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The Facefaker's Game

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For fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch, a picaresque fantasy about a clever young beggar who bargains his way into an apprenticeship with a company of thieving magicians and uses his newfound skills in a vendetta against a ruthless crime lord.

Ashes lives in Burroughside—the dirtiest, most crime-ridden district in the huge city of Teranis. His neighbors are gangs of fellow orphans, homeless madmen, and monsters that swarm the streets at nightfall. Determined to escape Burroughside, Ashes spends his days begging, picking pockets, and cheating at cards. When he draws the wrath of Mr. Ragged, Burroughside’s brutal governor, he is forced to flee for his life, only to be rescued by an enigmatic man named Candlestick Jack.

Jack leads a group of Artificers, professional magicians who can manipulate light with their bare hands to create stunningly convincing illusions. Changing a face is as simple as changing a hat. Ashes seizes an opportunity to study magic under Jack and quickly befriends the rest of the company: Juliana, Jack’s aristocratic wife; William, his exacting business partner; and Synder, his genius apprentice. But all is not as it seems: Jack and his company lead a double life as thieves, and they want Ashes to join their next heist. Between lessons on light and illusion, Ashes begins preparing to help with Jack’s most audacious caper yet: robbing the richest and most ruthless nobleman in the city.

A dramatic adventure story full of wit, charm, and scheming rogues, The Facefaker’s Game introduces an unforgettable world you won’t soon want to leave.

464 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 2016

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About the author

Chandler J. Birch

2 books72 followers
Chandler J. Birch grew up ignoring the Rocky Mountains in favor of Narnia, Middle Earth, and Temerant. He started writing stories of his own before he was old enough to be ashamed of it, and kept up the habit through high school and college.

Birch signed a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster when he was 23. The book he sold, The Facefaker's Game, was written over the course of three months, during which he also graduated college, moved across the country, started a full-time job, and got married. (It was not a relaxed summer.)

Birch lives in Colorado Springs, with his wife, Kelsey, and their dogs, Winter and Bandit. He is currently working on the as-yet-untitled sequel to The Facefaker's Game and hoping very, very hard that the publisher will pick it up.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
November 25, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/11/25/...

Sometimes book blurbs can do more harm than good for the novels they’re trying to promote, by placing crushing expectations upon them that might not be realized. In the case of The Facefaker’s Game, my inner skeptic’s alarm immediately went haywire at the description “for fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch” which is one hell of an ambitious claim if I ever heard one. Then again, every once in a while it pays to give them the benefit of the doubt. While it’s true I went into this book with a healthy dose of realism to guard against the possible disappointment, in the end I shouldn’t have worried. This impressive fantasy debut by Chandler J. Birch definitely did not let me down.

The main character of The Facefaker’s Game is a fourteen-year-old boy with no past; one day, he just became aware of himself, standing in the middle of the street with no idea where he came from or even what his name is. Covered in soot, the boy decides to give himself the name of Ashes. Thing is though, he isn’t alone. Kids like him who just appear in the city one day with no memory are called rasa, and not surprisingly, few of them last long in a cutthroat crime-ridden neighborhood like Burroughside which is run by gangs. Ashes is lucky, if you could call him that; he is clever and quick, which means he is able to make just enough money from begging, stealing and cheating at cards to get by.

But then he gets on the wrong side of the crime lord Mr. Ragged, also Burroughside’s governor. For a while now, Ashes has been sheltering another rasa named Blimey, whom Mr. Ragged wants dead. Keeping Blimey hidden with the eventual goal of moving his friend out of Burroughside has its costs though, as it means Ashes has to steal more money, stay out later in the streets, and on the whole take more risks. One night, he takes it a step too far and runs afoul of the governor’s enforcers, but instead of meeting his end, Ashes is unexpected rescued by an Artificer named Candlestick Jack. Recognizing some magical potential in our protagonist, Jack decides to take the boy on as an apprentice, teaching him the mysterious art of light manipulation and illusion.

Of the many things that impressed me about this book, one of the first that jumped out at me was the quality of the writing. It might not be at the same caliber as the most seasoned authors, but this is Birch’s first novel and he clearly has a talent. His style is confident and easy on the eyes, making the story flow remarkably smoothly from one scene to the next. The pacing is strong and hit no lulls, making this one a relatively quick read for an adult fantasy novel that clocks in at almost five hundred pages. Birch also nails the mood of the setting, successfully portraying Burroughside as the rough, gritty, and merciless environment it is without painting it too darkly. Notwithstanding some of the grueling obstacles in our protagonist’s path, The Facefaker’s Game reads more like a fantasy adventure without the weight of cynicism dragging it down.

The book also features some memorable characters, despite many of them being examples of derivative archetypes. From Ashes (the orphan street urchin who turns out to be special) to Mr. Ragged (the evil and corrupt politician crime lord) and Candlestick Jack (the crafty yet benevolent master thief who takes in street rats to train them), you can’t help but feel you’ve met all of them all in some form or another before. Still, we know certain tropes have hung around the genre and stayed popular for so long, simply because the readership loves that stuff—the way I ate them up in The Facefaker’s Game. The author made me care about the protagonist and his friends, which I feel is the first and foremost goal a novelist should strive for, and to Birch’s credit, he also put a number of interesting spins on his characters, giving them back stories that made their personalities, motivations, and reactions feel very persuasive and real.

Story-wise, I thought this was tightly plotted for the most part, though several threads have been floated so far that have seemingly gone nowhere. There are definitely elements in here that could have been better incorporated, and it is my hope that any plot orphans and unanswered questions will be explored in a future installment. But even with its flaws, The Facefaker’s Game did not let me down. It’s an entertaining, fast-paced book that pulled me in effortlessly, especially since I adore stories about thieves, heists, and the creative uses of magic! Speaking of which, I thought Weaving and Stitching light and illusion was a fascinating basis for what Artificers do, and kudos to Birch for creating such an intricate and well thought magic system.

All in all, The Facefaker’s Game is a solid debut. I’m curious to see where Chandler J. Birch will take his characters next, and you can be sure I will be pick up his next novel.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
March 17, 2017
My Campbell Award nominee, 2016.
I have zero complaints about this book.
I have to admit, I didn't start it with extremely high expectations. A debut novel from a (very) young author that I'd never heard of, talked up by the publisher as "for fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch." My attitude was something like, "Yeah, I've heard THAT kind of claim before. But sure, I'll give it a try."
Well, this time, the blurb claim is actually true.

Birch gives us a fantasy reminiscent of Oliver Twist: The boy known as 'Ashes' is a Burroughside 'rasa': a gamin who knows nothing of his past, scraping by as a beggar and a thief in the worst neighborhood of the city of Teranis. His nemesis is the nasty Fagin known as Mr. Ragged, a petty crimelord for sure, but one who looms large in the fears of the children under his thumb.

But then, Ashes' path crosses that of the man who calls himself Candlestick Jack. Jack is a magician - but also a con man and thief who subverts and circumvents the rules of the guilds governing the use of magic, at every turn. It turns out that Ashes might have some talent for magic - and Jack sees that there might be some utility to training an anonymous Artificer.

What follows is a dramatic and twisting caper, as each character follows their own agenda in the pursuit of their own goals, and honesty appears only almost as an accident...

A thoroughly entertaining story, strongly written. I'll definitely be following this author.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews535 followers
November 6, 2016
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2016/1...

The Facefaker’s Game is an entertaining coming of age story that features a number of familiar, but quite likable, tropes. I want to stress that it’s not a negative to contain tropes. I firmly believe these are traits that are so common because they can be quite enjoyable, which is the case within The Facefaker’s Game. The book has enough originality within it’s magic and characters to make the old familiar feel fresh and fun.

