Book Review: Giant Thief

PrintE-mail Written by Alister Davison

Review: Giant Thief / Written by: David Tallerman / Published by: Angry Robot Books / Release date: 2nd February 2012

I was told at an early age that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, and over the years I’ve also learned that the blurb on the back can be ultimately misleading. Take Giant Thief, for instance, David Tallerman’s first novel published by Angry Robot:

Introducing Easie Damasco – rogue, thief and total charmer.

Here we go again, another loveable rogue, one who will cross swords and press lips with the best of them. A ‘conman’ who has ‘somehow managed to make off… with the warlord’s treasure’. Well, fancy that. Seasoned fantasy readers (or the cynical ones like myself) will have heard this all before, maybe too many times. Another case of same old, same old.

Of course, I had to read Giant Thief – there’d be no review otherwise – and as I did, the feeling grew that the back cover blurb was selling the novel short. As it turns out, Mr Damasco is an entirely likeable guy, one caught up in circumstances beyond his control. He is a victim of his situation and, as the tale progresses, he finds himself trapped and increasingly manipulated. The plot thickens and what could have so easily been cliché is actually a thoroughly enjoyable romp.

When we first meet Easie, he’s about to be executed. It would be a short book if this was a success, but as it’s written in a first person narrative, it’s clear that he will survive. While such a style can be limiting, Giant Thief allows the reader into Damasco’s head; he’s far from a total charmer, more a warm and easy-going genial sort of guy. He’s cocky at times, but by being in his head, we’re allowed to see his human side, and it’s this that makes him ultimately likeable. The story flows around the central character, meaning any surprises are both the reader’s and the narrator’s.

As far as plot goes, Giant Thief is your typical ‘man does wrong, learns the error of his ways and seeks to do good’ redemptive tale, but while it adheres to the tropes, it never falls into cliché. The story flows evenly, is never dull, and has moments of genuine amusement. It’s giving nothing away to say that Damasco steals a stone that controls this world’s giants, and while the ending may feel somewhat inevitable, it’s a story that’s as much about the journey as the destination. Easie does dig his own holes at times, but such occasions are always in keeping with character.

Compared to others, David Tallerman has a light writing style. That’s no criticism – there’s nothing shallow or lacking, and I’d rather words furthered the plot than told me what shape of cup a character is drinking from – but there are a few occasions where more description would not have been amiss. Fortunately this isn’t too much of a problem, as Giant Thief is more about the character than the world-building, and nothing is lost from this. On the flip side, there are moments where the prose is stunning, one stand out moment being when the author describes the city of the giants.

Ah, the giants. At first sight they’re nothing more than lumbering killing machines, but as the main character develops, so too do those around him. Tallerman excels here, imbuing all his creations with their own distinctive personalities, ensuring each is well-developed and their motivations – for trust or betrayal – are consistent with what had been previously revealed.

I’m finding it hard to dislike anything about this book. It’s a fun, entertaining read, everything a good story should be; I found it refreshing and engrossing. In a genre where 700 page door-stoppers are more common than not, Giant Thief weighs in at just over half that, but its comparative shortness ensures that all the fat has been trimmed to ensure a choice cut. There’s nothing overly complicated about the plot, and the first-person narrative keeps the reader in the head of the main character throughout, sharing his mistakes and doubts and genuine surprises.

If you’re tired of huge volumes filled deep with sub-plots and webs of intrigue, then Giant Thief is a worthy alternative. David Tallerman’s first novel is a gripping yarn, one that is difficult to put down once started, and this reviewer is eagerly awaiting the next tale of Easie Damasco.

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