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Thief's Gamble

Thief's Gamble

4.6 9
by Juliet E. McKenna, Little Brown Co.

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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


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 bets are hard to resist. Particularly when they offer a chance to board a ship for Hadrumal, the fabled city of the Archmage. So Livak follows a minor wizard, Shiv, in an attempt to turn a rune or two, never dreaming that the stolen tankard she wants to sell contains the secrets of an ancient magic far more powerful, and infinitely darker, than any mortal mage's spells.

Editorial Reviews

The Archmage needs Livak's skills as a thief to acquire some ancient artifacts that may provide a clue to the fall of the Tormalin empire many eons ago. Livak, a young scholar, a failed mage, and a wizard set out to find the artifacts. Their job is made more difficlult by a band of vicious blond killers who attack them and some of the owners of the ancient pieces. Livak's group is joined by two swordsmen who seek revenge for some of the slain people. They trail the blond men to an island far off on the other side of the ocean, where they are imprisoned by the "Ice Man," a fearsome wizard who uses a different kind of magic, one that controls men with mental communication. After a daring escape and a ferocious battle between the Archmage and the Ice Man, all is calm, but it is clear that the group has not seen the last of the enemy. The language is appropriate for the most part, characterization is adequate, and the setting is rather sketchy because emphasis is on the action. Livak's wry sense of humor is a plus. This First Tale of Einarinn is a pleasant read but not compelling. The rating is for length and complexity of the story line, not for sexual content, and the violence is no greater than in any other book of this type. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 1999, HarperPrism, Ages 16 to Adult, 495p, $6.99 pb. Reviewer: Diane Yates

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Tale of Einarinn Series , #1
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.28(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Taken from:

Wealth and Wisdom
A Gentleman's Guide to
Their Acquisition and Keeping



Most gambling revolves around the runes of the ancient races, their use for divination and other such superstitions having long been discarded in civilized countries. Some games are based purely on randomly drawing a predetermined number of runes; others rely on casting combinations that earn greater or lesser scores. In either instance, cultivating a memory for what has gone before is recommended.

The best place to gamble is with friends, in convivial surroundings accompanied by a good vintage, provided that the stakes and means of redeeming debts have been agreed beforehand. When traveling, many of the better inns in the cities and on the major coach routes will have a permanent gaming table with a resident host. Such games are generally played fair and can run to very high stakes. If you have sufficient skill, you may rise from the table, your purse heavy with coin. However, any debts incurred in such company must be honored instantly if you wish to avoid having your goods and luggage seized in payment.

Do not be beguiled into a casual contest in a city thronged at festival time. Beware the amiable stranger who offers you a friendly game to while away a dull evening in a back-roads tavern. Such men prey on the unwary, turning the game mercilessly to their advantage with weighted runes and sleight of hand. Turned away from hearth and home, disgraced or fugitive, they arelittle better than mercenaries and thieves.

The Packhorse Tavern, on the Col Road
south of Ambafost, Ensaimin,
12th of For-Autumn

SOME OPPORTUNITIES OUGHT TO COME LABELED "TOO GOOD To be true." Of course, ten years of living by my wits should have taught me how to spot them. You would have thought so anyway; so would I.

The night this particular opportunity came to wreak havoc in my life, I was sitting comfortably full of good dinner in front of a roaring fire, and listening to the wind tearing at the snug inn. I was wearing my usual nondescript traveling clothes and, with any luck, the other patrons in the tap-room would have been hard put to decide my age, sex or business. Being unremarkable is a talent I cultivate: middling height, middling build, nothing special -- unless I choose differently. Feet up on a stool and hat over my eyes, I may have looked half-asleep, but mentally I was pacing the room and kicking the furniture. Where was Halice? We had been due to meet here four days ago and this unplanned stay was eating into my funds. It was unlike her to be late for a meet. On the few occasions it had happened before, she had always got a message through. What should I do?

I counted my money again; not that anyone else in the room noticed as I slipped my fingers into the pouch under my shirt and sorted the coin. I carry noble coin on me night and day; I've had to abandon my belongings a few times and being caught out with no money leads to bad experiences. I had thirty Caladhrian Stars, ten Tormalin Crowns and, reassuringly bulky, three Empire Crowns. They were more than enough to give me a stake for the Autumn Fair at Col and I had a heavy pouch of common coin upstairs which would cover my traveling expenses as long as I left in the morning. If I waited any longer, I'd have to pay carriers' coach fare and that would seriously eat into my reserves.

The problem was that I did not want to work the Autumn Fair on my own. Lucrative as it is, it can be a dangerous place and while I can take care of myself nowadays, Halice is still a lot handier than me with her sword and her knives. Working as a pair has other advantages too; when someone feels their luck with the runes is going bad, it's much harder to see why when there are two people adjusting the odds. As an added bonus, people never expect two women to be working the gambling together, even in a big city. I could hook up with other people but Halice is better than most as well as more honest than some.

