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The Facefaker's Game

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  389 ratings  ·  89 reviews
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 f
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Simon Schuster/ Simon451
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Chandler Birch Hopefully! I have a second book outlined and plotted, but not fleshed out entirely; it's up to my publisher whether it gets picked up or not. If that …moreHopefully! I have a second book outlined and plotted, but not fleshed out entirely; it's up to my publisher whether it gets picked up or not. If that happens, I've got a sketchy outline for at least one more Teranis book, and possibly more.

I'm posting my Projects Update on my website ( tomorrow. More details there.(less)

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Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

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
Althea Ann
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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:
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Review from Tenacious Reader:

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.
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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,
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 t
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: magic, sff, fantasy
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 n
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
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
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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! ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 informati
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, wishlist
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
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Elizabeth Syson
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 comfo ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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,
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
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 protagonis
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
**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 perfec
Sachin Dev
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-great-reads
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 ...more
Lynn Williams
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Allen Murphey
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Griffin Hansen
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2016 rated it liked it
"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
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, books-i-own
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 im
Alysa H.
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
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 mill ...more
Steven Proudfoot
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 reas
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Read this review (and others) at:

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 boo
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, best-of-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 th
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
SO SO GOOD!!! I was NOT expecting to love this as much as I did. The fantasy world was so unique and complex, and I really loved all the characters!!!!
This was a stunning, beautifully written debut novel and I can’t wait for more books from this author!!
As soon as I heard the words “fantasy heist,” I knew I wanted to read The Facefaker’s Game.

Ashes is an orphan scrapping a living in Burroughside, the poorest and most crime ridden area of the giant Victorian-esque city of Teranis. Then by coincidence he comes to the attention of Candlestick Jack: a master thief and Artificer, a magician who manipulates light to craft illusions. He offers Ashes a chance to be his student, but he wants his help with a grand scheme.

World building is one of the elem
Keilani Ludlow
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
An impressive first book. The reviewer who compared it to the Mistborn series is maybe a little high, but it's a very solid first book. You can read the synopsis so I won't recite what it's about. I'll just make a few comments. Nothing in the book is graphic (sex etc.) but there are strong implications of some nasty child sexual abuse situations (comments on finding a particular child after the abuse has occurred and the condition they were in etc.) and definitely some violence, maybe semi-graph ...more
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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, d

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