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Kingdom of Grit #1

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

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"I'm hiring you to steal the king's crown."

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he'll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there's more at stake than fame and glory -Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

784 pages, Paperback

First published May 15, 2018

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Tyler Whitesides

18 books533 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 278 reviews
Profile Image for TS Chan.
719 reviews887 followers
September 29, 2020
ARC received from the publisher, Orbit, in exchange for an honest review.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is a commendable adult fantasy debut, by Tyler Whitesides, that is fun, entertaining and has a unique magic system.

Firstly, this book caught my attention because it was tagged as "Perfect for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora, Eli Monpress and Theft of Swords." As these are some of my favourite titles, I simply cannot pass this up. Plus, I could never resist a heist-plot.

Ardor Benn is a ruse artist extraordinaire who enjoys trickery and mischief, and due to his legend was approached by the most unlikely employer who required his services to undertake the biggest and most audacious heist he had ever performed. And it was an extensive one, such that the story sometimes felt a bit too long.

The narrative follows the 3rd person limited point-of-view of three main characters - Ardor himself, a female thief named Quarrah Khai whom he had to employ to assist with this heist of his lifetime, and a significant man of religion, Isle Halavend (in this world, an Isle is akin to a priest). The character development was good enough that I was interested in each POV, even though my favourite is Ardor. That is not surprising as I've always had a soft spot for roguish characters with good hearts - a cliche that is well-used in stories like this, but one that I will not grow tired of anytime soon.

Aside from Quarrah, our ruse artist extraordinaire has a partner in crime who is also his best friend for many years, Raekon Dorrel. Ard is the master plotter while Raek is the master mixer who prepares all the necessary ingredients to pull off the former's ruses. What do I mean by mixer? Allow me to elucidate a bit about the magic system, which is hard rule-based magic like Allomancy from Mistborn, except it is detonated/ignited instead of consumed. The source of these magical ingredients called Grits is - wait for it - dragon poo.  Depending on the material fed to the dragons, the resultant Grit from the processing of its excrement have different usages, such as Barrier, Blast, Drift, Light, Cold and Heat Grit. And there are Prolonging and Compounding Grits which can be combined with the others to extend its duration or enhance its effects. A detonation will result in a cloud which is spherical, and anything within it will be affected by the Grit's purpose. A master mixer such as Raek will be able to ascertain the weight of different Grits required to achieve the desired outcome. There is a glossary on the Grit system at the back of the book which is quite detailed. Admittedly, some of the action scenes are pretty darn cool with the inventive use of the different types of Grits.

On top of this rather complex magic system, another aspect of the worldbuilding also took me a while to get settled in. We have a religion called Wayfarist, and the faithful are those who have the Urges to keep progressing and advancing, while the faithless are called Settled or Landers. It is all rather quite strange, and I am still tottering as to how I feel about it.

There are times when I find the writing a bit clunky and perhaps a little less refined. Nonetheless, the book is easy to read, and I noticed the narrative improving as it progressed. Plotwise, it is to be expected that nothing will exactly go smoothly for Ard and his team. Regardless, there were a few cool revelations and plot directions which I did not anticipate. And for those who like having some element of romance in their stories, rest assured you will find it in Ardor Benn's debut story.

In short, this novel is an entertaining read for those who enjoy a fantasy heist that occasionally heads in unexpected directions. I'm definitely invested enough to continue with the rest of the trilogy.

You can purchase the book or pre-order the new cover release from Book Depository (Free Shipping) | Bookshop.Org (Support Independent BookstoresAmazon US | Amazon UK

You can find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Audrey.
1,076 reviews167 followers
July 2, 2022
4.5 stars

There are flaws in the book, but the overall enjoyment factor was very high, and they didn’t bother me that much.

This is Flintlock Fantasy, similar to steampunk. Magic is created by detonating Grit, a special powder made of various substances that have passed through the digestive track of a dragon. Interesting stuff.

Ardor Benn is a con man (“ruse artist”) who enjoys the game of running a con but still has strong morals. The book opens with him pulling off a con. It’s a great scene that shows how the magic works, introduces characters, and is just fun to watch.

Then he gets hired by a priest to pull a heist on the king. The world is a collection of islands, and the religion is based around the theme of islands. It was interesting as well as nice to see religious people portrayed as something other than crazy.

The first half of the book focuses on the heist. This includes infiltrating an orchestra, which I loved, having played with symphony orchestras before. The author was a percussion major, if I am remembering right. The second half is the aftermath of the heist, which is where we get to see airships and dragons and other islands and stuff like that. It’s quite a bit bloodier.

Overall, this was fun, swashbuckling adventure. There was a lot of suspense and surprises. The stakes got high and personal. I felt the romance was sort of rushed, though it was essential to the plot. And I didn’t get a clear picture of what the city’s streets and buildings looked like.

The editors at Orbit were also very sloppy. The missed some blatant usage errors and let Tyler get away with too many sentence fragments. He would put in a period. When a comma would work best. This is the kind of thing. An editor is supposed to fix.

It was smart and fun and easy to read. For me, it was thoroughly enjoyable experience, and though I could nit-pick some things, they didn’t detract from the story.

I can see why it’s compared to Locke Lamora, but I think these two books appeal to different audiences. I felt it was closer to Theft of Swords and Mistborn, if anything.

No strong language – no sexual content – some bloody monster violence

How I Got the Book
Two years ago now, I went to a book signing at a local indie bookshop. Tyler Whitesides and Brian McClellan were both there with brand-new releases. Since it was a small crowd, there was plenty of time to chat with the authors. I bought this book of Tyler’s and a Powder Mage book of Brian’s (which I am finally starting to read). Tyler performed a percussion duet at the beginning of the event (with a college buddy, I think). Anyway, Tyler said my book was the very first copy he signed.

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Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,341 reviews317 followers
August 29, 2023
Review on English, followed by the Bulgarian one. Ревюто на английски е първо, следва това на български.

It was definitely worth immersing myself in the adventures of the clever ruse artist Ardor Benn and his companions.

And not every day we come across a fantasy world, the prosperity of which depends on the materials passed through the bellies of huge and rather terrifying monsters - the dragons inhabiting the island of Pekal.

Ard is hired by an official in the archipelago's largest religious cult to replace the royal regalia in a desperate attempt to save the islanders from a mysterious and incurable disease.

I found the book a little long, but interesting until the very end, and the English used by the author was fine. I'll see when I get around to reading the other two parts of the trilogy.

Определено си струваше да се потопя в приключенията на ловкия измамник Ардор Бенн и другарите му.

