's improvement.

Editing. Sorry, but I'm not going to be nice about this. The editing is total shit. I read through this thing once -- just once! -- and the number of typos I saw was fricken embarrassing. Seriously, if I was the author, I'd be embarrassed. We're talking missing letters in words, missing words in sentences, past tense and present tense usage in the same goddamn sentence, and DON'T even get me started on that instance where the characters' names were mixed up. Lots of really obvious mistakes - it was just so sloppy! It kept jarring me out of the story. I don't like that.

I hear this is being re-edited and thank god cuz it NEEDS it. I wish it had happened before *I* read it, but oh well. The lovely Sarah has been doing an awesome job of late in garnering interest for this series (and yes, put me down as stating that it is very well-deserved), however, I do hope this re-release happens sooner rather than later, before too many other people see this draft (yeah, you heard me, I'm calling it a draft. As a final product that I paid money for, this was just -- no.)

Final thoughts:

I'm excited to see where this series goes. There's lots of room to develop the supporting characters in interesting ways, and Amra herself is awesome enough to carry the series pretty far, I think.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,175 reviews617 followers
June 8, 2016
This is a great start to a new sword and sorcery series with sassy, take-no-prisoners thief Amra Thetys, who has a knife for every occasion. When her friend and fellow thief Corbin ends up dead after asking her to look after a strange artifact while he goes to do business with a difficult client, Amra vows to find his killer. This leads her into all sorts of trouble with a bad bunch who will stop at nothing, including sorcery and black magic, to get hold of the artifact.

This short novel (or long novella) is full of fun and fantasy as Amra tries to avenge the death of her friend Corbin. There is enough world building to give a strong sense of Amra's town and life and there are some great characters. Amra herself, a thief with a conscience who will always help those in need, her friend Holgren the mage who comes to her aid, Kluge the Detective who can also wield a little magic and Bosch a very evil, immortal villain. So good to know there are more books in this series waiting to be read!

With thanks to Netgalley and Ragnarok Publications for a digital copy of this book to read and review
Profile Image for Daniel.
753 reviews72 followers
February 29, 2016

Vrlo zabavno štivo sa odličnom glavnom junakinjom, interesantnom pričom koja drži pažnju i ide u neočekivanim pravcima posebno na kraju. Fin world building bez previše ekspozicije, stil pisanja koji nije zamoran sa previše detalja.

Jedina zamerka je sam ton priče pošto stalno imam osećaj da pokušava da bude grim dark kada se pogleda sam svet i našta naši junaci nailaze a sa druge strane puno bantera, opasnih situacija koje se suviše lako zaobilaze i preživljavaju.

U svakom slučaju preporuka i nastaviću serijal dalje samo malo da se sve konsoliduje.
Profile Image for Mark.
486 reviews84 followers
July 8, 2018
An absolutely wonderful work of fantasy fiction, with a plotted storyline which keeps you interested all the way the book.

It’s got everything you need to have to enjoy the book.

Heroic thieves, nobles and mages, evil and annoying gods these are excellantly brought to life by this author.

Highly recommended for my goodread friends who love fantasy.
Profile Image for Shae.
146 reviews22 followers
January 13, 2019
A fun, super fast read.

I particularly enjoyed the wry, somewhat dark, humour that was woven through the narrative.

Glad I picked this up :-)
Profile Image for Marielle.
264 reviews39 followers
March 31, 2021
Awesome action packed, fast paced book. Truly liked the characters and the story. Maybe a bit short but luckily I already have book 2 waiting for me!
Profile Image for P.L. Stuart.
Author 3 books379 followers
July 31, 2022
My July TBR included some of the books who were annual champions in Mark Lawrence's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). "The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids", Book #1 in "Amra Thetys", is one such novel.

At less than two hundred pages, this was a little book that could, taking out other typical fantasy behemoth-sized contenders to snag the title in the inaugural SPFBO, year 2015. After reading it, I can see why it fared so well in the contest.

Taking place in a grim, bleak, and dangerous urban setting called Lucernis, in a populated northern continent of McClung's imaginary world, the story of "The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids" unfolds.

The guts of the plot is rather straightforward, and may sound familiar. Thief is down on their luck, and does not have the most savoury of friends. Thief's rakish, charming fellow miscreant friend and occasional business partner, is mixed up with bad people who owe him.