It feature a 14 year old boy, with no family, trying make it on the mean streets. And trust me, Burroughside is mean. In addition to the gangs of orphans and criminals, there are also monsters that come out at night. People don’t risk breaking curfew because staying out past dark pretty much typically means your life. Another interesting/mysterious feature of this book was certain people (though they don’t call them people) who would appear in Burroughside with no memory of who they are. The word amnesia was never used, but that is the general idea. And with no memory, no place to live, their lack of defenses against the monsters of the night means they are not likely to live long. It’s a mystery of the world that leaves you guessing a bit where they come from.

Ashes is not big or strong, but he is incredibly clever. So far, he survives through conning people with card games and working as a petty thief. Clever protagonists that get by on their wits, and maybe a bit of deception are often favorites of mine. It really makes way for an expected underdog to rise beyond what others expect of them. Ashes had enough unique qualities to him to keep me intrigued as he not only survives, but also lays out plans for vengeance. After conning a man he comes to know as Candlestick Jack, Ashes’ life takes an incredible turn. He is introduced to Jack’s world and the people who work for him, as well as his own capabilities, and starts to see opportunity to right some of the wrongs he sees with his world.

As for the political and social aspect to Birch’s, the town has an underground hierarchy/structure to it. Ashes and his like, the gangs of orphans that reside in Burroughside, are expected to pay a “tax” to the governor, and this price is getting steeper, making survival harder. And to complicate things, Ashes is not completely alone. He has a boy he has taken responsibility for, watches over and protects. It’s adds a nice dimension to his character as it allows the reader to see he is not always about the con, but is also fiercely caring and loyal.

At times, you can see that Ashes feels an enormous sense of obligation and tries to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, finding it very difficult to trust anyone, trying to single handedly do everything rather than ask for help. It can make his world lonely in a way that I think even Ashes can’t quite see. At least not yet.I feel like this is one of those series where there is potential for tremendous growth in the protagonist as he ages and comes into his own, something I eagerly anticipate. This was a very strong debut from Birch and I am definitely looking forward to see where he takes the story next.
Profile Image for Mike.
Author 45 books154 followers
June 12, 2016
My usual rule of thumb is that any sentence in a blurb that says "for fans of $author" is most likely a bold lie by the marketing department. I decided to risk it, though, since I am indeed a huge fan of Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss, primarily for their likeable rogues in grim settings; and this time I wasn't disappointed, because that's exactly what I got.

I wasn't disappointed in the least - though, rereading the blurb, it also describes the book as "picaresque," and technically it isn't, since it lacks the essential "episodic adventures" element. I'm always happy with a heist, though, and although the heist doesn't end up being the central focus, there's plenty of heist-like scheming along the way.

There's also a wonderfully dark, grimy setting, with mysteries that, in this first book at least, are never resolved. Why do "rasas" turn up on the street with no memory, and where do they come from? Where do the animalistic people who roam the slums at night come from (and where do they go during the day)? We don't know - and we don't need to know. These are just among the realities the protagonist has to deal with, along with a cruel thief-lord and how to take vengeance on him, the difficulty of trusting his fellow rogues, his struggle to learn magic, the problem of keeping his friend safe, and periodic physical dangers as he attempts to solve his other problems.

The protagonist is well developed. A "rasa" who doesn't remember his origins, he has an instinct of compassion and protection towards others who are weaker, and rebellion towards those who are stronger. (This means that, although the setting is indeed grim and dark, the book itself is not grimdark, much to my relief.) He's one of those magically talented youngsters who show up so often in fantasy, but he struggles and works hard to learn magic, and has to have a moment of personal growth, not just desperate circumstances, to make a breakthrough. He's believably untrusting of his benefactors, and all of his actions are credibly driven by internal and external conflicts, even the ill-advised ones.

The magic system is well thought out and essential to the plot. Although there is a minor bit of coincidence here and there to get the characters together (and to provide a magical tool, which isn't too essential in the long run), it didn't strain my disbelief.

As a minor quibble, the setting does have a fault which is a personal pet peeve of mine - biblical names in a setting where Christianity is explicitly absent - but I enjoyed everything else so much that I forgive it this time.

Apart from a few very minor typos in the pre-publication version I received from Netgalley for review, it's cleanly written and generally extremely competent, especially for a first novel by a relatively young author.

Above all, though, it's a gripping adventure with a character I wanted to see succeed, and who I want to read more about. I'm very glad that the ending points to a sequel, and I hope it's as strong as the first.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
268 reviews39 followers
October 22, 2016
The Facefaker’s Game was one of those books that just popped up in my radar while I was browsing around the vast bookish realm of the internet. I was immediately intrigued (but also a little skeptical) of its claim to be for fans of Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss. Those are mighty large and majestic shoes to fill. If it doesn’t live up to it, scores of readers will be disappointed and pick up their proverbial pens to share their feelings of betrayal with the world.

I do see parallels to both Scott Lynch’s character Locke Lamora and Rothfuss’s Kvothe. Ashes is a young orphan, turned to thieving and conning to survive in the rough streets of Burroughside. When he gets brought into a group of Artificers (those who can manipulate light) he finds a whole new world opened up to him because he too can manipulate light. While learning the tricks of the trade, Ashes begins something of a street war with the Governor of Burroughside, Mr. Ragged, who is a cruel overlord to the poor and the street folk. I liked Ashes and his Artificer companions, all of which remained a bit mysterious even at the end of the book, though I liked the direction things were going.

The world the story was set in was interesting, though had several elements that remained nebulous and unclear. Ashes is self-described as a rasa,which is a child that appeared with no prior memories. This is intriguing without a doubt, but didn’t quite to really fit anywhere within the story. Several other characters were also rasa, including Blimey (Ashes friend) and I think he’s going to provide the explanation for what’s going on because he might actually have some memory of his past. There was also a considerable amount of culture and terminology that wasn’t explained. The society is broken into Ivories (highest class), Denizens (upper middle-ish?), and everyone else but it was unclear as to what makes them different. I’m totally okay with some aspects of a story being unclear, but it seemed like almost everything lacked enough definition for my taste.

Though this is certainly similar to Lynch and Rothfuss’s books in regards to character and plot, the writing is not on the same level. The Facefaker’s Game reads more along the lines of a Young Adult fantasy and it left some to be desired. I enjoyed reading it and will definitely be keeping up with future installments, though I can’t say I’m passionately excited about it as with some other books. Overall, it’s a fun and, at times, intense read with a likeable cast and an interesting world that could use some more explanation.
Profile Image for Basia.
193 reviews55 followers
November 27, 2016

Well, as far as I can tell, this is Chandler J. Birch's first and only book. It is even more amazing, therefore, that this book is this well-engineered! I mean, I can confidently admit I could never write a book even a smidge as good as this one on my 1st book attempt (or 2nd, or 10th, etc.), and I rely on my writing ability for a living!

But anyway.... This book! Ok, so I admit: I have a weakness for stories about street urchins who strive to rise above the miserable hand life dealt them (mm hmm: immediately, Ender's Game comes to mind!). But it's not just a story about THAT. In fact, we don't really have much of an idea to whom or what the book's very title refers, which was pretty crafty, I say (and by this I mean both halves of said title, even!! How COOL, right?! I mean WHO IS The Facefaker? And WHICH GAME?? And WHOSE?!? I love that this seems so revealing, the book's title, when in truth, it helps us not at all.) So within this book, the reader receives a mystery inside of this original fantasy story, with beautifully imagined people, social rules and classes, magics, both current and that of ancient lore, interesting things that go bump in the night, and it all connects in fascinating and unpredictable ways, to boot!

Truly, what more can we ask for in a book? It was just one of these universes I absolutely LOVED returning to. I couldn't wait to come back, check in, see whether I'd missed anything. Altogether, again it seems worth mentioning, that this novel is quite a feat for a 1st go at writing a book people will embrace like I believe they shall this one. It may not take the industry by storm and/or win a list of prestigious awards, but it will be loved.