Не всеки ден попадаме на фентъзи свят, чийто просперитет зависи от материалите преминали през търбусите на огромни и доста страховити чудовища - драконите населяващи остров Пекал.

Ард е нает от служител в най-големия религиозен култ на архипелага да подмени кралските регалии, в отчаян опит да спасят хората населяващи островите от загадъчна и нелечима болест.

Малко длъжка ми дойде книгата, но пък ми бе интересна до края си, а английския използван от автора не ме затрудни почти никак. Ще видя, кога ли ще се наканя да прочета другите две части от трилогията.

Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,674 followers
October 11, 2018
I have known Tyler since we did a joint school visit after the first Janitors book came out. I bought a copy and had it signed to my oldest son, not as a pity buy, but as a, "Hey, I like you, you're fun!" buy. My son liked the book, liked the whole series, in fact, and I liked Tyler and his wonderful wife Connie, so we were all good. When I found out that Tyler's next book would be for grownups, I congratulated him, and he said, "I want you to read it, and I don't want to know what you think about it at the same time." And I told him, "Listen. Maybe I'll read it, maybe I won't. But if I do read it, and I like it, you'll know. If I don't like it, no one will ever know."

And reader, I did buy it. I did read it. And reader, I did love it.

One of my BIGGEST PET PEEVES IN ALL OF FANTASY is a character who is a "rogue" and supposed to be full of witty banter, but they are really just a huge @$$hole. I've read so much stilted dialogue and flat jokes masquerading as witty banter that I feel traumatized. BUT YOU WILL NOT FIND THAT HERE. Ardor Benn is ACTUALLY FUNNY. He actually is a good-natured, lovable rogue! I laughed aloud many times. His joking back and forth with his partner, Raek was truly amusing and never cruel. It was so refreshing I could cry!

And speaking of crying: There's like, actual drama here. Characters you care about getting hurt. I cried at somebody's death! And dragons! Did I mention there are dragons?! And a whole magic system like nothing I've ever seen before! And a fascinating religion, and world! And a major twist at the end that made me do a Keanu Reeves WHOA!

In short: This is an excellent book! One of the best epic fantasies I've read in a long time! I'm very excited to see what Tyler does next! The book is the first in a series, but it's not a cliffhanger ending so you don't need to wait! And you shouldn't wait! If you like fantasy, you should pick this up right now! Because did I mention the disguise artists? Oh my gosh! They were killing me! Loved them! And there's a race of blue people with crazy eyes! So unique!

And dragons, guys. DRAGONS.
Profile Image for faanielibri.
514 reviews28 followers
January 28, 2023
Ein 800-Seiten-Schmöker, den ich in aller Ruhe gelesen habe. Auch wenn die Spannung durchwegs gehalten wurde und ich die Geschichte auch schneller hätte lesen können. Aber da die Welt so neu ist, das Magiesystem, Gesellschaft, Religionen und Politik, hat es super gepasst, alles eher langsam anzugehen. Dadurch war es ein intensives, fast einen Monat andauerndes Abenteuer, voller Finten und Täuschungen, mit Verkleidungen und Rollenspielen, mit viel List und Tücke. Dabei gefiel mir vor allem die Abschnitte einer Protagonistin sehr, mit deren Häufigkeit ich überhaupt nicht gerechnet habe. Der titelgebende Ardor Benn tritt da fast ein bisschen in den Hintergrund. Aber das macht gar nichts, er drängt sich eh wieder in den Vordergrund. Mit viel Pauken und Trompeten. Hach, ich werde die Truppe schon ein bisschen vermissen. Einziger Wermutstropfen: Ein Twist zum Ende hin hat sich für mich nicht so stimmig angefühlt. So, als ob mit Gewalt nochmal dieses Fantasyelement eingebaut hätte werden müssen. Hat zwar dann schon seinen Sinn gehabt und die Story vorangebracht, gemocht habe ich diese Idee aber nicht soo sehr. Bis zum nächsten Abenteuer! 4,5 Sterne.
Profile Image for Shaghayegh.
316 reviews83 followers
January 11, 2023
شنیده بودم شبیه رایراست، به عشق اینکه یه رایرای جدید پیدا کردم رفتم سراغش، ولی نبود.
برای من بیشتر حال و هوای لاک‌لامورا رو داشت، ولی امیدوارم به سرنوشت نزولی شدن داستان لاک دچار نشه.
آردور دغلباز و باهوش، ریک نابغه و کورا دزد زبل، واقعا یه سفر جالب برام رقم زدن.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews406 followers
March 6, 2019
Ahoy there me mateys! As ye all know I absolutely adore dragons and thievery. This book combines both! I saw it on Nikki @ thebibliophibian’s post and had to check it out.

So the story follows Ardor Benn, ruse artist extraordinaire, as he goes on his biggest heist yet – to steal the king’s crown! To accomplish this he must assemble a top-notch team. The team includes:

- Raekon Dorrel – he happens to be Ardor’s best friend and deals with logistics, mathematics, and brawn
- Quarrah Khai – a thief who works alone and doesn’t like interacting with others especially if she has to talk to them
- Elbrig Taut and Cinza Ortemion – “the crazies” who specialize in alternative identities, disguises, and costumes (seriously I love them!)

There are other side characters that help including forgers, harvesters, etc. But these folks are hired for specific side jobs. In addition there is a priest of Wayfarism, Isle Halavend, who be the man who hired Ardor for the heist. He believes there is a major threat to their island kingdom and only by going against his Order can he help save the world.

Okay sounds good so far right? Well where do the dragons come in? Aye, the dragons play a major role in terms of the magic system. So there be this stuff called Grit. Grit comes in several forms like Light, Heat, Barrier, Drift, Void, Visitation, etc. What be Grit? Grit is a powder made from materials like bone, wood, stone, dragon egg shell, etc. To get it, ye have to feed the materials to a dragon who then erm . . . poops it out and sets it on fire. Then a team of harvesters has to track down the hardened poo pile (while trying not to die) which is taken to a factory to be processed. Sounds fun right?

So dragon shells be needed for the rarest type of Grit of all – Visitation. This special Grit is used to summon Visitants who help save the world. Problem is the only dragon shell left is on the crown of the king. Hence Ardor Benn’s task.

This book really was amusing. I loved that the magic was based on powdered dragon poop. I also liked that physics and math had to be taken into account when using the Grit. I liked how versatile Grit could be and thought the author did an excellent job showcasing its uses I thought the main trio of Ardor, Quarrah, and Raekon were just lovely and enjoyed their banter. Their relationships do drive the novel and I loved watching them change and grow together over the course of the novel.