Charming reprobate friend asks thief to hold onto friend's dog, because friend is going to meet with the bad people who owe him, and is not entirely optimistic that he will survive the meeting. Coincidentally, friend also wants thief to stash an artifact for him, that it likely not worth all the trouble it will undoubtedly bring the thief's way. Against better judgement and because she's got a soft spot for reprobate, thief agrees to keep both mutt and merchandise. Friend says if he does not return in a day or so, that he's likely been murdered. Sure enough, this is exactly what happens.  

Thief is intially pegged for the murder, but with the assistance and intervention of the victim's brother, a powerful but cynical mage who is a regular ally of the thief, and some other interesting characters who are not necessarily very moral, upright, or upstanding citizens, thief manages to begin the search for the real killer, determined to avenge her slain charming reprobate friend.

It all starts with the characters for me, and McClung shines here. The thief, Amra, is definitely shaded in grey, but tough, determined, resourceful, snarky, and ultimately a loyal and dedicated friend. She exhibits a lot of integrity, and a refusal to give up, or give in, and bow down to superior forces. She's at the bottom of society, but refuses to act completely like someone who is downtrodden. She's caring and empathetic, willing to be vulnerable, and the reader will find herself rooting for her. What I also loved is that her inner beauty surpasses her outer beauty, and she feels very real and fleshed out.

Holgren is also an awesome character. His appearance is innocuous, but he is completely bad-ass, and with a ready quip, a handy spell, or gob-smacking display of power, he's a great sidekick for Amra. He's obviously very intelligent, and he believes in Amra. His trust inspires the reader to believe in her too.

The murder mystery element is very well done, with plenty of guts, gore, and thrilling fight sequences. There's also plenty of wit and sarcasm, which is also fantastic, with plenty of out-loud chuckle inducing moments. Amid the frivolity interspersed with the stabby moments, mysterious and malevolent soft magic mingles in nicely with the action.

There are capricious and callous gods (love this element), haunted blades, bloodwitches, monsters,  
daemonists, mages, and a surprisingly detailed backstory, religions, and worldbuilding for such a short book (overview, history, explanation of the various ages noted at the rear of the novel).

Themes of loss, friendship, betrayal, jealousy, greed, poverty, desperation, and yet hope can be found in the book. Lucernis is a place where the vast majority of the populace exist, rather than thrive. There is plenty of economic disparity, crime, and preying on the less-fortunate. People do what they can to survive, and Amra is no different. But she does not succumb to despair, nor completely give into her worst impulses.  

This book was headed towards a solid four-star read for me, until the last 30 pages. Something in McClung's smooth and accessible prose, and where he took some of the themes at that juncture of the book, completely raised the bar, touched my soul, and elevated this book to something very special.

"A tool that cannot be reliably taken in hand, fit for no useful purpose: Was it even a tool, in any rational sense of the word?...'A workman relies on his tool to do the job at hand. His skill, his hand, guides the tool. A tool that turns in his hand should be discarded.'...'But no responsible craftsman would leave a dangerous tool lying around for any fool to pick up. Even swords, meant only for killing, come with scabbards.'"

"The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids" is a dark, fast-paced, and yet very rich and complete-feeling story, that seems very self-contained, while leaving plenty of room for interesting sequels.
4.75 stars for this excellent book, no doubt worthy of the first SPFBO championship.
Profile Image for Nigel.
817 reviews93 followers
June 6, 2019
I think I read an Amra story in an anthology and bought this one as a result. I've had it a while but finally got to it. This is an easy fantasy read. Amra is a great character and the others in this story are good too. It's uncomplicated in many way and feels very colloquial too. It doesn't bother itself with unnecessary details and makes for an easy read. I would say that it feels self published to me - it is a little rough around the edges in places but I enjoyed it. Bought book 2 so will get to that sometime. Anyone who likes this and who hasn't come across Jay Kristoff and the Godsgrave books might be interested in them (& vice versa)
Profile Image for David S Meanderings).
325 reviews87 followers
April 27, 2020
Edit 4/27/20:
This is not a 5 book series. 5 books have been published so far, but the series is ongoing. Also, I have read three so far and I am loving this series! Just started the 4th.