I'm very happy to have been turned on to this book by a Goodreads reviewer (thank you, Mogsy!). It's without a doubt among the top dozen or so fantasy books I've read this year (for instance, I know I loved The Forgetting Tree and The Reader more fervently; like Facefaker's Game, both were unique and just worked so spectacularly on a number of critical levels--but definitely, all were great reads).

Reading this novel was fun, start to finish, without a doubt. And Ashes remains a most entertaining character from the 1st pages to the last. His fellow cast members were equally realistic and true. I can only hope that the Fates intend a sequel for those of us who wish to learn more about what happens next. I'm certainly hooked, and would order that sequel as soon as its availability became public knowledge. (I swear it! My word is my bond.)

Happy reading!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
159 reviews23 followers
December 5, 2016
Ashes doesn’t know who he is, but he knows what he’s good at—conning rich folk—and he knows who is important to him—those cast off by even the poor, especially when it comes to his misshapen friend named Blimey.

His whole world changes when Candlestick Jack, the leader of a thieving crew of Artificers, recruits Ashes and introduces him to one more truth about himself—Ashes has magic in him. As Jack trains him, Ashes does what any mischief maker with a big heart and magical abilities would do—he becomes a vigilante whose personal mission is to take down the evil governor oppressing his city.

Chandler J. Birch’s debut novel is rich with artful wordsmithing, original world-building, and engaging characters. Ashes himself is a vibrant protagonist—a street-savvy young man who can slip on a new accent as easily as an Artificer slips on a new face or who can cheat a cheater out of his money without him being the wiser. And though he does not trust easily, Ashes is a good Samaritan who will sacrifice generously on behalf of those few who are worse off than he is.

Ashes lives in Burroughside, the dark slums governed by a sadist with secrets, and a place prowling with gangs by day and with monstrous Ravagers by night. The Facefaker’s Game does not hide from the gritty realities of darkness, but neither does it revel in them. While the world is dark, its magic system revolves around light and people who can weave it as artfully as Chandler writes his story.

Author Brent Weeks describes Chandler’s style as a blend of “Sanderson, Dickens, and Lynch” with his own unique twists. It’s so true both in the story and in the telling. Before I could guess at how the plot would unfold, I was hooked on his writing. Chandler J. Birch can turn a phrase! As soon as I finished the prologue, I stopped to read it again aloud to myself, because it was just so beautiful. Throughout reading the book, I would literally race to my brother to read him Chandler’s latest wry bit of dialogue or eccentric description.

And, when I reached the end of the book, I was delighted to find it will not stand alone for long! There will be a sequel, so go read The Facefaker’s Game right now and be enthralled by the magic of Chandler J. Birch.
Profile Image for thefourthvine.
520 reviews199 followers
February 6, 2017
I really wanted to like this book. And it was almost a book I could really like. But reading it was a struggle, of the kind where I'd read ten pages and find something else to do, over and over again. There is one thing this book is really useful for, though: it's a great example of good ideas in the hands of someone who doesn't quite have the tools to write about them.

This book has worldbuilding, sort of, but without details or foundation, so it never feels real. It has interesting ideas that never go anywhere. The author tries to juggle dozens of plates, but he only knows how to juggle two, so most of the plates end up shattered and forgotten on the ground. The slow reveals don't work because they aren't carried through consistently; you get a hint, followed by nothing for a bunch of chapters, followed by an info-dump, often in dialogue. The writing is choppy and jagged, with point-of-view switches that aren't signaled well enough (or justified by anything except the author's need to tell, rather than show, how someone is feeling or thinking) and time jumps that aren't cued and aren't smooth; as a result reading this feels like work.

Basically, I feel like there was a good book potentially hidden somewhere in here. But the author didn't find it. I'll give him a few more books to practice on, and then maybe check out his work again.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 15 books15 followers
October 16, 2017
I loved this book. I'm not a reader of fantasy, but I wanted to support this former student and his first novel. I had to readjust to fiction and to a new world, but once the spider webs were cleared in my head, I was totally in for the ride. Excellent story. Now I want him to hurry up and write the next one!
Profile Image for Oldman_JE.
42 reviews14 followers
April 27, 2022
A light, fun debut that was a pleasure to read. Not sure if it sold enough copies to warrant a sequel, which the author mentioned he had outlines, etc. Maybe, with luck, it will cross the unknown sold-copy threshold and engender another. Had as much fun reading this as I did Spellslinger .
461 reviews396 followers
May 31, 2017
Color me impressed with this awesome debut novel! This book needs to be read more often.
From the first chapter I could tell I was going to like this book, it's the prose that really drew me in. Much more prose filled than Sanderson, but not quite the level of Bancroft, this book flows and is immersive. The five sense writing was strong, and it sucked you into the setting quickly.
The book opens with a mysterious man who can reconfigure his face at a whim. He's meeting a woman to discuss information that will be useful for a heist, every time the woman blinks, his face is unrecognizable again.
The city is called Teranis and it's a pseudo London like setting in the Victorian Era. Cobbled streets, horse drawn carriages, gas light street lamps, it's rainy or foggy more often than not and the class structure is in full swing. You've got the lowly Buroughsiders which our protagonist is from, the Denizens which are the citizens of esteem, and the Ivory class which are the Lords and Ladies of the city.
Ashes, the protagonist is only 14 years old, and typically this annoys me - and he does make his fair share of unwise and rash decisions which are typical of a young teenager. But, overall he's mature, good natured and likeable. I didn't mind this was a coming of age story even though I don't always click with those sorts of stories.
Deeply untrusting of anyone around him, he only has one friend, Blimey - who's under his protection from a man named Mr. Ragged who is a cruel dictator like person who runs the Burroughside part of the city. Blimey is an interesting character, and much smarter than he appears at first, and his biggest love in life is books and words.
The magic in this world isn't structured so rigidly like Sandersons novels, but they do follow rules and guidelines. About 1 in 1000 people are Canted, meaning born with a natural ability to do magic, however, anyone can use items Artificers have created. Artificers come in two main types, Weavers and Stitchers. They are very related, but not quite the same and each Canted person will lean one way or the other but given enough training they will be able to use both kinds of magic.
The magic is light based, and Weavers can create illusions with light. People who can use magic are called Artificers, and Artificers can create items that will alter your appearance among other things.
The city is plagued at night by Ravagers which are semi-human monsters that roam the streets at night looking for people who haven't made it inside by nightfall. They are vicious and creepy, and will even turn on each other ripping each other apart if they sense an injured Ravager, or come across a Ravager from another pack.
The sewers are also full of unsavory monsters, or so it's rumored.
The world building is well done with medium paced reveals. You're not sitting and waiting like a slow reveal books, but you're not going to be overwhelmed by info dumps that make your head spin either. The world is believable and immersive and consistent.
The pacing is medium-fast. It slows down, but never crawls, usually when you're learning how Ashes is progressing with his magic training, and picking back up again before you get bored.
This also has some similar aspects to The Lies of Locke Lamora, and if you enjoyed Locke as a character, I think you'd like Asher too. He's not quite the larger than life character Locke is, but he is a con artist making it day by day, and is easily likeable due to his good nature and intelligence.
This was an awesome debut novel, and I hope to see Birch putting out the sequel soon, I'll be picking it up immediately.
Profile Image for Mel.
636 reviews14 followers
March 22, 2017
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

I'll admit, I wasn't expecting this book to be amazing. It's a debut novel, and while it sounded interesting from the blurb, I wasn't 100% sold. Then I started reading the book.