There were some downsides of the book in terms of plot and structure. I think most of this problems stemmed from how long the book was at over 700 pages. Even with that length, some of the more tactical parts of the heist were glossed over. There are some parts of the plot involving Grit that seemed to be unbelievable and ridiculous. They made me smile but really were silly. And the plot really lost focus after the crown had been stolen. The 80-87% of the book was the most difficult but the pace did pick back up again.

I thought that overall the debut was a good one and I am glad I read it. This book could be read as a standalone but I do see that the author plans on writing another book in the series. I am interested to see where he will take the story next. Arrrr!

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Maja Ingrid.
459 reviews132 followers
March 30, 2021
2021 reread
Reread most of it. Until I felt I got most of the gist of it. 750 some pages is quite a bit to trudge through when you're in a slump. I did not feel like I enjoyed it quite as much as first time I read it, but it could come down to my slump. Looking back at my first review, I still think this book could have done well being shorter. It drags. And I didn't love the romance between the two MC's.

But gonna read the other two books eventually. This reread was mainly to freshen up my memory of this series.

- - -

2018 read
This was a fun ride. I'm always down for a good fantasy heist book. This even had one or two dragons (though dragons got bit too little page time). It could however, be shorter. Some stuff could probably even be removed from the book and everything be more comprised, because at +700 pages, it is a pretty massive book for conning and heisting. Also the love-subplot could have been ditched as well because it didn't really go anywhere (at least not in this book, but it might develop in coming installments).

Also in the book, they use a type of magical grit, where different kinds of grit do different stuff. But all the different grit is basically made from barbecue dragon poop.
Profile Image for Sammi.
167 reviews10 followers
July 23, 2018
This was...a long book. And boy did I feel it about halfway through, wondering where the thread had gone and when we were going to get back to the point. I'll also say that early on this book had me comparing it to The Lies of Locke Lamora, which isn't really fair because 1. in the end they weren't really that similar at all, and 2. Ardor Benn can't hold a candle to Locke Lamora. I have to imagine that the author knew that readers would make this comparison, especially since this is titled so similarly to Lynch's book, but it was probably not to his advantage.

The Good:
When the characters were plotting the ruses, it was pretty interesting. I felt like too much of the plot was probably given away during the setup stage, where each character would precisely explain what the plan was. We don't see Brad Pitt buying the SWAT gear in the middle of Ocean's 11, and for good reason. The audience needs to be in on the ruse but they are also the mark. Most of the action came from unexpected sources which was fine, but didn't quite scratch that con artist itch.

The Bad:
Okay, everything about Tanalin Phor was terrible. For Locke Lamora fans, she is the Sabetha in this story, but worse. I know she's not in it much but the scenes she was in were just cringy. She didn't act like a normal person, she didn't have any characteristics or anything, she was just a convenience for the plot and someone for Ard to pine over until he found someone who was more accessible, at which point he seemed to drop her like a stone. That meeting between the two of them was just...weird. I can't even explain it. Blech.

Quarrah had potential to be awesome, but then she became bogged down in Ard's nonsense and just became this wimpering shell of a person. Her relationship with Ard went from "This dude can be charming when he wants" to "I LOVE HIM" with absolutely no in between or anything to show us how she came to that decision. I loved the setup on this and could see that it had good potential, but it left me wanting and Quarrah changed from this headstrong, take care of yourself woman to, like, an Ard groupie. It was weird and I didn't like it.

The grit stuff was good enough, if you like that sort of thing. It reminded me of Mistborn in that it seemed like a player's guide to a video game rather than any sort of real world building, but whatever. It worked well enough.

Ehh, I had some other stuff to say about this book but I've already forgotten, even though I just finished it 20 minutes ago. Two stars because I love con artist stories, but I think the biggest con was getting anyone to read this.

EDIT: Oh shit I forgot how bonkers this book got at the end, with Ard suddenly turning religious and the whole con . But it was the bad kind of bonkers, the out of left field bonkers, not anything that was carefully set up or foreshadowed. I always feel like authors have definitely lost the thread when they introduce that, looking at you JJ Abrams. It was strange.
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,283 reviews641 followers
June 13, 2018
starts quite strong - and overall the novel has a lot of energy until the end keeping me turning the pages which pretty much deserves 5 stars on its own as I would estimate less than 5% of the books I open today keep me engaged for long- but the mashing of fantasy and sf elements (in an otherwise fairly common buddy-buddy con-men adventure) starts creaking towards the end with the novel getting close to jumping the shark and losing any shred of suspension of disbelief; a strong last few pages salvages it though and overall an entertaining read that misses being great when the author tries to raise the stakes and make his main character a "true hero" TM
will definitely take a look at book 2 and hope it gets more adventure, less save the world, universe etc
Profile Image for Tim.
790 reviews35 followers
December 24, 2020
One of the hazards of the hefty-tome fantasy series is that being pretty good often doesn't cut it. In the case of Tyler Whitesides' Kingdom of Grit series, having about 1,400 pages to go once you've read a mostly fun but flawed opener was too big a mountain for me to climb. 

Curiously, the back cover description ignores the trilogy's most intriguing hook: a magic system based on the properties of dragon excrement. Handlers "cultivate" various substances so that the end product, having passed through the beast and afterward being "baked" by the fire of the fastidious dragon, can be made, in powder form, into concoctions that, when sparked or impacted, can produce barriers, blasts, light, heat, silence, virtual weightlessness and even amnesia. (In truth, the list is a little too long).

"The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn" is, at its heart, a clever and often amusing heist tale, the title character a charming rogue hired to steal the crown and regalia of a king. Fortunately, events that prompted this scheme — including people on one of the islands of this realm suffering deadly "moonsickness" from the passage of the red moon, and an apparent conspiracy that led to the killing of all the male dragons — is more serious and more interesting, providing an intriguing framework for the fun.

But, about that fun, and what made this a one-and-done for me: The clever high jinks were just a little too clever, in the sense that no matter how intricate or unlikely, all the parts of the plan come together perfectly. Or if they don't, our heroes pivot so that they straighten any unexpected twists into another version of working out perfectly. Occasional willing suspensions of disbelief are one thing, but don't ask me to do it over and over again. Ardor Benn and his cohorts may be experts in the art of the ruse, but nobody's that good.

A pretty good book, then — I can understand folks loving it, even — but it's a bit of a shame it's not better. Whitesides writes well for the genre and has done some impressive world-building; this could have been just a wiseass breeze, but there's weight to it. Likewise, Whitesides' efforts to throw a little more in the mix are commendable, but a romance angle here is far from convincing, and frankly the characters overall are pretty thin. It's an enjoyable tale, for the most part, but I'm left standing like Oliver Twist, with a bowl in my hand and a still-growling stomach that I'll have to look elsewhere to fill.
Profile Image for The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew). .
296 reviews620 followers
June 7, 2018
3.5 stars.

