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The Thief's Gamble

(The Tales of Einarinn #1)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,759 ratings  ·  85 reviews
The Secrets of the Shadow-Men

Magic? It's for the rich, the powerful...the Archmage and his elite wizards and cloud-masters.

Livak is not among them. She haunts the back taverns of the realm, careful to appear neither rich nor poor, neither tall nor short . . . neither man nor woman. Obscurity is her protection, thievery her livelihood, and gambling her weakness.

Alas, some
Mass Market Paperback, 495 pages
Published August 28th 1999 by HarperPrism (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,759 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen
This started out very slow and confusing but about 30% in it definitely all comes together and the action begins!
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Good story, fast moving well plotted and a leading character you can't help but like even if you wouldn't want her to have access to your valuables.

I got caught in this book fast and stayed that way. The traditional characters, a party with fighters, wizards, and a thief. Later they run on a different type of wizard (sorcerers?) and an evil cleric, all are well done.

"Good read". (Note the play on words...aren't you impressed? Oh you aren't, sigh, okay.)
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Thief’s Gamble is the debut novel of British fantasy writer Juliet E. McKenna and is the first installment in The Tales of Einarinn epic series. Though it may seem as yet another clichéd fantasy tale, which I keep on coming across lately, the story is infused with ironic and rather intriguing plot twists that mark the book as definitely above the mediocre level.

The plot is focused on the adventures of the joke-cracking, witty and thievish character of Livak, who casts the runes deviously, do
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2011
The Thief's Gamble is a great traditional fantasy, of the kind that made me fall in love with the genre when I was fourteen years old. Which shouldn't have been a big surprise as the book was actually first published in 1999, which was in the same decade as when I first discovered fantasy. It's epic and fun – none of that modern gritty stuff here – and very much a part of a series. Of course 'modern' fantasy often is part of a trilogy or series as well, but it seems as if these days more of an e ...more
Fantasy Review Barn

Sometimes a generic fantasy yarn is just what you need. I love books that try something new, push the limits of the genre, and make me think. But sometimes a quick little romp is ok too, right? Sure it is, and when in that mood there is nothing wrong with ‘The Thief’s Gamble.’ It hits all the nice fantasy tropes, and doesn’t see any reason to bend them, break them, or subvert them. You got your talented thief with a good heart, benevolent wizards, a mysterious stranger in the
On paper, this book sounds amazing. Headstrong thief character who is really good at her job and is as useful as all the men on the team! Lots of world-building, especially in terms of magic and politics! Two systems of magic at war with one another with modern magic unable to defend against ancient, forgotten magic! A positive homosexual character who is treated like a normal character! A fallen empire shrouded in mystery! An old man that can turn into a waterfall!

In execution, however, this bo
L.R. Braden
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Thief's Gamble is a traditional fantasy adventure with mages, fighters, and rogues. The story is faced-paced, and the characters are well developed, each bringing a unique personality to the party. I love the dynamic between Livak and Shiv (the thief and mage), and I love the way the protagonist's flaws continuously land her in trouble.

As an aside, this is the first book in a series and the subsequent books alternate between Livak's POV and that of Ryshad, the warrior. I like the story and world
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was a long read for me for two reasons, it's a paper book and it had frequent slow parts. I found the magic and the culture to be pretty interesting so I think it's viable for a reread. I own book two so hopefully I'll start that soon.

Oh and a minor note that I'd forgotten to mention in my original write up for this review. There is an LGBT character in this story! I didn't know that going into it but I was pleasantly surprised.
Jenny T
Nov 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2011
A very okay beginning to what may turn out to be an interesting series. In spite of Livak, a fierce, independent thief heroine and a cast of quirky wizard-types, something didn't click with me.

The fantasy world has a well-developed history, but the author's writing is so bogged down by her insistence on telling us all about it in DETAIL when what we really need is character development. As it is, the relationships between the characters seem to come out of nowhere.

I like the premise a LOT, and t
Aliki Ekaterini  Chapple
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed an epic fantasy as much as this. Complex world, nicely drawn characters, exciting plot. It was her first published novel, and I’m along for the whole series now.
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable adventure where nothing turned out as predictably as I thought it would, which was a refreshing change.
Aug 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: dropped-series
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K.C. Rivers
Jun 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
Ergh, yet another low-star rating. I hate giving those. I tried to like this book, I really did, but it just fell flat for me in too many ways. I confess, this is in my very small "did-not-finish" category, but I’m counting it anyway because I was 5/6 of the way through the darn thing before I finally gave up.

What kept me going at first were the wizards. (Though the whole tagline about betting against a wizard had nothing whatsoever to do with this book. Quite misleading, in my opinion.) Livek
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
In general -- I thought this was a great book and I enjoyed it. I found the plot sufficiently engrossing and the characters likable.