“Fate is a slaver, bloodwitch, and I refuse its chains.”
As I walked out her door, she spoke in a quiet voice. 
“That is why fate has singled you out, Amra Thetys.”

Simply put, I loved this book. Now I could single that out to the fact that I had read some really heavy fantasy and sci fi lately and this was a more light fantasy that really had just been a perfect fit for me at the moment, but that would be doing it a disservice.

Starting off with intrigue and murder, the pace doesn’t let up for the 208 pages that it spans. There was never a point where I was bored or wanted to stop reading. I was always on the edge of my seat because even in the most mundane of situations our characters found themselves in there was always a hint of danger and the unknown. Fast paced, dark, and gritty at times, this was a ride worth taking.

Michael McClung does a great job of building the world as he goes. I was really impressed by the amount of world building that he was able to get into such a small book. Even more so when that book takes place basically in one city, Lucernia. We are able to learn about some of the history, gods, and magic that have made the world what it is today and there promises to be so much more. I will say that the magic is not explained in depth. The author does not go into great detail about it and you will not understand everything about it by the end of this book. This wasn’t a deficiency in my opinion because the characters, world, and plot were so interesting and I don’t mind this in my personal preference. If that really bothers you though, this may not be the book for you.

There were times throughout this story that I laughed out loud, but I also just found myself smiling often. Amra’s humor especially was right up my alley and reminded me quite a bit of the irreverent and sarcastic characters of the Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch. There were also just so many little, unique things throughout the story that I found refreshing.

Amra was a compelling character. A stubborn, brave thief with a conscience just trying to avenge one of her only friends. I found it very easy and enjoyable to follow her in first person and get to know her. We also get to learn about the world as a whole as she learns about it which I really enjoyed. Holgren the mage was another character that we got to know pretty well. He intrigued me the most out of all the characters because of all the hints dropped about his back story and I think he is gonna be a big part of the next four books.

This is book one of a five book series. However, it is a very self contained story in its own right and can be enjoyed on its own. That being said, there was plenty of action, intrigue, danger, and mystery to go around and I look forward to continuing the series. I really enjoyed everything about it and have already purchased the next book.
461 reviews397 followers
July 14, 2018
I’m starting to go through all of the finalists from previous years, and I’ll probably be checking out many of the semi-finalists as well. This book won the first SPFBO contest with a respectable final score of an 8/10 from all of the bloggers so I was very eager to get started on this one. I actually read this one way back in March I think, but I’m just now getting around to the review. I listened to it on audiobook, and it was pretty decent if I recall.

It starts out with a woman being visited by an old friend named Corbin, this is a guy that gets himself into trouble since he’s a professional thief. He asks her if she can hold onto a statue for just a little while, and that he will come back and get it after his ‘meeting’ with a client. He tells her that if he doesn’t come back within a day that he is likely dead and that she can keep the statue he gave her, but to also please look after his dog. That’s rather ominous, and he does indeed wind up cut to pieces. The police are looking at Amra as a possible suspect since she went to check in on her friend and found him dead just outside his house and was still there when they arrived.

The detective is a mage, and pretty smart and intuitive – he knows that she didn’t kill him, but he also sees right through her carefully laid lies and knows that she’s holding back information. He puts a tracking spell on her, which she figures out because she’s also not an idiot. These two play mind games with each other and it was one of my favorite parts of the book. Amra has to find a way to clear her name, find out who really killed her friend, and stay alive while the finds out what’s so valuable about this stupid frog statue. She turns to help from an old mage who takes both the tracking spell and the dog from her to her great relief, she’s not really a dog person. She turns to an older mage for help, one with a well-known reputation and he agreed he would look into the statue’s origins and value while she figures out how to shake the cops from her tail, as well as track down a well connected and hidden crime syndicate that was responsible for her friend’s death.

I liked her character, she wasn’t exactly a noble bright character, Amra is also a thief and would be considered by many to have a tenuous grasp on morals – but she had sympathy and loyalty enough to care about her friends and keep promises she made to them.