Slow to get off the ground, after about fifty pages I found myself flying through the chapters, eager for more. Ashes, an orphan boy who has only himself to take care of him is a thief and a swindler; he's quite good at what he does. Hidden away is another boy, Blimey, that he cares for. Above them all is the man in charge of their borough, someone who's cruel and cunning and has his fingers in every pie (or so it would seem).

So far it's... Interesting, but not exactly captivating. Once Jack comes in, that changes everything. Jack can do magic, REAL magic, and takes Ashes under his wing because he sees something in him. Now is when the intrigue, the good dialogue and character development, and storytelling really begin.

I really hope Birch writes a followup soon, because there were many unanswered questions at the end. I think this could be the start to a great series.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,300 reviews383 followers
February 17, 2021
Have no feelings towards this book, didn't hate it nor did I love it. I've just read it and has no real thoughts what to say about it. Maybe I didn't read it at the right time or this was simply not a book for me.
Profile Image for Lianne Pheno.
1,217 reviews69 followers
January 23, 2018

Un premier roman de l'auteur que j'ai vraiment bien apprécié. Certes l'histoire est classique dans le genre mais ça marche et j'espère bien que l'auteur va continuer car l’univers créé a du potentiel sur le long terme !

Ashes est un jeune orphelin (14 ans) qui vit dans les rues dangereuses de Burroughside, un des pire quartiers de Teranis. Il arnaque certains Denizen (citoyens de la ville) aux cartes, si il survit à la dérouillée qui ne tarde pas à arriver à chaque fois, bien sur.

Jusqu'au jour ou il est repéré par un noble, en étant au mauvais endroit au mauvais moment. Mais heureusement pour lui ce noble en question est en fait dans la même branche que lui mais un niveau au dessus. Espion, arnaqueur, voleur ... Candlestick Jack de son surnom d'artiste est aussi un Artificier, une des rares personnes capable de manier la lumière pour former le glamour. Jack est un maitre dans la fabrication de fausses apparences, ce qui est bien pratique dans son métier.

Il teste Ashes et se rend compte que le garçon lui aussi est capable de l'utiliser, un don très rare. Toute la magie est normalement sous la coupelle de la guilde, qui met la main sur l'apprentissage aussi bien que toutes les ressources nécessaires. Du coup Jack trouve à la fois amusant et très bénéfique de former son propre apprenti, inconnu de tous, malgré le danger ...

Nous ne sortons jamais de Teranis dans ce tome, mais nous en explorons certains quartiers. Celui ou vit Ashes est Burroughside. C'est un quartier mort, ou tout est en ruine car la nuit des créatures sortent des égouts pour chasser et la ou la meute passe, tout le monde trépasse à moins d'être protégé par la magie ou d'avoir une très bonne cachette. Burroughside est gouvernée par Mr Ragged, un homme cruel qui a la main mise sur tout le crime de la zone.
Ceux qui y vivent sont des sans non, sans identité. Ils ne peuvent normalement pas entrer dans la vrai Teranis car seuls les Denizens avec leur noms gravés dans le fer et leur élite noble les Ivories peuvent y vivre.
Il y a beaucoup de références aux faes dans ce livre. Que ça soit les fait que la magie s'appelle le Glamour, le fait qu'elle ne survive pas au fer, le fait que les Ivories aient la peau qui brille ...

En fait on a vraiment l'impression d'être au tout début d'une série ici, parce que la magie en fait commence tout juste à être expliquée. On n'en saisit pas encore tout les tenants et les aboutissants. Ce n'est pas du tout gênant pour l'histoire principale bien sur mais c'est vrai que ça annonce quand même une suite possible car les possibilités sont vraiment la.
Quand on commence le livre par exemple on sait que Ashes est un rasa. Les rasas sont des enfants qui apparaissent d'un coup venant d'on ne sait ou, et qui ont perdu toute leur mémoire (y compris le fait de parler). Pour l'instant le mystère reste aussi totalement entier sur ces enfants et d’où ils viennent.

Du coup même si l'histoire en elle même est indépendante et a une vrai fin, le monde est tellement ouvert et il reste tellement de mystère que s'en est limite frustrant de savoir que pour l'instant rien n'est prévu pour nous apporter des réponses.
Mais heureusement c'est limite le seule vrai défaut que j'ai trouvé à ce livre (et il sera vite éliminé si l'auteur annonce une suite un jour)

On pourrait croire que le fait d'avoir un protagoniste de 14 ans fait de ce livre un livre jeunesse mais en fait pas du tout ici.
Et si Ashes prend de temps en temps des décisions qui sont typique de son age, il est en fait très mature pour tout le reste et très lucide sur sa place dans la monde.

L'écriture est vraiment fluide et les 500 pages se dévorent toutes seules. Le rythme est bon car on apprend les détails sur le monde vraiment petit à petit et je n'ai pas ressentit du tout de lenteurs. J'ai vraiment pris plaisir à explorer l'univers.

Bon on est vraiment sur du classique ici, et aucun élément pris seul n'est totalement original pour de la fantasy, on est tous d'accord. Mais c'est du solide, et la façon dont ils sont arrangés entre eux et le fait qu'on reste entouré de mystères jusqu'au bout fait qu'on a vraiment envie d'en savoir plus.
On s'attache énormément aux personnages assez rapidement et finalement je dirais que c'était juste une bonne lecture.

2 reviews2 followers
December 27, 2018
For months I've been starting books and noping out after a chapter or two, or finishing them and regretting it. This is exactly the book I was looking for: highjinks, witty banter, magic, danger, complex characters, and a fascinating world built subtly and consistently with no lengthy (read: boring) expository passages. This book did what nothing else I've read recently has managed to do—it actually carried through on its promises. It managed to be thrilling and charming and mysterious and comforting all at once, and I need a sequel immediately, please.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,324 reviews153 followers
June 22, 2021
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It was easy to read, pulled me in immediately, and the characters were likable. The world is very reminiscent of Victorian London and the book felt like it could have been inspired by Dickinson. Someone said Oliver Twist with magic and that seems rather accurate, but I also think the comparison to Rothfuss is a good comparison, at least as far as the story goes. The writing style is very different though. I can't say how similar it is to Lynch though, as I haven't read any of his books.

I really liked the magic system in the book, even though it wasn't some big intricately thought out thing. It worked and was enough for the story. There were some nice twists and turns in the story and it left me wanting to read more. The author said he wanted to write more, but it's been five years and so far nothing else has been written. For now I'm going to consider this a standalone, and it works ok as one, although there are some answers that I would love to have about the rasa, where they come from, and why they can't remember who they are. I would also like to know how the ravagers came to be. I do have my eye on this author and I'll be watching for any new releases in the future.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader.
Profile Image for Jen.
1,783 reviews58 followers
June 13, 2016
Chandler Birch has written a book to fall in love with on his first outing. In 2014, Simon & Schuster held a contest for emerging speculative fiction writers; The Facefaker's Game was the winner. Chandler Birch was 22. He will be 24 when the book is published in November. And folks, what a book!

Just briefly: a young protagonist, a world so well done that you adapt immediately, terrific characters, and a plot that kept me happily engrossed.

I'll do another mention closer to time for publication, but you can pre-order now.

The cover may change. I notice on Amazon, there is no cover image, but I would not have chosen this one based on the cover. The description is what caught my attention, and I was not disappointed. In fact, it was so much more than what I could have expected.

“It’s Les Miserables meets Harry Potter in Atlantis with the protagonist as the Tenth Doctor, but as a teenager,” mused Birch in a Skype interview. “Ashes is the main character and gets in way over his head.” (source)

Highly recommended!

NetGalley/Simon & Schuster

Fantasy. Nov. 1, 2016. Print length: 464 pages.
Profile Image for June.
166 reviews2 followers
August 18, 2016
Yes! This was so good!