1. The story was interesting enough for me to look forward to reading it each day, which is a huge point in favor of a book :)

2. I picked this book because the comments have said that this was more of a 'traditional' fantasy. People keep talking about 'fantasy cliches' and how nice it is to have something new and wonderful. I totally disagree -- I think it WA
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
This book was really good. It was a very good high fantasy story with an unconventional strong female main character. I look forward to reading more from this author. :D
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This book primarily follows Livak, a thief whose skills include cat burglary, cheating at games of chance, and some fancy knife and dart work. She is the descendent of a mysterious forest people on her father’s side but has had no contact with that culture. Livak meets up with delegation of wizards/scholars and through some plot gymnastics ends up working with them to recover artifacts of another culture that appear to be imbued with an unknown form of magic. Of course it does not turn out to be ...more
Abrianna Leaming
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m going to make one point clear – McKenna’s writing style made it hard for me to get immersed in this book. Her jumbled descriptions and fondness for run on sentences almost made me put the book down and not finish it.

But then, somehow, her world building and dynamic characters still pulled themselves out of her dense narrative and hooked me in.

Livak is an interesting chaotic (lawful?) protagonist. Her way of viewing the world is something that very few female heroines in the fantasy genre hav
Ginny Jordan
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well I’m going to give this four stars. I’d like to do three and a half because you killed one of my darlings. And I don’t like that.

So the main character is so relatable and you can’t help but to hope the best for her. She goes through a lot and has trauma and adventure in slightly balanced scales.

She has a band of men she works with, and she is t a slut. I’m so glad. Books with one lady. To multiple men usually have a disgusting orgy or a love triangle and this had neither. The girl wasn’t a
Cori Thomas
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, that’s what Livark is learning. Blackmailed she turns thief for a wizard and lands herself in a plot that threatens the existence of the known world.

Livark is a gambler basically a grifter. She is the main character and her story is told in 1st person pov. There are other povs involved that are third person? Which include but are not limited to Casuel a wizard that is so easy to hate. That sorry sycophant. And Planir the Black Archmage.
You also meet Shi
Elspeth Cooper
Hard to believe this was a debut when it was released: assured storytelling, and memorable characters. I loved Livak's voice - I have a feeling she would get along well with Wydrin from Jen Williams' Copper Cat Trilogy (if those two got together, hijinks would definitely ensue!)

The worldbuilding is rich: epigraphs from in-world histories & academic texts between sections give depth and verisimilitude, allowing what is at heart an adventure story to bound along unencumbered. I will definitely be
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Good twist on epic fantasy tropes with likeable characters. Surprising up-front major gay character given publication date (yes even in 1999 that was rare). One star off for the B-plot being much less engaging: focused on two characters who were deeply unlikeable and lacking in agency respectively.

More than good enough to want to read the rest of the series.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, the first of 5 in the series. I found Livak a realistic and likeable character and enjoyed the authors world building. I look forward to exploring it further in the next book in the series.
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I am a bit unsure about how much I appreciated this novel. Let me try. The setting is quite interesting. A world with magic based on the elements and then a magic of the mind, quite terrifying. The part where Livak & Co end up across the ocean is absolutely gripping.

Characters were balanced, diverse and interesting, but somehow haphazard. I think that while I really enjoyed following Livak and her companions, it was harder for me to understand the need for all others.

The alternance of first pe
Andria Potter
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Read this awhile back, but lost the review for it. I do remember really enjoying it, and so will try to re-read it during the year 2019 and re-write the review.
Timo Bremer
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Awesome world building. Ancient traditions, texts, antiques and languages. Geography shaping cultures, institutions and economies. I liked it.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. A fantasy about magicians and thieves and soldiers, but told in an unusual storyline. I will be following up the author and her sequels.
Decoda Muller
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I immediately bought the 4 remaining books in the series after I finished this one. It's a great one.
Feb 23, 2017 added it
Aug 24, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
It's only because I have a weird thing about not giving up on a book before the end that I actually finished this. Where to even start?

There was far too much 'tell' and far too little 'show' through the whole book, which left me completely cold on the characters. I wasn't convinced when the main character apparently fell in love because it was just dropped on the reader out of nowhere. I didn't care if any of them lived or died, which is saying a lot for someone who cries at the drop of a hat an
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book started out mildly interesting, a seeming regular fantasy 'jaunt' as it were. One of a type I particularly like: The Thief. Something rather satisfying about all that sneaking around, breaking into peoples homes. The cons, the chicancy.

Anyways, what this turns into is... well hard to describe, but ultimately it's a fascinating fantasy book that does some excellent worlds building. It has some excellent things to say on history, historical memory and what that means to people. Things w
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Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author living in the Cotswolds, UK. Loving history, myth and other worlds since she first learned to read, she has written fifteen epic fantasy novels, from The Thief’s Gamble which began The Tales of Einarinn in 1999, to Defiant Peaks concluding The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy.

She's currently writing modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the

Other books in the series

The Tales of Einarinn (5 books)
  • The Swordsman's Oath (The Tales of Einarinn #2)
  • The Gambler's Fortune (The Tales of Einarinn, #3)
  • The Warrior's Bond (The Tales of Einarinn #4)
  • The Assassin's Edge (The Tales of Einarinn, #5)

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