Mages in this world are pretty removed from the general populous, people give them a wide birth and they can be very dangerous. Their power source is rumored to be draining, however, and they are one of the more rare types of magic users. Bloodwitches tend to be more common, and one stopped Amra in the street and went into a prophetic trance and told her about an “8 fold bitch” that’s going to cause trouble in the future. It was pretty creepy but there wasn’t a ton of magic in this book. It’s definitely high fantasy and magic is there, but if you want something in between low fantasy and magic packed fantasy this is that kind of book. There’s a third type of magic user, and I read it so long ago I can’t remember if they were really called necromancers or not – but they tend to try and open the gates to hell, so they’re hunted down and arrested or executed.

The tone for this wasn’t dark, but it wasn’t exactly light either, it was more on the adventurous/mysterious side of things. I liked the writing, this isn’t a long book and the writing was clean and quick so I read/listened to it in one sitting. I don’t recall anything standing out as awkward or confusing and since it’s single POV it’s easy to follow the story.

Overall I liked it, I thought the world building was neat and the characters were enjoyable to read about. The audiobook was decent as well, I hadn’t listened to anything narrated by her before, and audiobooks for indies can be hit or miss so it was nice to hit a good one.


female pov
thief pov
high fantasy
single pov
ancient artifacts of mysterious powers
mages, witches, necromancers
fast reads/shorter books


Plot: 11.25/15
Characters: 11/15
World Building: 12/15
Writing: 12/15
Pacing: 12/15
Originality: 11/15
Personal Enjoyment: 7.5/10

Final Score: 76.75/100 – 3.83/5 stars on GR – recommended!
Profile Image for Joel.
624 reviews229 followers
July 4, 2016

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids came fairly highly acclaimed as an independent novel, even winning Mark Lawrence’s self-published Fantasy Blog-Off. I heard quite a bit of buzz about it in the last couple years, enough that I felt it must be added to the reading list. When I finally got a chance to read it, however, I found it didn’t necessarily live up to all the hype.

Amra Thetys, a thief, finds herself in the middle of a quagmire, after her friend comes to her following a heist. He’s been hired to steal a set of artifacts, but feels the need to keep one of these for himself, for reasons unknown at that time, and asks his friend Amra to help guard it, as he’s being hunted in order to recover it. Shortly thereafter, he turns up dead, murdered in cold blood in front of his house, and Amra is quickly swept up in the investigations, and the many layers of drama involved.

While a bit on the sparse side, the worldbuilding in Thief is interesting enough, presenting an interesting city, full of vivid and unique characters and places, as well as some very interesting (and morbid) customs and supernatural problems. The characters are numerous, which can be a bit of a problem at times as there’s quite a bit to keep up with in a very short novel, but they are all distinct enough, with their own voices and habits, as well as their own ways of handling things.

There are tons of twists and turns in the story, as Amra fights off various forces, incarceration, contracts on her life, supernatural monsters, and various other obstacles in her quest to resolve her friend’s murder, as well as gain the revenge against his killers that she so desires. She enlists the help of a friend, a powerful mage, who assists her in her struggles, while at times feeling almost too powerful.

Wherein the crux of some of the book’s problems begin – Amra seems to be constantly in unbeatable situations, extreme danger, extensive bodily or mental harm, yet comes out just fine, often with very easy, simple solutions that seem too convenient for the situations she finds herself in. The main issue I had with the novel was essentially that – everything seemed so…underwhelming. So convenient. So undeveloped. The novel is short, yet a TON of things are wedged into it, so very little time and energy is spent on individual events.

It ends up leaving an anemic feel to things – situations get built up quickly, then resolved quickly, and on to the next thing. Lather, rinse, repeat. And at the same time, the writing lack a very distinct something – I could only describe it as “soul”. Everything is so matter-of-fact, so “this happened, it was ok”. Amra goes through an amazing amount of trauma, and each is just presented as a thing that occurred, with very little insight into the effects, very little “feel” to it. The entire book felt like a casual storytelling, with no heart, nothing to make me feel for the characters, or situations, or drama. It just came across so bland in presentation.

McClung’s writing and ideas are clearly good, but the execution in this novel is lacking. I found myself unable to “get into” the book very much, because it lacked anything to draw me in, any feeling to give to the story or characters. I love a nice short novel, but this book would have benefitted greatly from another 50 pages, wherein McClung could explore the emotions, and take some time to show some impact to events, rather than just saying “x happened”. There was a ton of potential here, but it just missed the mark for me. It was close to being a very good book, but yet very far away at the same time.