As always this review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...

Ardor Benn/Ard who in his own words is a ‘ruse artist extraordinaire‘ because why use a mundane and common term like a con artist or swindler.😂 Is tasked by the elderly Wayfarist (Wayfarism is one of the religions in the book) priest Isle Halavend to steal the royal regalia from the ruler of the Greater Chain (made-up of the islands, Talumon, Dronodan, Strind and Espar with the mountain and home of the dragons, Pekal located in the middle of the inter-island waters) King Pethredote.

The King’s regalia is made from the only remaining example of fertilised dragon eggshell still in existence, a component needed to make a very rare type of Grit (more on Grit later).

Ard accepts the job and along with Raekon Dorrel/Raek/the Short Fuse a detonation mixer (he mixes Grit compounds) and Ard’s partner they enlist the help of Quarrah Khai, a renowned thief to aid them and along with an assembled team so ensues a series of elaborate and intricate ruses full of outlandish exploits to steal the regalia and bring Isle Halavend’s plan to fruition.

I won’t go into the why’s about why Isle Halavend employs Ard to steal the regalia but suffice to say that the reasons have huge ramifications for all of the Greater Chain and the safety of its inhabitants.

The main resource in the Greater Chain is Grit. Grit can be primary or secondary and has a variety of different uses and types ranging from the mundane (Light and Heat Grit, which as the names suggest provide light and heat) to the more action-oriented types (Barrier, Drift and Void Grit which again, do what the name suggests) through to the rarest type of Grit, Visitant Grit which when used by someone worthy can call forth a Paladin Visitant (though the summons isn’t always successful) who can cause mass destruction.

Side note: there are more types of Grit than those few that I have mentioned and some can also be compounded or prolonged by being mixed together with either compounding or prolonging Grit.

Grit is made by using a specific base material (ranging from wood, metal and stone to human bones through to the fertilised dragon eggshell of the regalia that is indigestible and so, goes through the digestive system of a dragon and remains whole) which is fed to a dragon by a team of Harvesters in baited food to create a certain type of Grit. The dragon is traced (followed) and when the dung is passed (when the dragon goes potty and makes a boom boom) the dragon will then breathe fire on the excrement to harden it, creating Slagstone. The Slagstone is then transported to a factory where the base material is extracted from the Slagstone and processed into powder and so, yes, the Grit is subsequently derived from the powdered dragon poop.😂💩

I liked the idea behind Grit and how it is an integral resource for the society in the Greater Chain finding the concept of the Grit, its importance and its uses to be well incorporated by Whitesides helping to add some originality to the story.

The chapters of the story that take place in the Mooring, a religious building and that revolve around Isle Halavend and Lyndel, a Trothian Agrodite priestess are interesting. They often involve the pair researching and partaking in conversations as they are sequestered away in the Mooring cove that Halavend uses. These conversations allow us, the reader, to learn more about the two religions, Paladin Visitants, the history of the Greater Chain and also serve to help unveil the truth and motivation behind Halavend employing Ardor.

As a duo, Ard and Raek are fantastic with Ard being the loquacious and charming leader and Raek, the mathematical genius and muscle. The duo are completely different and act as the perfect foil for each other, they are like brothers and the strong bond between them and the banter and camaraderie that they share is a highlight of the book. Add in Quarrah as she attempts to integrate with the duo, learn and fulfil her role in the ruse and build a friendship (that is complicated by her feelings for Ard) with the pair and she is a welcome addition to the story. All in all the trio are well depicted by Whitesides.

For the secondary characters that compromised the initial team on Beripent when the team are trying to steal the regalia I really liked the duo of Elbrig Taut and Cinza Ortemion dubbed the crazies by Raek they are disguise managers (they create costumes, characters and identities as disguises) and the pair were really fun and well, crazy.😂 When the story moves to Pekal and the process of baiting the dragon, for the team members in this part of the story I liked the addition of Nemery Baggish. She’s knowledgeable on dragons and compared to the other criminal members of the Harvesting team she’s innocent and naive and there was just something endearing about her.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is a promising start to a new fantasy series and in Ard, Raek and Quarrah you have a trio of characters who you can become invested in. However, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that whilst admittedly, the book is enjoyable even straying into very enjoyable territory in places that at the same time, unfortunately, the book does on occasion drag also suffering from a lack of emotion and impact during both plot twists and (what should be) important storyline events as rather sadly, instead of having the impact and weight that they deserve and warrant the twists and events themselves are often underwhelming and fall flat.

In my opinion, a couple of small tweaks would greatly benefit the book namely a shorter page-length and tighter plotting on the part of Whitesides as ultimately, The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn felt overly long for the story that Whitesides was telling and suffers under the weight of its 700+ page count.

Ard is a charismatic lead, Grit an intriguing and well-implemented idea and so, even with my issues, I’d certainly consider reading future books in the series as there is promise and potential to be found within the pages of Whitesides debut adult fantasy work.
Profile Image for Paul.
719 reviews63 followers
May 18, 2018
I could attempt to explain the plot to The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn, but I fear I would do it some sort of injustice. Like all the best scams there is a lot going on here. My advice, strap yourself in and just go for it. This is a novel that is all about the ride. I can promise you one thing, there will be much to enjoy. This is a novel that defies anything close to categorisation.

Ardor Benn is all cocksure swagger. As quick of mind as he is of wit, he loves the life of a ruse artist. He might tell you it is all about the money but it’s not. There is more to it than that. It’s the frisson of excitement that occurs whenever part of his latest exquisitely mapped out plan is successful. A platinum rogue and no mistake, I defy anyone to not be won over by Ard’s charms. You would be wrong however to dismiss Ard as just a con man. There is more to him than first appears. There is a level of introspection to his character I really enjoyed. Ghosts of past events still haunt his actions. For all his outward bravado he is troubled by the bigger questions in life.

I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for a good heist. The best shakedowns bring together a crew of oddball characters that would fail in any other venture but somehow work when it comes to grand larceny. That rule holds true here, there are a whole host of eccentric individuals. Ard is all wild plans and grandiose spectacle, he is a big picture kind of guy, so needs someone who can help him with the finer detail. Raekon ‘Short Fuse’ Dorrel is that man. Friends for years, you quickly pick up on the easy camaraderie that exists between the two. I think Raek can best be described as long suffering. It strikes me that keeping up with Ardor Benn is a full-time job.