There is so much to like about this book and so little to not like. I was absolutely sucked into this scrappy Dickensian world, and so sad when it ended. It's been a long time since I was sad when a book ended! It's such a bittersweet feeling and I've missed it!

I received a galley copy from Netgalley; the assistant editor's note in the beginning of my copy called this 'Oliver Twist with magic' and that's such a good way to put it. I loved Ashes, the street urchin protagonist. He was clever but flawed, young and vulnerable, but so strong. And Jack, the elegant con man! LOVE Jack! And Blimey, with his dictionary...I just want to hug him. There are so many characters you grow attached to in this book. I can't wait for the second book - I miss them all already.

It's beautifully written - not overwrought, but elegant and absorbing. You get wrapped up in the world and its characters. I haven't been this excited for a book in a good long while, and I know this is one I am going to be recommending over and over again, especially once it comes out and I can just shove this in people's hands exclaiming 'READ THIS!'

Seriously, READ IT!
Profile Image for Jen.
644 reviews27 followers
September 8, 2016
**I received this as an egalley from Simon & Schuster through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**

When the description starts with suggesting this books for fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch, I knew I would be interested in this. The fact that the magic in this fantasy novel centers around light manipulation, only served to make it a must-read.

Chandler Birch's storytelling is excellent - straightforward and descriptive, with excellent world-building. The pace of the story is perfect, neither being too dull or too quick, and constantly kept me interested. I enjoyed the characters thoroughly, with their many faceted personalities and intriguing story arcs. And the plot itself is compelling throughout, leaving many questions still yet to be answered in the next book (being there is one, hopefully).

A fun and interesting read with lots of twists, turns, moments of suspense, and some nice wit - definitely something I enjoyed.
Profile Image for Sachin Dev.
Author 1 book42 followers
November 21, 2016
Billed as being perfect for fans of Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss, Chandler J Birch's debut novel, The Facefaker's Game is indeed a pretty exciting prospect for us fantasy lovers - a story about an earnest beggar boy who sets out to right some wrongs in his grimy ramshackle-rundown neighborhood with the help of his newly learned 'magic' skills, this premise should definitely strum your heart-strings as a reader looking for the next big thing after Locke Lamora. Add to the entertaining mix, an elegantly detailed magical system, some charming roguish protagonists, a grim-dark world full of danger and mysteries galore, all in the backdrop of a Charles Dickensian society; quite the potent mix for a good fantasy story. So while not quite in the league of a Locke Lamora or even Kvothe, the charming fourteen year-old Ashes, the main 'hero' of the narrative will definitely win hearts - for his intensely good-nature that leads him into all sorts of trouble, trying to set things right by his narrow conscience. He is clever but not terribly cunning, he is resourceful but not entirely talented when it comes to sticky situations. And of course, there is this secret about his past-life & capabilities that forms, sort of the hook into probably what is the rest of the series, wherein hopefully we get to see more character-development for sure.

Chandler builds out the neighborhood of Burroughside set in a corner of the large city of Temaris, as this tiny but nasty hovel full of gangs of thieves and no-gooders, where the price of life is cheap and the night-fall and shadows brings with it, dangers galore - blood-thirsty creatures akin to the undead or zombies called 'Ravagers' that lurk in the dark and have a penchant for a taste of the human flesh. There is competition between gangs and thus, a lot of tension - and right up from the first chapter, Chandler beautifully brings out this conflict and the knife-edge that Ashes has to walk in this tough neighborhood. Great hook, I knew I was going to love this story!

The social hierarchy within Temaris is a bit confusing - with different levels of 'privileged' classes like the Denizens and the Ivorish - and of course, the bottom of the pile with hapless have-nots like Ashes and others. So an interesting tidbit served up that piqued my curiosity was that folks like Ashes are called 'rasas' - kids found in the streets without any prior memory of their birth or past life. Hopefully a mystery for the longer-run, this.

Ashes, the fourteen-year old boy isn't too strong nor is he part of any powerful gangs in his district. But he is clever and a whiz at thinking on his feet, saving himself many a purple bruise purely by virtue of his silver tongue more than once. And to top it off, ever since he's broken off his affiliation from any of the 'bruiser' gangs that roam the neighborhood, he's taken on the additional responsibility of providing for this younger boy, Blimey. The only complication being, the local governor of this district, Mr. Ragged - a sort of Beggar/Crime Lord whom everybody else pays their 'tithes' to - wants Blimey dead.

With his penchant for gambling and fast hands, Ashes heads to the streets outside of Burroughside - and takes to cheating the 'Denizens' with his card skills. But one chance encounter puts him under the lens of Candlestick Jack, an Artificer or magician who can manipulate light - who takes a fancy to Ashes and takes him under his own tutelage - as an apprentice. Jack and his company of "artificers" however, are in the game for something much more valuable. Ashes soon discovers that his master's company are in fact, training and preparing for some grand heists - against their 'Ivorish' lords and counterparts in the shining cities.

While the preparations for this grand heist and Ashes's training takes up much of the narrative, a parallel one details how Ashes, a morally upright boy whose conscience doesn't allow to him standby and let the bullies rule the street or the crooked rule the oppressed, wants to take revenge against the evil beggar-lord. It's pretty evenly paced - but I did feel that after the initial world is set, characters all introduced and when we get snared deeper into the "magical" training and the heist/revenge-drama, the initial fire and excitement slowly ebbed away. The Dickensian feel to the world was very subtly done - in terms of the dresses, the language nuances between the 'cultured' high-class Ivorish and the have-nots, brought up in poverty. A nice nod to this world building is Blimey's fascination for 'books' and how he tries to teach Ashes, a new word or two everyday from his books. There is this urgent "anything-can-happen" feel to the story as it progresses - but unfortunately, when we get to the parts of the training, there are a lot of details about the extensive and delightful magical system that slows things down. Just like Brandon Sanderson, Chandler lets his readers dive deep unto the roots of his well-thought-out magic, about light manipulation and the different types of 'artifice' that one can perform with the light, making it feel authentic and an integral part of the story itself.

Ashes himself is a lovable charming boy. A tad bit stubborn and even foolish in his choices but Ashes has got his heart in his right place. He is loyal to a fault, exceedingly cautious having to live out his days in fear inside Burroughside, he is still resourceful and there is that sort of zingy Joie de verve about him that makes his chapters, a pleasure to read. An uncanny sense of scope and surprise colors his escapades - be it the fear-filled flight from ravagers or the heady, naive and bungling efforts to scare up the bigger bullies with the use of Artifice. The side characters as well, are all nicely fleshed out and extremely relatable. I personally loved Jack, Ashes' mentor. Jack and Ashes' banter is delightful, funny and felt natural - and while Jack has his own set of secrets, his fascination with Ashes leads them both into many tricky and 'hair-rising' situations. Someone that I just couldn't get enough of, was of course Blimey - the boy whose life Ashes saved, his obsession with books, chess and who himself, is a rasa. Being the over-protective big-brother figure to Blimey, Ashes doesn't want to let Blimey out on the streets but I think, as the series proceeds, we will get to hear more about him. There are quite a few more interesting characters in this book like Synder, the genius-apprentice of Jack, or the mysterious Lady who rules the other crime-lords in Temaris with an iron hand.

My only complaint about the book, would perhaps be the lack of pay-offs at the end of book-one. There are quite a few unanswered questions the readers are left with - and also, in the grand scheme of things, while the original plot-line around Ashes' revenge against Mr. Ragged is interesting, it by itself seemed pretty restrictive and limiting in its scope. There are hints thrown about - for some larger mystery at stake with the political drama and intrigue of the guild of Artificers and Ivorish Lords but we don't get to see where that leads.