Rating: 2.75 / 5
Profile Image for Mihir.
645 reviews295 followers
February 10, 2016

Mini-review over at Fantasy Book Critic

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braids is a fascinating debut that showcases how talented Michael McClung is. I very much enjoyed this debut that is very reminiscent of the Lies Of Locke Lamora in its setup but less grimdarky and with a simpler protagonist.

Amara Thetys is a thief who is forced to hide an artifact as her friend Corbin gets brutally murdered. She soon finds out why that artifact is such an important thing as she tasks a mage Holgren to find out more. Things however are never crystal clear as Amara finds out and beneath the veneer of normalcy, there's a paranormal war brewing.

Mixing sword and sorcery with streamlined pace, Michael McClung's debut is a terrific story that is very much in the vein of works by Scott Lynch, David Dalglish & Douglas Hulick. Michael has to be lauded for giving us a story that not only showcases the best of a sword & sorcery tale but also gives us a protagonist that we can root for entirely. Yes the protagonist is a grey one but Amra is written so well that I couldn’t stop reading about her plusI'm sure other readers like me will be left wanting more tales about her. The story ends with a revelation of an impending apocalypse; and yet the tale feels complete. I absolutely am stoked for the forthcoming sequels.

Profile Image for Milo.
768 reviews81 followers
February 28, 2016
The Review Can Also Be Found Here. | The Full List of Finalists Can Also Be Found Here. | Follow Me On Twitter Here.

And… we have a winner! The Great Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off has finished after a year and all the bloggers have provided their scores out of 10 and the highest ranked book was The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Blades. It’s an interesting book and it’s easy to see why it won, because I’m a big fan of Michael McClung’s novel, which was chosen to be the winner despite oddly not being the favourite finalist of all the bloggers involved, which was Ben Galley’s Bloodrush. Having been selected as a finalist from Elitist Book Reviews, The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Blades is a pretty impressive read.

It’s a sword and sorcery novel driven by revenge. Focusing on Amra Thetys as the lead character, a thief who doesn’t steal form anyone poorer than her, something that is made easier by the fact that the poor don’t have anything worth stealing, we follow her character as she turns her back on thieving following the death of her friend, Corbin – with a greater goal in mind. Revenge. It’s great to watch how Amra’s character develops over the two-hundred odd pages that we’re given, with the book moving along very quickly indeed. I’ve read more than a few blog-off novels that have relied upon exposition and info-dumping to tell us more about the world which usually comes at the cost of the pace but The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Blades avoids that approach and establishes it over the course of the narrative, giving readers a sense of what it might be like to live in Amra’s world, fleshing out on details such as the politics and history.

The characters are people who we can get behind and care about. As well as Amra, we also meet characters such as Holgren, a mage, and other interesting figures that keep the book fresh and full of variety. It’s interesting to note that Amra isn’t your typical fantasy protagonist and whilst you may be worried at times about whether the author can successfully juggle all the supporting cast well enough (because there’s a lot of secondary characters here), rest assured, they never overstay their welcome and Amra’s plot is always at the heart of the story.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Blades moves pretty quickly, and the fast pace will make it easy to get through. After all, I read this book pretty much in two sittings. It’s an accomplished debut that will appeal to fans of authors like Paul S. Kemp, Scott Lynch, Douglas Hulick and more. I can’t wait to see what McClung comes up with next because I am invested in Amra’s storyline now and want to read the rest of her adventures, and it looks like the complete trilogy is already available so I’m going to have to get stuck into the sequels when I can, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Profile Image for  Simply Sam ツ.
579 reviews78 followers
February 29, 2016
***A solid 4 stars (maybe even 4.5)***