The newest member of the gang is Quarrah Khai. Used to working alone as a sneak thief she finds being part of a group a bit of a novelty, especially when that group is more like a surrogate family. Quarrah finds herself perplexed, infuriated and often confused by Ardor Benn but she has little choice in her new role. She will be part of Ard’s latest outlandish escapade whether she wants to be or not.

My favourite characters were Elbrig and Cinza, the disguise managers. Always a dozen or more steps ahead of everyone else, this eccentric partnership lives for the elaborate. The more complex a scheme the better. Let’s just say it’s amazing the lengths that some people will go to for their craft.

The author has a real ear for dialogue. The constant bickering back and forth between all the characters is a joy, it helps to make them all seem that much more real. Ard and Raek have a wonderful shorthand they use whenever they talk to one another. Check out George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven, and you’ll get the idea.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is exactly what I had hoped it would be. Tyler Whitesides’ adult fiction debut is the literary equivalent of “Find The Lady”; there is misdirection and shenanigans aplenty. This would be entertaining enough but Whitesides elevates the story to another level by incorporating some loftier elements. There is a larger conspiracy that develops as the plot unfolds. A scheme is afoot that has the potential to claim millions of lives. The only thing between the world and utter chaos is Ard and his ragtag group of associates.

Oh, before I forget to mention it, there are also a host of dragons. In fact, the dragons are an essential element to our tale. I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers, suffice to say that plans have a way of going south when you need to rely on a gargantuan monster to literally deliver the goods.

Whitesides has also created an intriguing semi-scientific magic system for his world. There are compounds and powders, collectively known as ‘grit’, that can be used to achieve all manner of different effects. Part alchemy, part maths and part pure dumb luck Ard and Raek use grit in a whole host of inventive ways to help pull off various heists. Those of you who are a fan of impressively large detonations are going to have a blast (I am so sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Profile Image for Izzie.
242 reviews106 followers
October 23, 2020
Part of me is glad I put off reading this for so long because now I can binge the whole series! But a bigger part of me is wondering why I didn't read this the second I bought it because it was awesome. I gave it four stars instead of five because some of the characters at the start felt a little flat for me, but by the end I was totally blown away by all the twists and turns that I absolutely didn't see coming. I can't wait to see where the story, and in particular where Ardor Benn himself, will go from here.
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews220 followers
October 19, 2020
My favourite ruse/con book of all time. Makes Locke look like a rank amateur. Full review to come.
Profile Image for Nicole.
178 reviews37 followers
May 24, 2018
Review originally posted at Erlebnisse: erlebnisseweb.wordpress.com/2018/05/2...

Um, is it possible to give a book six stars?

Because holy shit, friends.

I have a feeling this review is going to be everywhere, so I do sincerely apologize for that. But I just...sorta...fell completely in love with this book? And after walking for two miles during my lunch break, my mind going over and over the events that transpired between these pages (especially the last, eh, 300 or so), I'm still not sure exactly how to articulate how fantastic this book is. I mean, sure, I could just say, "Hey, holy shit, this book is pretty dang fantastic and you definitely want to read it if you like fantasy and heists and characters who feel like people instead of characters and such a complex, vibrant world with a new magic system and why haven't you read it already, I need someone to talk to about this book, but especially page 627?!"

I mean, sure, I could write that and leave it at that.

But that doesn't seem to truly do the book justice, you know?

So, I received an ARC from Orbit, which, first of all (!!!). The fact that I'm "working with" Orbit now to write reviews over some of their books is something that will never, ever, ever cease to blow my mind (I know this is a common thing for book bloggers, but this is new to me, so stay with me). Because Orbit is one of my favorite publishers of all time. They publish good shit, friends. You already know this. So when this title was included in the options, I selected it. I'd never heard about it before, but you had me at heists and dragons. How could it not be good?

I was so not prepared for this story.

(That's a good thing.)

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Scott Lynch's The Lies of Lock Lamora. If you've read my review of that novel, you know how hard I fell for that book and how much it shook me to my core. Lynch has a level of mastery that few other authors I've ever read can match. And I read a lot of books. I thought Whitesides was akin to Lynch's level of skill with this story in many ways. The way how both authors have come up with this complex narrative of heists that, if I'm able to pull myself out of the story (which is really freakin' hard to do), I am just blown away the the intricacy and the layers of complexity. Both authors have created worlds so in-depth, it wouldn't take much convincing at all for me to believe that these worlds are actually, in fact, real, and they are nothing more but humble scribes retelling events that actually happened. It's that immersive.

Both authors have an uncanny knack for creating a feeling of comfort that you completely believe everything is going to be okay, only to destroy it all in the matter of one sentence. For Lynch, it was on page 466. For Whitesides, my sense of security and trust shattered on page 627.

Masterful. Positively masterful.

With The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn, there was so much I was impressed by and loved, that I don't truly think I can sum it up in the span of one already overly long review and capture everything. So I'll try to give you a quick run down of some of my highlights, with the knowledge that, once I publish this post, ten more things I should have written but forgot will pop up and I'll be super peeved by it:

Again, the worldbuilding. Reading this book in large chunks (because it's impossible to read it any other way), every time I was forced to close it, whether it be I needed to move on to the next thing, appointments, my boss walking around the corner and about to catch me sneaking in more chapters hunched in my desk like a gremlin; regardless of why I had to close the book, it always took me a moment to orient myself and truly remember that I wasn't actually within this world, trying to stay alive during the latest heist. From the little details to the high-stakes politics to the intensely fascinating religions, I was hooked and didn't want to let go.

Grit. I won't lie: I'm still not entirely sure how the stuff works, but whoa is that just completely and totally and utterly fantastic. Do you love fantasy but you've been tired of the same old magic system book after book? Grit and it's various uses, how it's created and how integral it is to the plot is as unique as it gets.

The relationship between Ardor Benn and Raekon Dorrel. To be honest, their relationship reminded me a lot of Megan O'Keefe's duo in her The Scorched Continent trilogy, Detan and Tibbs. A fantastic duo in their own right, their relationship is one of the most organic I've read. Ard and Raek have the same kind of relationship that makes me want to root for them no matter what. I think their relationship being so real is why page 627 hurt so much.**

Quarrah Khai. I want novels written about this woman. Seriously.

Oh and how every single thing really had a purpose. There was never a throw away character (I'm still impressed by that twist, because I did not see that coming), from side characters you wouldn't expect, down to the freakin' lizard.

Speaking of additional characters, I honestly think my two favorite characters were Cinzia and Elbrig. I don't want to describe them too much, because I want you to get an untainted introduction to them like I did, but hot damn. Those characters were so unique, so intricate and the things they can pull off? I can only applaud.