But all in all, an extremely delightful debut for fantasy lovers, Facefaker's Game gives us a zany protagonist whose quicksilver tongue and deft hands may not just be his greatest assets - and a well fleshed out magic system readers can sink their teeth into and an intriguing world, that I suspect, is only partially revealed in this first outing, the shining lights of the Temaris city has a lot to hide. Lovers of fantasy and adventure, this new book by Chandler J Birch should be high up on your reading list.
578 reviews24 followers
December 1, 2016
The Facefaker's Game is a very enjoyable tale of thieves, magicians and deceit. I enjoyed it and although I don't think it's bringing anything particularly new to the fantasy scene it does bring a lot of entertainment, it's a fun read and it felt as though the pages simply read themselves. At the end of the day, yes, there are tropes, and some of them may feel over used - but there's a reason for that - which is we all seem to enjoy them (when they're well developed - which they are here). I can't fault it to be honest - it's a good read.

Set in the city of Teranis this is an easy to imagine place broken down into different boroughs. Burroughside is the roughest district and filled with the criminal elements of the City it's where we first make the acquaintance of Ashes. Ashes is a Cheeky Chappy. A lovable rogue. who likes to play the odd con or pick a pocket or two. He's not making any big time money here but he's just about getting by and as he has another person relying on him, somebody who needs to stay in hiding at all costs, he feels the onus is on him to keep going.

Burroughside is a rough, dirty and dangerous place ruled by a cruel crime lord known as Mr Ragged. Basically if you're ruling in a neighbourhood such as Burroughside you can't afford to be weak and Ragged seems to take particular pleasure in providing just how very 'unweak' he really is! On top of this there are monsters that prowl the streets after sunset known as Ravagers - for very good reason, they're like feral humans, distorted and beast like. I haven't truly got a handle on what exactly these creatures are if I'm going to be honest only that you don't want to stick around when they're roaming in the dark. Finally, we have a certain element of the populace known as 'rasa', of which Ashes is one. Basically these seem to be young children who turn up on the streets with no memory of who they are. Another mystery that still requires some uncovering.

At the start of the story we pretty quickly learn that Ashes is keeping secrets. He's forced to sneak around to protect his friend (a friend who Mr Ragged believes is six feet under) and on top of that he's caught the attention of a particular Gent. Now at this point Candelestick Jack enters the scene and Ashes manages to wangle himself an apprenticeship. Jack and his gang are artificers. They weave and stitch magic and create all sorts of illusions. This is the sort of magic that creates glamours - put on a hat, turn into a different person or have a different face. Walls are sometimes not really walls and sometimes floors are really hidden staircases, etc. Long story short Ashes has magical ability, it doesn't come easily but it's there and needs developing, and, as Ashes develops his talent he also develops a plan. At the same time, Candelstick Jack has his own designs. He wants to rob one of the nobles - a feat that is rarely accomplished due to the levels of security that they employ. Both of them are scheming, and neither one of them is being truthful with each other. Schemes and lies.

I really enjoyed this to be honest. It's very well written, in fact I was surprised to discover that this was a debut novel! The plot flows easily, the pace is fast, the author doesn't hand hold or feel the need to dump information but instead lets the story develop naturally and seemlessly. The characters are likeable, or not, as you would expect (and this really isn't as easy as it may seem), the plot has twists and turns and the author has created a place that is intriguing, grimy and mysterious. Not everything has yet been revealed I feel which makes this all that bit more interesting.

All told this was a very enjoyable read. I confess that I went into this one feeling a little belligerent. I'm not the biggest fan of author comparisons and the write up for this particular novel quotes Rothfuss and Lynch - so yeah, big shoes to be filled right there. As it happens, Birch needs no such comparisons, he holds his own very well and manages to spin a very entertaining story.

I'm assuming that there is more to follow - well, I'm hoping that there is - as I will definitely read more from this author.
134 reviews
July 10, 2016
Ashes belongs to a gang of street urchins roaming the Burroughside region of the vast city of Teranis, surviving by robbery, intimidation, and various cons (He’s particularly adept as a card sharp.), trying to scrape together enough to pay their monthly “taxes” Mr. Ragged, Burroughside’s corrupt overlord. Ashes is thirteen years old, or maybe fourteen years old, he’s not really sure. When he and his best friend, Blimey, come under a death sentence from Mr. Ragged, they go underground, and Ashes wanders from neighborhood to neighborhood, attempting to beg, con, and steal enough so the two can survive.

Magic is pervasive in the city of Teranis in the hands of Artificiers – Weavers, who spin light into reality, and Stitchers, who bind light and reality together. People of wealth and of higher social classes have their appearances and their homes augmented, even totally changed, by Artificiers.

In an upscale neighborhood Ashes attempts to con Candlestick Jack, the leader of a small group of Artificiers (his wife, Julianne; his partner, Will; and his pupil, Syndia). Thinking he sees a spark of ability in Ashes, Jack takes him in as a pupil, and the group spends months honing Ashes’s innate skill in magic and teaching him to pass as an Ivory – the highest, wealthiest class of Teranis society – because the group plans a major theft from the home of one of the Ivory elite.

Conflicts abound – Ashes trying to survive and provide for Blimey, Blimey wanting to come out of hiding, Ashes frustrated at the pace of his training, Ashes and Syndia butting heads, Ashes trying to take down Mr. Ragged, and Jack’s company trying to avoid detection while working their job on Lord Edgecombe, among others – and the pace moves quickly. The characters are well realized and appealing, and the writing, though very descriptive, is tight. The story is interesting and fun and gripping and entertaining.

The back cover compares Birch to Patrick Rothfuss. A bit much, really, was my first reaction, but not as much hyperbole as I first assumed. The world building, the character arcs, the normal, everyday happenings that go on are thoroughly thought out and seamlessly worked into the story. There are enough unique characters and skills and ideas here to provide grist for many stories. While not the second coming of Rothfuss (and who is?), Chandler Birch and his world certainly hold their own. Birch won a Simon & Schuster contest for new speculative fiction writers with this novel, and I can certainly understand why. The Facefaker’s Game is a wonderful standalone book, but Birch left enough quiet clues to loose ends in the final chapters that there should be plenty of story for a second novel of Ashes, Candlestick Jack, Syndia, and the rest.

I don’t know whether The Facefaker’s Game will sell enough for Chandler Birch to quit his day job and write full-time (He sold this novel at age twenty-two – did he even have a day job?), but I’m very much hoping to read a lot more from him. A dynamite, solid, very attractive way to begin a career.
Profile Image for Griffin Hansen.
73 reviews7 followers
February 26, 2018
I found The Facefaker's Game in Chandler Birch's Reddit AMA thread. Chandler Birch seemed like a cool guy who at a very young age (24!) wrote a book that was likened to the work of Rothfuss and Lynch. Although the bar was set pretty high, The Facefaker's Game seemed interesting to me so I grabbed a hard copy on Amazon, and shortly thereafter The Facefaker's Game was added to my long reading list.

Now, nearly two years later *cough cough* I've finally read The Facefaker's Game. I can't believe it took me so long to read this delightful book.

The Facefaker's Game is a story told from the perspective of Ashes, an orphan pickpocket living on the streets of Burroughside, a small district of the enormous city Teranis. Ashes is rasa, one of the boys and girls that seemingly come from nowhere to the streets of Burroughside with no memory of their past lives. To survive, Ashes uses his card-sharping skills to cheat the Denizens of Teranis of their money. Ashes isn't selfish though. He steals to provide for his gargoyle-faced rasa friend Blimey, who can't be seen on the streets for fear of being murdered at the hands of Burroughside's despotic gang-leader, Mr. Ragged.

One day on the streets, Ashes tries to con a mysterious man who takes interest in Ashes's peculiar skills. The man, known as Candlestick Jack, offers Ashes a position in his cadre of Weavers and Stitchers, illusionists that can bend light and perception to their will.