This was a great start to a series. A female protagonist who doesn't piss me off, a mage who is more than meets the eye, giant metal spider villains, centuries old assassins, daemon houses. RTC when I have more time. For now it's enough to know that it's a really good book that I enjoyed the heck out of. If you like your fantasy fastpaced with a take-no-shit female character bent on revenge but without all the romancey stuff to bog it down then give this a try!
Profile Image for Bernhard.
88 reviews10 followers
June 28, 2021
What a ride. This short self-published debut novel is brilliant. It is fast-paced, gritty, strange, highly quotable and the characters are fantastic. The story is told from the first person perspective of the thief Amra Thetys who gets into one nasty mess after another. I loved the first half of the novel. In the second half it went crazy wild with a lot of gods, demigods, demons, undeads, blood-witches and powerful magic. For my personal taste that went way too crazy wild. I still liked it a lot despite of that but I'm sure others will love it because of that.
Profile Image for Nickolas.
Author 2 books21 followers
March 21, 2015
THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE'S BRAIDS by Michael McClung is what Mark Lawrence's Great Self-published Fantasy Author Blog-off is all about. This is the third book I read of the batch I was assigned. I saved it for last because I found the cover appealing, the title enticing, and the synopsis intriguing. The overall package is professional and marketable and because of that it stands out amongst the competition.

THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE'S BRAIDS is a little more than 200 pages long but it's a satisfying sword & sorcery adventure that will appeal to fans of Ari Marmell, David Dalglish, Douglas Hulick, Brent Weeks, and Kelly McCullough.

Here's the synopsis: Amra Thetys lives by two simple rules—take care of business, and never let it get personal. Thieves don't last long in Lucernis otherwise. But when a fellow rogue and good friend is butchered on the street in a deal gone wrong, she turns her back on burglary and goes after something more precious than treasure: Revenge. Revenge, however, might be hard to come by. A nightmare assortment of enemies, including an immortal assassin and a mad sorcerer, believe Amra is in possession of The Blade That Whispers Hate—the legendary, powerful artifact her friend was murdered for—and they'll do anything to take it from her. Trouble is, Amra hasn't got the least clue where the Blade might be. She needs to find the Blade, and soon, or she'll be joining her colleague in a cold grave instead of avenging his death. Time is running out for the small, scarred thief.

THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE'S BRAIDS is told from the first person perspective of Amra Thetys, an ordinary thief in an unordinary world. In her own words she's not terribly feminine, she's got a scarred face, a figure like a boy, and a mouth like a sailor. She's always got a knife hidden somewhere on her body and knows how to use it. She's sarcastic and cynical and she knows her way around the streets of Lucernis. In other words she's the perfect narrator for this type of story.

She's a bit cliche in that sense (the genre is full of similar characters) but I found myself growing attached to Amra as she stumbled from one misfortune to the next. It's hard not to develop affection for a character who shares nuggets of wisdom like this..."I figured stirring up trouble would help keep eyes off me. It's easier to swim unnoticed in muddy water..." and..."Demon crabs spin mucus webs, I thought. This is knowledge I could live my whole life without."

The supporting cast is equally enjoyable. Amra's friend Holgren is a powerful mage with a hidden past. To my delight Holgren ended up taking a much more prominent role than I first suspected. Kluge is an inspector and a mage of lesser abilities, intent on pinning Corbin's murder on Amra. I doubt that we've seen the last of Kluge. Osskil, Corbin's brother, and Bosch, a fun villain, two more favorites of mine. McClung doesn't delve too deeply into any of these characters but they never felt flat.

THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE'S BRAID takes place in the city of Lucernis, largest city in the West. McClung has imagined a fascinating fantasy setting with its own colorful culture and weighty history. This is the novel's biggest draw. I found funerary practices in Lucernis to be especially interesting -- final meals with the deceased in attendance, professional mourners, and graveyard guardians. There are gods and demons and magic and better yet, it all feels refreshingly original. It's an investigatory sword & sorcery novel but there's a hint of epic fantasy running under the surface. I'm eager to read the sequel, THE THIEF WHO SPAT IN LUCK'S EYE, so that I can learn more about the world Amra inhabits.

Amra's narration propels the plot forward at a brisk pace. There's a strong sense of forward momentum as McClung refuses to linger in any one area for longer than necessary. As a result readers get a grand tour of the city of Lucernis. And while sometimes I wished the story had stopped to smell the roses for just a bit longer it was only because I was keen to learn more. I did manage to solve the central mystery before the end of the book but that did little to diminish my enjoyment.

THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE'S BRAIDS is a model of what self-published fiction can be. From the propulsive prose to the clean editing it is evident that McClung takes great pride in his craft. I am fortunate to have been assigned this novel and I will be reading the sequels and I intend to support it in the next phase of the Great Self-published Fantasy Blog-off.