I probably should stop, because this is getting to be one of the longest book reviews I've written. But in all honesty, this book deserves that. I'm not sure what else I could say to express my enthusiasm, respect, love and awe that I have for this story, aside from maybe one additional thing:

Any word on the publication date for book two?

Read on!

** I know I keep bringing up that line, but seriously. Have you ever been super content, having those feel-good-feels because things went how you imagined they would and then suddenly, one line just stops you in your tracks, makes you tense up and freeze, and suddenly you have to read it over again to make sure you've read it correctly, because there is no way that just happened? Tolkien did it to me in The Hobbit; Lynch in Lamora; Brent Weeks in The Broken Eye. And now Whitesides has done it to me here.
Profile Image for books & sorcery.
201 reviews10 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 10, 2023
Ich habe dieses Buch nach 30% abgebrochen, es war leider nichts für mich.

Gut gefallen hat mir das Setting: Ein Insel-Archipel, das voll von Kultur ist! Der Autor ist selbst klassischer Musiker und baut das sein Fachgebiet in das World Building ein - Kunst und vor allem Musik in dieser High Fantasy-Welt sind authentisch und vielfältig, was ich als musikbegeisterte Person natürlich großartig finde. Religion spielt ebenfalls eine tragende Rolle, was mir ebenfalls super gut gefällt.

Meine Gründe für den Abbruch nach 30% lassen sich nicht so leicht runterbrechen, aber ich versuchs: Ich kam mit dem Magiesystem nicht klar. Ich werde wohl nie ein Fan von harten, komplizierten Systemen sein und dieses hier beruht auf Chemie und Physik. Das Lesen der Actionszenen hat mir Kopfschmerzen bereitet, sich nicht natürlich angefühlt. So bin ich die meiste Zeit ins schnelle Überfliegen dieser Passagen abgerutscht, was dem Buch nicht gerecht wird. Ein Fauxpas für mich ist, dass in der deutschen Ausgabe das Glossar fehlt. In der englischen gibt es Tabellen und Erklärungen, was für mich ein Muss bei so einem Magiesystem ist.

Am wichtigsten sind mir Charaktere und diese Protagonist*innen hier fand ich furchtbar. Ardor Benn, ein “Gentleman”-Gauner, war mir unfassbar unsympathisch - obwohl intendiert ist, ihn als “Gentleman” wahrzunehmen. Er ist bevormundend und paternalistisch, vor allem in Bezug unsere Protagonistin Quarrah - was mir besonders unangenehm war.

Quarrah ist eigentlich eine coole, badass Diebin, wird aber immer, wenn sie mit Ardor zusammen ist, zu einem verschüchterten Mädchen, dass ständig errötet. Selbst in diesen mageren 30% des Buches habe ich viel zu oft die Augen gerollt. Sie vergöttert unseren Gentleman Ardor von der ersten Minute an und ich wusste echt nicht, warum. Beim Satz “Er ist nicht wie andere Männer” ist mir mein Gedultsfaden entgültig geplatzt. Als bis zu dem Punkt einzige ausgearbeitete Frauenfigur ist mir so eine Charakterisierung sauer aufgestoßen; von einem aktuellen Adult Fantasy Buch erwarte ich da mehr Feingefühl.

Sprachlich konnte es mich auch nicht mitreißen; es gab viele, viele exposition dumps, bei denen ich meine Aufmerksamkeit nicht habe Aufrecht erhalten können. Für mich fühlte es sich total gekünstelt an, wie das World Building rübergebracht wurde. Ohne abwertend sein zu wollen, es liest sich recht "jung" / eher YA, manches Mal fast comichaft, aber ohne witzig zu sein (für mich zumindest). Wenn das komplizierte Magiesystem nicht wäre, wäre es wahrscheinlich ein Jugendbuch - was nicht negativ gemeint ist, aber habe mich auf eine Adult Fantasy Diebes-Geschichte eingestellt und das hat mir das Buch leider nicht gegeben. Mir fehlte der Witz, die Schnelligkeit und eine gewisse Raffinesse, die glaube ich gewollt, aber für mich nicht gut umgesetzt war.

Ich kann mir vorstellen, dass es was für Fans der Nebelgeborenen-Trilogie sein könnte, so vom Feeling und Schreibstil her; auch wer sich für harte Magiesysteme begeistern kann und sich da aufmerksam reinfuchst, könnte Spaß haben. Der Autor war übrigens sogar Student bei Brandon Sanderson, man sieht den Einfluss da auf jeden Fall. Aber ich mochte die Nebelgeborenen ja leider auch nicht...

Das Cover von Ben Zweifel ist absolut obergenial. Ich liebe es, dass Panini die originalen Cover übernimmt. Auch die Cover der nächsten Bände sind unglaublich schick.

Danke trotzdem an das Rezensionsexemplar von Lovelybooks.
Profile Image for Whitney Jamimah.
580 reviews28 followers
December 21, 2020
3 objective stars, 1.5 for my generalized enjoyment of the book, let's round this to a 2 star rating.

What this boils down to for me is that this book should be marketed as at least a YA book if not maybe even a middle grade. I think this book would be PERFECT for someone in 8th grade. If this book was marketed the right way I would have been able to give it a better rating for the age category but ultimately this book read as very juvenile. Is the fact that it is so long allow the powers that be to place this in the adult section? Not to mention that about the first 1/3 of this book could have easily been scrapped and we still would have easily gotten the point of it all.

Ardor is a ruse artist, when I read that I was really excited. I love heist stories and the thrill of discovering how a really good ruse unfolds but literally none of that happened for me while reading this book. The ruses were spelled out too plainly, leaving no magic or revelation when we realize someone got duped. I think that a middle grade reader would really enjoy the ruses though having them a little bit more spelled out and not having to drawn any conclusions on their own to help them grow as a reader.

The magic was lame. I really don't know how else to say it. There was no fun in learning about the magic.

The love interest/romance was extremely immature. Watching the mini love triangle play out and everyone being bashful and awkward in the romance just felt really young to me. I never cared about the romance though Whitesides made it a big part of the story.

To me, the stakes never felt high. Weather it be the ruses or fighting the bad guy, I was never worried or scared that our main characters were truly in danger.

Anyway, I did not like this because it felt so juvenile and I was expecting something "adult". I think Orbit wasted their money doing this huge re-branding of this series and keeping it in the adult section. The re-brand would have served itself better if it was put in the YA or even middle grade category even though it was a really long read.
Profile Image for Oldman_JE.
64 reviews20 followers
March 9, 2023
Consistent is the word that comes to mind after finishing this first book in the trilogy. Many aspects remained above-average to good throughout: the light and humorous tone, character development, history and magic system delivery, twists, fun. All laid out with competent writing not distracting from the story being told. Substituted curse words such as blaze, blast, spark, & slag fit perfect in the setting.