Though I don't think this book quite lives up to comparisons to the famous authors in its summary, but those comparisons do have several footholds here and there. The Facefaker's Game reads like a much more interesting version of Oliver Twist. Birch's prose is wonderful to read if you prefer stained-glass window prose (here is where they draw the Rothfuss comparison) to windowpane prose (more like Sanderson).

Heists, deception, and an engaging magic system are all interwoven in this book that will provide a satisfying ending while leaving you wanting to read more.

The Facefaker's Game is available at Simon & Schuster and Amazon.
Profile Image for Brittney.
30 reviews1 follower
December 9, 2016
"The Face Fakers Game" follows the story of street rat/con artist Ashes. Ashes lives in the slums with a bunch of other gangs of orphans all struggling to steal enough money to feed themselves while making their monthly payment to crime boss, and district governor Mr. Ragged. At night monsters prowl the streets gutting anyone foolish enough to be outdoors.

Ashes is clever, but he's made a terrible mistake. Now Mr. Ragged is determined to have his head. Ashes managed to find his way into the good graces of Candlestick Jack, an enigmatic rich man who leads a small troop of Artificers, illusionists who weave light and can make changing ones face as simple as wearing a piece of jewelry.

Ashes sweet talks his way into becoming an apprentice to Jack, but Jack and his crew are leading double lives as thieves and Mr. Ragged is ripping apart the only home Ashes has known. It's up to Ashes to lead his own double life and use his new found power to be the face of vengeance.

I wasn't quite sure what to think as I started reading this book. For starters the language in it gave me a bit of a hiccup and I had a hard time following along with the street slum dialect that Ashes and his friends use. "Wanna kitch a kit," he said urgently. "Gots to kitch a kit. Know ennething bout kitchin' kits?" or "I dun't figure what me schedule's got to do with the price of ..."

It took me quite a while to get into the swing of the language and more than once I found myself pulled from the story as I tried to decipher it... and at the same it was kind of unique way to write. I feel like I have a love hate relationship with it and I'm honestly still now sure how I feel about it.

I also had a hard time placing the genre of this story. It's certainly fantasy, but the protagonist and most of his friends are in the 14/15 age range, but this certainly doesn't read like a middle grade novel. It's pretty gritty, people die in gutter fights and the like, but it's not significantly more violent than that so maybe a YA? In any case the ages of people really threw me for a loop.

Other than that the story had a good flow. I feel like disguising yourself isn't a new idea for magic, but doing it while waging a slum war was an interesting take. There were a number of mysterious plot elements that had me really curious, but we'll have to wait for future books to understand the what and why of them.

All in all this book didn't resonate with me, but I think it was an interesting premise and I can see it resonating with a lot of other people. I think the target market is probably swung toward men for this book. In any case it's pretty solid for a debut novel.
Profile Image for Kevin.
56 reviews
December 15, 2016
Excellent debut novel that I strongly recommend to any Scott Lynch (Gentleman Bastard series) fans. Interesting characters and story all around with a mix of intrigue and drama, I read this book in three sittings because I couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for Nina (the fussy reader).
449 reviews9 followers
May 15, 2017
4 stars cause, despite how this wasn't entirely what I wanted it to be, I really enjoyed it and can see the potential here for something truly great within the fantasy/caper genre.
Fun and original. The magic system is one I haven't seen before. I loved the use of light manipulation to create illusions that appear physical. It's quite refreshing to read a book willing to take a risk and try something different.

To me, the setting is the most important character in any book. If you can't imagine the world, then how can you imagine the characters within it?

This fantasy city Teranis is an interesting one. Like any city, it is defined by those who live in it. Burroughside is the slums of this city and the only place that the Ravagers prowl at night. This district is explained and described so well, I could imagine Burroughside every step of the way. It's the other places I struggled with a little, Lyonshire, Boreas, Yson and Ubӓrsid. I couldn't differentiate them in my head so they all blurred into one. I almost felt like the city didn't exist outside of Burroughside. But I cannot fault Burroughside itself, wonderfully described and painted in my mind.

I really enjoyed the feeling of this world. It has such great potential to be a fantastical, whimsical world I love getting lost in, but right now it's left a little bare, it needs to be fleshed out a bit more.

The standout character for me was Candlestick Jack, of course. He was the most charismatic and likeable, humorous, but also still a mystery, never revealing too much about himself or his deeper secrets. He was also generally a decent guy. I was hoping to see a lot more of him, and hoping he'd be a main character alongside Ashes.

Ashes is also an interesting character, driven by his fear and hatred of Burroughside's governor Mr Ragged. He wants to overthrow Ragged, who rules Burorughside with a little more than an iron fist. When he discovers he's an Artificer, he thinks he can use it against Ragged. He's arrogant, but perfectly aware of the risks he's taking.

I liked Synder and Juliana, but I liked William more. He was the most interesting of the three because he felt like he had his own personality and skills, and not just stuck in because the story needed females, (sorry), but they did feel a little wooden to me. I hope to see their character develop more in the next book.

When I read the synopsis I thought ,'Yes! Magician con-men in a Dickensian style world!' Really my idea of a perfect plotline.

Ashes, an orphan boy trying to take care of himself and his best friend, lives in Burroughside, but he goes to the richer districts to cheat money out the wealthy with card games and magic tricks. It's during one of these tricks he meets the lovable Candlestick Jack, an Artificer who can control pure light and mould it into anything, including new faces. With the ability to create false faces, Candlestick Jack and his company also moonlight as con-men and are in the midst of planning their most ambitious heist yet.
Soon Ashes discovers abilities of his own and he's mixed up in Jack's world of Artifice and magic and something more.

This is such an enticing plot, albeit a slow-burner for me. Luckily I often like slow-burners, providing there's something exciting to anticipate. For me this was Jack's robbery scheme. From the moment Jack revealed his plans to Ashes, I wanted to jump right into the action (I love a good heist)
From reading the synopsis, I expected the main storyline to be Jack's heist, with a sub-plot to be Ashes revenge against Ragged. This isn't the case. The heist is the sub-plot, and it's over within a few chapters. The main focus from the first to last page is the revenge. It felt almost disjointed for it. What was their motive for the heist in the first place? Why was it important? So much attention and detail went into the revenge plot, that the heist was barely brushed over and fell a little flat.

I feel this book had so much potential to be something really slick and clever. I wasn't as interested in Ashses's revenge as I was Jack and his company of thief-magicians and the possible antics they could get up to. I did enjoy this book a lot but I feel like it could have been executed a bit better. There are some solid ideas here, and it's not such a far cry from Locke Lamora, but they need polishing up and they'd be fantastic.

Writing Style
I really enjoyed the writing and the slang. Very descriptive and I could see the slums in my head as though I was there. It flows well and I found it very easy and enjoyable to read. I breezed through the final quarter of the book; it was gripping.

However this author is all show and no tell, normally this is the best way to write, but with such an ambitious fantasy world, there needs to be a little bit of telling. There were times where I was confused about the world and the characters and the social order within this world, and had so many questions. These questions were unfortunately left unanswered for me.

For instance, what were the Ravagers? Are they zombie-like creatures; or something more vampiric what with their only coming out at night; or were they just general monsters with a human form? Or was there nothing human about them? It seemed to me they at least had some sort of sense and logical thought process, so they weren't mindless beasts. So with that being said, what were they?
I could never really picture them because they were never fully explained.

Also what is the idea behindrasa children, and what does it mean to be rasa? I was hoping this would be something explained but I still have no idea.

And lastly, I understand there is a social hierarchy of which the Ivories are at the top, then Denizens, and then Burroughsiders at the bottom, but what is an Iron name and why does one need an Iron name in this world? Why does it keep them safe from police? Why do they even care? Again, not explained.

