One of my favourite things about reading is discovering a new genre/subgenre for the first time. It was last summer that I made the conscious decision to read more fantasy fiction and I haven’t looked back, but I do enjoy the occassional crime story (hello Sherlock Holmes). Luckily I have discovered a happy balance: fantasy heist novels. This realisation came after recently finishing Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. I loved it. I enjoyed the unpredictabiliy of the plot and how the impossibility of the job brought tension to the characters and affected their behaviour. It was when I began to write my review in my book journal that I remembered this was why I loved Sanderson’s The Final Empire, another heist story.
Betrayal. Murder. Intrigue. Cunning. Magic. Luck. Stealth. Brutality. Adventure. All fair game in these stories. For me, the dynamic between the diverse characters brought together to achieve the impossible is the most enjoyable. In both books the characters are initially reluctant to work together and that brews all sorts of mistrust, secrets and tension. It makes such a good read! I love not knowing who to trust and that I’m kept guessing if/how they’ll pull their expertise together. I think this was especially well done in Six of Crows through the multiple point of view narrative. You get to learn the character’s backstories through their own eyes and see how that affects their attitude, whilst also seeing them through strangers eyes. It really keeps you second guessing their motives. There is also the outside threat of discovery and/or failure. This further fuels the mistrust in a group as the fear of treachery trumps tentative friendship. Each member becomes more volatile under pressure and thus the conclusion becomes more unpredictable. I really hate reading books where I know what’s going to happen. It bores me. Written well, that’s not the case with heist novels. Even if you feel you can safely assume that the heist will be succesful, you don’t know the hows, the whys and most importantly, the consequences. Done right, it makes for addictive, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, unputdownable reading. Ie the best kind. There is great potential for witty, comedic, clever and tragic characters from all sorts of backgrounds which always makes the story more enjoyable. Not to mention the leader. There’s always a leader. The charismatic one. The clever one. The ruthless one. The possibilities are endless but there is always something different/unique/distinctive about the leader, usually the mastermind, of the heist. Are they being totally honest with the group? Are they hiding their motives? Who knows? That’s the fun.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good mystery but at the moment, and for the forseeable future, a good heist story needs to be in a fantasy setting for me. Fantasy worlds are pure escapism for me. Even the ones heavily set in a medieval Britain full of castles and guards and Kings and Queens. I love it. I love how magic influences events and shows how anything can be possible. I have only read two fantastical heist stories and as you can see, I loved them. I am currently reading The Lies of Locke Lamora which I understand also fits into this subgenre and has been highly recommended by people whose judgement I totally trust so that’s exciting. But if you have any more recommendations I would love to hear about them in the comments! I’d love to read many more.