Read it. If you had unfounded reservations as I did, you might find yourself surprised.
Profile Image for RG.
3,092 reviews
September 19, 2018
Really cool heist style fantasy. Reminded me of Locke Lamora in style of fantasy but had more of a comical feel to the dialogue. The world building was alot of fun, especially the magic system, although it did remind me a bit of Mistborns magic system a tad. Good fun fantasy. Ard was a great main character and the number of tricks they pulled and the way they did it was at times surprising, did not predict many of them at all. My only complaint is the length. If it had been on the shorter side 500pages or so, I think it may have worked a little better. Really reccomend this one for anyone looking for some fun fantasy and awesome action scenes.
Profile Image for Sibil.
1,357 reviews63 followers
December 14, 2020
I would have liked to write something a bit more insightful for this book, something to make it justice because, even if it is not perfect and there were some things that didn’t sit so well with me, it would have deserved a proper review. But when I finished it I wasn’t in the right mood to write it down, and more time pass and more things I am going to miss. So, dear book, I am sorry. But I can at least try to say something about it, and maybe a bullet review would help me out. So let’s start!

The amazing :

1) the fun. To be honest, there are a lot of good things in this book, but… But the best of them all was that this book was highly fun. I laughed quite a lot and there are some scenes that seem cinematic. Like they were taken from a comedy movie or like Benny Hill’s show.
Yes, it is a chunky book. Yes, we have a con, twists, and plot. Yes, we have action. And yes we have a new world to explore. But those scenes! They were just the top of the top!
2) The magical system. They do magic thanks to dragons’ poop. And yes, you did read it right. What I have to say more?? It was just pure genius!
3) Ardor Benn. Con artist extraordinaire! In my heart, I have a special place for Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen, but Ardor and Raek almost stole their place in it. Ok, that’s not quite true. Nobody can take Locke and Jean’s place, but they almost get to share the place. This is more correct. Anyway, places in my heart aside, Ardor is a complex character, with lights and shadows (and a slight obsession, too) and I really appreciated him. But then, con artists and thieves are my cup of tea. And the apple of my eye. So I may be a bit biased.
4) the sheer audacity of some of the plans. Some of the things that Ardor and Raek (see the next paragraph to know more about him) create are amazing. Their plans are brilliant. Sometimes they are not really perfectly planned out, sometimes they are in the least minutia, but usually, they are just short of amazing.

The really good things:

1) Raek and Quarrah. They are interesting and capable characters, and even if Ardor is more bright, in some sense, they are necessary, both for the plot as a whole and for Ardor to shine so brightly. Raek is also the one who gives us most of the comic relief, together with Ardor, while Quarrah is the serious one. But she manages to stand her ground amidst all the craziness that is Ardor and Raek.
2) The twins. Wow. Those two characters are secondary, yes, but they are just… Wow! And I would say no more. You have to meet them for yourself!
3) world-building. To be completely honest maybe the author could have done a tad more. I mean, we have a lot of pages in there, so it would have been nice to see something more. But this is just a minor complaint because really, this world is fascinating. And we have dragons! Real, flying, and fire-breathing dragons! And we have also an interesting religion. I appreciated the description of the Moor. It is a place I would love to visit. And the Isles. This was a thing I enjoyed a lot. A LOT!
4) the plot. We have so many twists and turns that you would always be on the edge of your sit. The author manages to keep the interest alive, and for all the length of the book!

The not so good:

(sorry, but this part is made up by spoilers. I cannot do it in any other way, sadly, so keep reading only if you have read the book, or if you really don’t mind spoilers!)

All things considered, my vote for it is 3.75, rounded up to four just because this is the first book in a series and maybe some things would be better addressed in the next ones. I wasn’t so keen on giving it 4 stars because there is one thing that really rubbed me the wrong way, but… But it is a book that deserves to be read. It is fun, quick, and full of wonders. And the con! Oh my!

Profile Image for Jake is Reading.
74 reviews20 followers
November 18, 2020
If you love a good ruse, this book is absolutely for you, with almost half the novel describing how Ard and his crew attempt to steal the King’s regalia. The plan is entirely over the top, involving new identities and some costly services, but very entertaining.

I was immediately drawn in by Ard and Raek’s sarcastic banter, and the unique fantasy setting, which has traditional medieval influences, as well as flintlock fantasy and perhaps some Ol’ West vibes.

The other major appeal of this novel is the intricate magic system, which is based around grit, a flammable powder that has an array of effects depending on the source material used to make it. The concept brings to mind Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, but with added dragon poop.

Which brings me to, in my mind, the stars of the show. While dragons aren’t heavily featured in the scales, I love Whitesides’ take. His dragon scenes are injected with adrenaline, painting them as truly violent and fearsome creatures. For me, this was definitely the highlight of the story.

With several exciting elements, I would recommend this book if you are looking for a fun, easy to follow and immersive fantasy.

For me, this book wasn’t quite the sum of its parts and could have benefited from further editing. Some of the ideas felt slightly far-fetched even for a fantasy novel, which I think came down to delivery. I also don’t think the page count is justified for a story that is quite linear, regardless of any Big Reveals. The singular storyline is progressed with the help of multiple POVs, though most of these are so closely linked that more than once it took me a few pages to realise it wasn’t written from Ard’s perspective.

I'm glad I finally read The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn, which the perfect option for fantasy fans looking for a fun adventure.

Check out the full review on jakeisreading.com

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rory Coleman.
48 reviews1 follower
June 25, 2021
I’ve given up on reviews again but this one MUST HAVE A REVIEW. Best book I’ve read in ages oh my god just amazing! I loved every minute of it. It’s like Six of Crows but on a 100 times bigger scale. The magic (idk if it’s really magic but anyways) system was great but the heists were obviously the best part. And multiple heists in one book!!! All the characters are great as well! Everyone should read this can’t wait for the next one. Also it’s a big book and actually lasted a few days so that was a bonus too 😆!
Profile Image for Daniy ♠.
449 reviews3 followers
October 4, 2022
I wish this was longer, the romantic relationship between Ardor and Quarrah was just so badly done, and badly handled towards the end. Way too rushed and honestly, unnecessary.

I would have absolutely loved this as a child, to the point of becoming obsessed.