Final Impression
I really enjoyed this book, but I think it would benefit greatly from a sequel, some kind of follow up that answers some questions, and delves more into developing the world and character. And more Candlestick Jack, please! The man's an absolute rockstar.

Excited for the sequel and will definitely read. A strong start to what I hope will be a staple in the fantasy genre.
Profile Image for Alysa H..
1,348 reviews62 followers
March 18, 2019
So much fun! Reminiscent of Scott Lynch, for one, but skewing a little younger -- which makes sense as the main character is a teenager with serious trust issues. This book has a twisty-turny plot, a great cast of characters, and pretty solid fantasy world building. Is it a perfect book? No; the pacing is a little weird towards the end, and the social structure of the city of Teranis could be fleshed out more. But it's super entertaining and the author is apparently quite young. There are a million questions to which I still want answers, regarding the magic system, the big "rasa" question, and just little detail things, like, does Ashes ever repay that bookseller?!? I hope there's a sequel in the works.

** I received a Review Copy of this book via NetGalley **
June 2, 2017
I'm going to briefly explain how I found this book and what I thought about it, but the tl;dr is that it was extremely enjoyable and it was so gripping that I finished it in a couple days by accident. Go read it.

First off, I see a lot of people comparing him to other authors. I know that is high praise coming from a lot of people, but I'd rather (and will) talk about him alone instead of comparing him to others. That said, I'm immediately going to mention another author, but for a different reason. What can I say, I'm a hypocrite.

A few months ago, I was at a signing for Brent Weeks, and someone asked him what books he's been reading and what he would recommend. He spoke highly of The Facefaker's game (his blurb is on the book, so that's not a surprise, but still). I had never heard of this book or author before that, but Brent is one of my favorite authors, so I trusted him when he praised it.

So later, I picked it up blind. When summer rolled around and I finally I got around to reading it, I was blindsided by how quickly it grabbed me and how it never let me go.

A fair amount of dialogue is presented in vernacular, and that can be off-putting to some people, but I found it more immersive that annoying. I got used it very quickly and I enjoyed knowing how the characters actually spoke rather than just assuming a pronunciation when pronunciation can very much matter to the plot.

This book is mostly from one viewpoint of one character. I know that not terribly uncommon, but I thought that would be a bad sign at first. Most of my favorite fantasy authors favor shifting the point of view with nearly every chapter (i.e. George R.R. Martin, Brent Weeks, etc.). However, I was pleasantly surprised. The fact that we almost never leave Ashes' point of view definitely contributed to the fantastic pacing of the novel. Once I got into it, I actually had a hard time putting it down at the end of a chapter since I didn't have to wade through chapters of other characters to know what happened next. I hate using the "hard time putting it down" cliche since it's used in reviews so often that I stopped taking it seriously, but it's fitting here. Even if you disregard what the the single point of view contributes to that, the book is still very well paced and gripping. I want to keep reading, even though I ran out of the part with words in it.

The plot (no spoilers here, don't worry) had some points that were predictable, but that was mostly because the author telegraphed those points (intentionally, I think). He can surprise you when he wants to. It's a fast paced ride with some solid twists in it. I found myself attached to the characters very quickly. I don't want to let go of them yet, but unfortunately since this is the only the first of a series, there is no more for me to read yet.

On top of that, this is Birch's first novel. One of the things I enjoy about following specific authors is to see how they develop and improve their writing with each book. Usually, you can see a clear improvement between an author's first book and a current one. I know it's weird that I keep mentioning Brent Weeks, but he's a good example of this. Weeks' first novel is still one of my favorite books, but when you read the Lightbringer series (his more recent works) you can see a clear improvement. This is an example of a good author getting even better after writing for a few years. With how good Birch's first book was, I can only wonder how good he'll be after a few more. I'm excited to have found a promising author to follow as his career further develops. With this book, he has definitely earned his place on my list of favorite authors.

The point that I'm trying to get at is that it was an excellent, gripping novel. Do yourself a favor and it pick it up. If you do it now, when he's more popular in the future, you can say that you've been there since before he got popular. (You could count that as early-fan/hipster appeal, I suppose.)

I couldn't think of a clever way to sneak this into the review more naturally, but there's a phrase from the book that I quite like (It won't spoil anything. He has it displayed on his website, so that's a good way to certify that it's spoiler free). The author seems fond of it too, so I'm just going to put it here as an oddly specific ending note.

Here's to fooling everyone who'll believe us, and everyone else.
Profile Image for LiteratureIsLife.
236 reviews
May 13, 2018
Read this review (and others) at: https://literatureislife.com/2018/05/...

The Facefaker’s Game came to me thanks to a Goodreads giveaway.

This book caught my eye mainly through the recommendation on the cover by Brent Weeks. Reading up on The Facefaker’s Game ahead of time, I went in knowing Chandler J. Birch is a budding author. With that in mind I set the bar for my expectations and Birch pole vaulted clear over said bar. Without prior research, you would never know this was someone’s first book. The writing, while not on par with masters of literature, feels like someone with a decade of experience authored it. Birch clearly has a knack for this and The Facefaker’s Game seems like a prelude of great things to come.

The characters follow a few standard tropes but are all fun and memorable. The main character Ashes, an Oliver Twist type orphan trying to get out of the slums to a better life. Antagonist Mr. Raggard takes on the role of the politician/crime lord (more Wilson Fisk than Lex Luthor). Candlestick Jack is the mysterious mentor who sees something special in Ashes but also has plans of his own. Despite fitting tropes, all the characters have backstories and quirks that make them feel real. Readers see their motivations and it explains their decision making; they feel more like people than words on a page.

Setting-wise, The Facefaker’s Game follows the trope of The City. The City is big, important, and divided between rich and poor. With Ashes being an orphan, the slums are the setting for a good portion of the book. The writing here is dark and gritty, reflecting how desperate people living here are to get out or just survive. It is not as extreme as something like The Night Angel Trilogy or The Broken Empire Trilogy, but rough enough that there is a real sense of danger.

Plot-wise, the story went along pretty quickly. The page count here is not too crazy, so this does not crawl along like a high fantasy novel. Some parts are more fast-paced than others but overall it does not fly by you too fast. The pacing was just where it needed to be in order to resolve plot elements. That is not to say everything is resolved; enough gets left open here that this could be a standalone story or start a series. Hopefully it starts a series as there is room for much, much more here. And if Birch can start The Facefaker’s Game and his writing career this well, I cannot wait to see where he goes next.
Profile Image for Faith.
777 reviews8 followers
February 16, 2017
Well color me surprised. This book is...really good. Exceptionally strong, for a debut author. Ashes is a compelling main character, the setting is richly drawn, the magic system is interesting, the plot moves along quickly -- appropriate for a caper -- and the writing is for the most part very good and at times surprisingly lovely. It's a lot of fun and I can't think of a single complaint worth mentioning.

((Edit: Okay, I thought of one minor quibble. Very early on in the book there's a "save the cat" moment where a character is introduced, made to seem significant, and then she never appears again. I assume she'll reappear in a sequel but it is a bit annoying. Also the events of the prologue, while they receive some payoff in-text, are likewise built up to the point where I'm expecting something more to come from them in a sequel. If not, it will be a bit of a fake out; for now I'm reserving judgement.))

"For fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch"... a bold comparison. I can't speak to the Rothfuss comp (I never finished Name of the Wind, and didn't like it much while I was reading) but the Lynch connection is a good one. I'd also say it feels like a higher-quality Mistborn -- I think you could draw some parallels between Vin/Kelsier and Ashes/Jack, for example, though the latter are much more developed.

In any case, highly enjoyable and highly recommended. I look forward to the rest of the series, and to what Birch does next: if his debut is this good I have high hopes for his future work.
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