Today, I’ll be reviewing The Joy Thief, by A.M. Rycroft. This is the third book in her Cathell series, but chronologically it follows directly from the first book, Into The Darkness (which I reviewed here), so it isn’t necessary to read the second book to understand what is going on. Here’s the cover and blurb:
It’s hunting Eben’s children.
Aeryn Ravane and the young thief Theo Weldon barely survived The Harbinger’s reign of terror. They travel north to escape from their dark memories, but darkness enters their lives again in the city of Eben. A malevolent force is feeding on the minds of children. It’s not long before it finds Theo.
Aeryn’s desperate search for answers leads her to a dark legend about an insatiable creature that no one believes is real. But is it truly just a myth? Aeryn races to find out the truth before Theo’s nightmares swallow her forever.
|Character and Dialogue||18 points|
|Setting and Description||19 points|
|Plot and Creativity||13 points|
|Technical Ability||20 points|
|Cover and Blurb||17 points|
- Much more likeable main character this time around.
- Not much detail about character appearance, but very good description of settings and events, as well as fast-paced action sequences.
- Not the most original plot, and definite predictability issues
- Near-perfect technical ability, very nicely done.
- Cover is well done, but doesn’t entirely fit the story. Blurb has a nice hook and draws the reader in without extraneous details.
Keep reading for the detailed review below.
Character and Dialogue: 18 points
Aeryn and Theo return as the main characters in this book, and it’s clear right from the start that their adventures and misfortunes in the first book of the series have left some lingering effects on the two of them. On the one hand, they are closer than ever. One the other, both Aeryn and Theo seem to be conflicted over what exactly they want from each other. Theo, a ten-year old girl who grew up on the streets, claims she doesn’t need another mother, but obviously looks to Aeryn for protection and care. Aeryn, by the same token, has willingly taken on the role of Theo’s guardian, but repeatedly reminds herself that she’s not the child’s mother. This leads to some slightly unrealistic situations where Theo wants to go off and do something dangerous or foolish, and Aeryn fails to stop her since she’s busy thinking ‘She’s not my child’.
It’s worth noting that Aeryn’s personality has undergone significant growth since the first book. She’s more human and less wooden. She’s also considerably more likeable, aside from several terrible judgement calls. I’m impressed by how much better of a job the author has done in presenting the reader with a genuine-seeming person as the main character.
That being said, when it comes to the antagonist for The Joy Thief, I have to admit to feeling more than a little let down. The Harbinger—the villain of the first book in the series, if you’ll recall—was an absolutely terrifying and well-conceived baddie. I can’t say the same about The Joy Thief’s antagonist. There’s a blandness and an honestly rather petty motivation at work here. I’m not going to give away any details, so I’ll just say that I’ve seen this before in other books.
Setting and Description: 19 points
Rycroft’s descriptions are even better in this book than in the last one, which was already pretty good. It’s good to see that she’s continuing to improve. I could clearly see the city of Eben—where most of the story takes place—in my mind as I read. The people are dynamic, colorful, and clearly distinct from other cities we’ve seen in this series. There’s a little bit when Aeryn and Theo go to the docks for the first time, and Theo is both fascinated by the ships and disgusted by the idea of people fishing with a hook and a line that really stands out in my memory for both description and character-building.
It’s a good thing that the descriptions and setting in the book are so well done, though, because this book is much slower than the first one. Almost half of the book passes before any sort of action takes place. I’m not saying that every book should be non-stop fighting, but I found this one to be more than a little slow. Especially considering the faster pace of the first book.
Luckily, when there is a fight going on, it’s very nicely presented. I had no trouble following the flow of Rycroft’s battles, and even found myself reading faster as I anticipated the outcome of the fights.
Plot and Creativity: 13 points
As I mentioned in the character section, the main story of The Joy Thief isn’t as original as I would have liked. I’ve read too many books where the bad guy acts, reacts, and is motivated by basically the same issues as this one.
There was also a problem of predictability in this book. The antagonist is introduced in the third chapter, 10% of the way through the book, and from that single chapter, I knew basically everything that would follow for the entire rest of the story. Even though half the book is spent with the characters trying to figure out what was going on, there was no mystery at all for me as the reader.
Technical Ability: 20 points
In terms of writing proficiency, this book is definitely superior to the first one. Rycroft’s sentences and paragraphs flow smoothly, and fit together nicely. I didn’t catch any typos or misused words.
While the point of view continues to switch between Aeryn, Theo, and the antagonist, there weren’t any jarring changes this time that left me wondering whose head I was in. Part of it might certainly be that the first book prepared me for the changes, but I also feel that the switches happened in much more logical and obvious places in this book.
There’s been a significant and noticeable amount of growth in Rycroft’s writing between this book and Into The Darkness and I want to be sure to call attention to it. The more a writer writes, the better they are going to get at writing, and it clearly shows here.
Cover and Blurb: 17 points
The cover of The Joy Thief is a bit of mixed bag this time. It keeps the sword bisecting the letter ‘O’ that the first book used, which I like, because it’s clearly indicative of Aeryn and her sword. The background, too, matches the first book closely, which is usually a good thing when it comes to keeping a series consistent. The crow or raven, though, bothers me. It doesn’t have anything to do with the story. For Into The Darkness, the two main elements on the cover directly related to what would go in the book. In this one, however, there aren’t any important events relating to a large black bird. It feels like this was just added to give the cover a ‘dark’ or ‘ominous’ feeling, which, to be fair, it does do. I would have liked it to be relevant to the story, though.
The blurb for The Joy Thief does a nice job of hinting at what the book will be about. It’s tight and it’s got some suspense to it. It’s focused directly on the two main characters and doesn’t give away more than it should. At the same time, it also tells the reader very clearly what kind of book this is going to be—there shouldn’t be any confusion about whether or not you would like this book based on the blurb.
Overall score: 87 points. Despite some issues, this book is very well-written, and the story of Aeryn and Theo continues to be interesting and entertaining. If you read Into The Darkness and liked it, you should definitely read The Joy Thief.
Find A.M. Rycroft and her books here:
Thanks for taking the time to check out this review, and I hope you enjoyed it. Remember: Read or Die!