Of course, the most likely explanation was that Halice was stuck in some lord's lock-up awaiting the local version ofjustice. I cursed out laud, forgetting myself for a moment, but luckily no one seemed to have noticed. There were only three other people in the tap-room and they were deep in conversation with the innkeeper. They were merchants by their dress, this was a well-traveled business route and the chances were they were heading for Col. The filthy weather seemed to be keeping the locals by their own firesides, which was fine by me.

If Halice was in trouble, there was no way I could help her. Identifying myself as her friend would simply land me in shackles too. I frowned. It was hard to believe that Halice would get herself into trouble she could not get clear of. That was one of the main reasons we worked Ensaimin for the most part. Competition for trade guarantees a reassuring lack of inconveniences such as circulating reward notices or cooperative Watch commanders, which make prosy places like Caladhria so inhospitable. Here trouble is seldom so bad it cannot be left behind once you cross a local boundary, and we take care never to outstay our welcome.

So there I was, sitting and fretting and sipping rather good wine, when a very wet horseman strode into the bar and beckoned to mine host.

Meet the Author

Juliet McKenna has been interested in fantasy stories since childhood, from Winnie the Pooh to The Iliad. An abiding fascination with other worlds and their peoples played its part in her subsequently reading Classics at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. After combining bookselling and motherhood for a couple of years, she now fits in her writing around her family and visa versa.She lives with her husband and children in West Oxfordshire, England. The Gambler's Fortune is Juliet Mckenna's third novel, following The Swordsman's Oath and The Thief's Gamble.

Juliet McKenna has been interested in fantasy stories since childhood, from Winnie the Pooh to the Iliad. An abiding fascination with other worlds and their peoples played its part in her subsequently reading Classics at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. She lives with her husband and children in West Oxfordshire, England. The Swordsman's Oath is her second Tale of Einarinn, following The Thief's Gamble.

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Thief's Gamble 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a good one though the plot is difficult and the language a bit bad, but a good main character and much action and adventure. Magical conflict is a plus in this book. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AdrianneM More than 1 year ago
Thief's Gamble is one of my favorite books ever. The characters are well drawn and interesting and not always likable. But they are so well motivated you can see trouble coming long before they can. The plot revolves around a fascinating mystery that keeps you turning pages until way too late.
kelvin_m_knight More than 1 year ago
Serial fantasy does not float everyone's boat, but despite being the First Tale of Einarinn this debut novel has none of the verboseness you find with novelists embarking on a round the world tale. The language is concise, fluent and from the off you get right under the skin of the lead viewpoint character, Livak: a thief and gambler who lives by her wits on the edge of a beautifully sculpted fictitious society based on the finer points from many mythologies. However, with just one viewpoint character it is nigh on impossible to show readers a fantastical story without slipping into the author's viewpoint. The spell is then shattered. Juliet maintains her illusion by having a cast of viewpoint characters, from different regions of Einarinn, who leap off the pages with something interesting and different to show the reader. The use of the closet wizard, Shivvalan Ralsere, is a stroke of genius. But without a credible plot, a crowd of characters, no matter how contrasting, would be boring. There are many sub-plots in The Thief's Gamble: the love affair between Livak and the swordsman Ryshad; the truth about forgotten magic; the threat of more potent spells in another land that is closer than anyone dare believe; the politics of a council of mages who are drifting away from the communities they should support. At its heart, the main plot is simple: woman going on a journey; stranger coming to town, with Livak being motivated by revenge and then financial gain, or so she is manipulated into thinking. Yes, you could say like all fantasies the nub is, yawn, the same old thing: good versus evil. But, like all memorable journeys, there is nothing sleepy or contrived about this one for it entices you to live it, re-live it, again and again. I would dare to disagree with J. V. Jones' front cover comment, this is not a wonderful debut, this is a brilliant debut.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Livak gets revenge on someone by stealing something and when she tries to sell it, she gets pulled into a situation with many twists and turns.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fun read centered around a very strong female character who likes men but doesn't depend on them, in a world where such women are not so unusual. The story is fast-paced, and many times throughout, you'll want to race through to find out what's on the next page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Overall, pretty good. I can't say it'll be one of the most recognizable books, but is any fantasy really? Anyway, the back really doesn't tell you much about the book except for the book as a whole. If's that's confusing, read it yourself. The names are definetly confusing in the first couple of pages for some the characters, but you'll get use to it. I certainly did. The story is focused around a girl that got into a gamble over her head. She then goes on the adventure of a lifetime. Although the book sort of drags, and I mean sort of, it is one of the better books I've read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from the very beginning. It's a refreshing change from all of the other fantasy books I've read recently. It's light, filled with magic, humor and adventure. I would recommend it to any Fantasy fan. I can't wait for the sequel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is extremely good for all readers, even the individuals that are easily bored. It is enthalling and well-written. Even with the wizards and such, Juliet Mckenna told this story in a manner that is completely credible. The contents are enough to make you come back to the book tie and again as you pour through all the books on your shelf.