As always with Hilari Bell, the writing's very good, the characters plan and carry out convoluted plans that are fun to read, and the world-building's engaging.
This isn't my favorite of hers, however. The plot feels a little contrived. In order to save his mentor, who has rebelled righteously against the tyrant regent, young Weasel (former pickpocket and hooligan—a lot like Fisk, from the Knight and Rogue Series) decides that the only way he can save his master is to find a Robin Hood type character who might help him. I thought it was a real long shot, and one a street-smart and clever planner like Weasel might not waste time on, so the whole plot felt a little forced. Coincidence also played a bigger role than I like. None of this is a fatal flaw. It's just not her best work.
The characters, though interesting, aren't as unique as some of her others.
The middle drags a bit and the end confused me slightly.
I love the setting, however. It's classed as fantasy, but there's very little fantasy in it. This is a hard genre to find, and I love it. The world has swords AND guns and a very modern legal system, but the old gods play a big role. Very nice world building.
If you're looking to read a good book, "Shield of Stars" by Hilari Bell is a safe bet. If you're looking to read a great book, try her "Fall of a Kingdom."
My rating: 3+
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