Age: 14+

Language: Mild

Violence: A dude's body gets magically exploded.

Sex: Prostitution is mentioned but there is no explicit sex.

Nick Sharps
Elitist Book Reviews
Profile Image for P. Kirby.
Author 5 books68 followers
January 4, 2015
Never let it be said that I don't judge a book by its cover.

I clicked over to the preview pages because the cover drew my eye. Okay, so the price--Free!--did as well. But, I'm all about covers. This one wasn't particularly dynamic, but the simple, balanced composition suggested "professional," as opposed to the badly Photoshopped (with ugly edge matching) disasters that still typify the self-pubbed market.

So...the book's contents.

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braid's is an entertaining yarn. Amra Thetys is a thief, and "kick-ass" in a genuine, believable manner. In other words, she doesn't talk tough, but turn into a helpless ninny when the obligatory love interest arrives on scene. This is may be due to the fact that there is no love interest, which, coincidentally, may be the story's strength.

I love romance. And a truly sexy sex scene. A good romantic subplot is almost a necessity for me. Unfortunately, the trend lately has been to take a perfectly good heroine (or hero), introduce her to the love interest(s), and immediately devolve her into an addlepated lust monkey. Which is why so many of the urban fantasies I've read recently have been a disappointment. This novel isn't urban fantasy, but the premise, structured around a mystery, is similar to a lot of urban fantasy. Too often romantic fantasy novels plots are a series of poorly conceived coincidences designed to get the couple together (and fucking at inopportune moments).

Amra's goal is simple. To find the person who killed her friend Corbin and make that person dead. Though assassination isn't her M.O., makin' stealthy and creeping unnoticed into habitations is. Naturally, she assumes that killing Corbin's killer will be easy once she identifies the perp. The problem is Corbin's killer may be more than the usual tough guy.

Finding that she's over her head, she enlists the help of her buddy, Holgren, a mage. The nifty thing about Holgren is that he isn't a Gandalf. Meaning he doesn't exist solely to issue cryptic-prophetic statements, but otherwise stand around with his thumb up his butt, only using his powers as a last resort. Holgren is more than happy to turn a baddy into a cloud of bloody mist. Or cook up a super-speed spell. Holdgren's the kind of mage you want to have on a quest.

Other characters round out the plot, but the Amra/Holgren duo are at the core of the action. Amra isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, but she doesn't escape unscathed from her take-charge approach; instead she emerges from her adventures, bloodied, broken and scarred. Or, rather, more scarred, since she apparently carries some significant facial scars from events in her past. Which leads to another point in her favor; she's not particularly pretty. I.e., no blather about how hot she looks; or worse yet, descriptions of her makeup routine and wardrobe.

As character arcs go, Amra's is pancake flat. She starts and ends the story as pretty much the same person; she never has a dark moment (e.g.,"fuck this shit, I'm retiring to a tropic island"). That degree of depth, however, would probably conflict with the story's light, adventurous tone. I'd imagine, if the series continues through several novels, Amara's apparently complicated past will give subsequent stories a darker tone.

Recommended to readers in search of a genuinely kick-ass, capable heroine in a fast-paced, fantasy adventure.
Profile Image for Alec Hutson.
Author 18 books560 followers
July 26, 2017
What a terrific read. I'd seen The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braids kicking around Amazon and elsewhere, and despite enjoying the title immensely it wasn't until a few days ago that I decided to pick it up. Great decision. This is some of the most fun I've had reading fantasy in months, since I finished the most recent book in Will Wight's Cradle series. I really enjoy well-done sword and sorcery tales, and Mr. McClung delivers in every way: we have a compelling protagonist, Amra, a successful thief in a wonderfully drawn fantasy city; a plot that twists and turns, with a surprise I guarantee you will not see coming at the end; terrific writing - the prose is a solid level above most traditionally published fantasy, and in spots soars into Wolfe, Bancroft, or Mieville territory; and just flawless world building. I want to talk about the world building for a moment, as I really respect the way it is handled in The Thief Who Pulled. There's no long info-dumps, no strange soliloquies that seem horribly out of place - the (very interesting) world unfolds organically through the flow of the story. I'll be picking up the rest of the series, and I recommend it to all fans of fun, smart fantasy.
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