I liked everything about this book (besides the wishing it was longer so some things would be better explained)
Profile Image for Nicole.
1,091 reviews11 followers
November 10, 2020
4.75 stars

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is a page-turning, heist novel set in a world where people use different types of slag (processed dragon feces) for its various magical affects. In this novel we follow Ardor and his group of thieves, mercenaries and con artists as they pull off the ruse of a lifetime to steal the kings regalia.

Plots within plots open up as the story progresses and the story twists and turns and goes in directions you will never see coming. I loved this book. It was fun, exciting and engaging. Ardor was funny and I loved the banter between himself and the group. I really can't wait to dive into the next book and see where Ardor takes us next.
Profile Image for TheReadingStray.
127 reviews19 followers
March 31, 2022

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief – a master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.
When he gets hired for his most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.
But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.


If you love a good ruse, this is the book for you.
Almost half of the novel describes how Ard and his crew try to steal the king’s insignia. The plan goes completely off the rails. For here, two of the crew’s own creations help them transform into entirely new people, giving them identities that don’t suit everyone in the crew. After the paths for the ruse are gradually initiated, the book takes a turn, develops more and more into an epic adventure in which these two themes are so seamlessly intertwined that here you are not only reading a good thief story, but also a real adventure in which there is also a fight or two. And what, of course, must not be missing on this journey? The dragons!

“The night was red, bathed in a mist unholy light. The moon - that crimson orb gazing down like the giant blind eye of a moonsick soul - filled half the sky as it rose above the eastern horizon.”

And it is precisely these dragons that offer a completely new and somehow absurd magic system. This involves the substance Grit, which is a by-product obtained from the waste of dragons. So I have never heard of a magic system that simply consists of dragon poop, and even if one might think that this makes it seem a little ridiculous, it is extremely exciting to see how this magic is extracted in order to later create something magical from this natural product. The magic is obtained from different origins, and so a very complex system is created, which adds even more tension to the story.

“Cats catch killer kittens cussing quickly.”

The love story plays a big role in this book, which is why this is a major point of criticism for me regarding the book. Although it’s not badly executed, I couldn’t quite get into this relationship because it just happened too quickly. The story is exciting throughout, as the planned mission is so ambitious that it involves several phases, so there are hardly any rest periods. There are a number of moments when things don’t go according to plan and a rethink is required.
Great magic system, likeable characters, complex and exciting heists – what more could you want?

“The twilight plays tricks on my eyes. I mistook a rock for a bear. A vine for a snake. Perhaps my own insecurities cause me to see things the wrong way. ”
Profile Image for Eva Müller.
Author 1 book73 followers
February 13, 2019
The book started off promising with a heist in a fantasy world that isn't just yet another fantasy version of medieval Europe or Victorian London. The characters had some promise and the whole Dragon Dung is Magic setup was something new.

But then the explaining began. The characters in this book use a lot of grit - magical dragon dung - for their plans. They need it for healing, light, warmth, making things float...and every time they used it we got an explanation of what they have to do with it to make it work. There is something called compound grit that can be mixed with other kinds of grit and it will make its effect last longer but be weaker. This is explained every time compound grit comes up. And so many other things are explained again and again. If you'd cut out all the repetition the book would have probably lost at least 100 pages.

If that was the only thing I wouldn't have minded that much. But when the narration doesn't explain something to us for the nth time, the characters tell us about their feelings. And Ard and Quarrah - who started off as quite interesting - just tell (again and again) how their feelings towards the other have changed, without us really seeing these changes (or what caused them). And suddenly so much of the story is about their relationship but it's a relationship I couldn't believe in at all because characters just telling me that they're in love isn't going to cut it.

Added to that came some inexplicable decisions (why let your enemy know that you found out his biggest secret?) and the final 20% that felt like a row of 'And the princess is in another castle' with a row of 'Now we're not done yet, we still need to do One More Thing' and Shocking Plot Twists(TM) that eventually just became tiring and I have no desire at all to pick the second book up.
Profile Image for Bryan Brown.
237 reviews7 followers
September 30, 2022

I have a hundred pages rule. If I don't like it by 100 pages I'm probably going to put it down. I managed to stomach this past the first hundred pages but not by very much. What finally did it for me was Ardor's ridiculous frat boy pranks.

Fine set up a theft as an audition, but then jeopardize your entire plan for the sake of a "funny" trick that might get part of your crew permanently removed from play. Not funny, not smart, and not reading any more.

I grew up on purpose, so I didn't have to hang out with people like that and I'm not going to spend precious reading time living with them either.
Profile Image for Kelly.
336 reviews23 followers
November 6, 2022
Ardor Benn is the greatest Ruse artist that ever lived, well at least as far as he's concerned. Isle Havalend is an Isle of Wayfare, spending his life dedicated to his religion he stumbles across a new doctrine, one that points to the absolute destruction of humanity unless he can stop it. To that end Havalend hires Benn to pull of th greatest Ruse of all time: Steal the King's Regalia. Benn rises to the challenge, putting together a team of criminal experts but as time goes on he realizes someone within his team wants them to fail and if he doesn't figure out who the traitor is soon they will die before the can save the world.

In terms of the story itself this was a fast paced read that I found to be an interesting mix of politics, religion, and fantasy. Given the length of the book (720ish pages) I was happily surprised that at no point does the story lag and outside of what I found to be well placed time skips it doesn't shoot forward in a manner that's clearly to cut back on word count. The technology system was unique, the religion fully realized and unique as well, with a well rounded cast of characters it's definitely worth the read.

It's highly entertaining and one of those books I read wholly for that purpose and nothing else. The plot twist, while being one of the most well executed plot twists I've read, still felt a bit gimmicky. Because it comes just straight out of left field and it *had* to because there is absolutely no way Benn could save humanity without some crazy deus ex machina situation. Absolutely none. And to be honest this is 50% of the reason this is a four star read and not a five star read. Getting almost 700 pages into a book to have the issue resolved the way it was was not as satisfying as if I had had some inkling that the resolution was even a possibility.

The other 50% is Ardor Benn himself. At first he comes across as a little bit Lupin, with a dash of Locke Lamora, and a pinch of Balthier, which would make him one of the greatest gentleman thief characters ever. However, he's really just a textbook narcissist, which, while I'm 100% sure is a requirement for being a con artist, there's not a lot of growth, other than a recommitment to his religion, for his character. That being said, given the final line of the book I feel like the second one will hopefully have that growth that I felt was needed in this one.

Overall, I found this one of those books that you enjoy simply for the entertainment factor. There's no deep themes or a lot of thinking to be done while reading it, it's just simply enjoyable for the sake of enjoyment. I'd highly recommend to anyone whose been reading some deeper themed fantasies recently and just needs to give their brain a break for a bit!
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