If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you might recall that I really enjoyed Douglas Hulick’s debut novel Among Thieves. Well, at long last, the followup to that book is out. It’s every bit as good as the first one.
I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Hulick last year at Lone Star Con (AKA Worldcon). It was at a party that was so crowded and noisy that we literally had to shout at times to make ourselves be heard. I found him to be a very pleasant gentleman and a delight to talk to.
The story opens three months after the close of Among Thieves. Drothe is no longer a Nose (street language for information gatherer). He’s now a Gray Prince. What we would think of as a mafia Don. A Boss of Bosses.
And he’s in trouble.
Prior to the book opening, Drothe was meeting another Gray Prince in a nearby city. The man is killed, and the murder scene makes Drothe look like the killer. Now Drothe needs to clear his name. The real killer quickly puts in an appearance. He has Drothe over a barrel. So to save his life, his organization, and the lives of those he cares about, Drothe travels to the capital city of the Despotate of Djan to look for his Bronze Degan. You know, the one he betrayed in Among Thieves.
Sworn in Steel doesn’t contain as much sword fighting as I remembered in Among Thieves, but there’s still plenty of action and intrigue. I mean there are invisible assassins and djinn and centuries old secrets that people will kill to keep hidden. How cool is that?
Drothe continues to be a complex and fascinating character as he tries to adjust to being at the top of the criminal heap rather than the bottom while trying to make amends for some of the things he’s done.
There are plenty of twists, not all of which I saw coming, plus some loose ends setting up the next book. Oh, and we find out more about Drothe’s night vision. I highly recommend this one.
At this point, I want to address something, and I apologize to Mr. Hulick for using his book to do it. There has been a lot of talk in some circles, and these are usually circles where independently published books are viewed with disdain, about the lack of copy-editing indie books undergo.
Well, books from the big publishing houses can suffer the same problem. I offer up as Exhibit A Sworn in Steel. There were a number of places where a letter or word was missing, none of which were the fault of Mr. Hulick. Most of the time this didn’t have a big effect, but in a couple of places the entire meaning of the sentence was changed. Fortunately, the actual meaning was pretty easy to figure out. (And for the record, my copy isn’t an ARC. I bought it retail. It’s the same copy you’ll have.)
My point here is that books aren’t better because they come from a major imprint. They’re better because they are written by great authors, such as Mr. Hulick.