In debut author Ough’s fantasy adventure, a young thief with a special gift is forced into a dangerous adventure to save his mother, his lover and his homeland.
Despite growing up in the poor part of Palandine, the capital city of the kingdom of Trathlain, Gremlaw had a happy childhood. That is, until his father dies in a work accident, causing his mother to withdraw emotionally and leaving Gremlaw to fend for himself. As the youth becomes a thief, he discovers that he has a special ability. He studies crowds in the markets and trains himself to see the “patterns of people and the spaces that flowed between and around them.” Spotting the “spaces in between” allows him unnatural success in eluding capture. It’s early in his career as a subsistence thief that Gremlaw befriends an orphaned street girl named Huleta, who quickly grabs the growing boy’s attention. But no sooner has a new normalcy been established than Gremlaw is forced into service by Duke Wattiern DeLarouge, a ruthless patriot who’ll do anything to protect Trathlain, including blackmailing Gremlaw. With the lives of his mother and Huleta in the balance, Gremlaw has no choice but to accept the duke’s mission. The neighboring empire of Lavash has a new plot to conquer Trathlain using a drug known as Forever. Addictive at first use, the drug robs people of their wills and leaves them incapable of defeating their new addiction. Though he’s never been beyond the walls of his city, Gremlaw is sent out into Ough’s well-designed world to uncover the details of the plot and discover how the drug is being distributed to the border garrisons that protect Trathlain from invasion. Through many trials, Gremlaw must use his wit and his abilities if he hopes to return home and save the lives of the women he loves. With strong writing and characters to match, from Huleta’s staunch independence to the duke’s ends-justify-means attitude, Ough has penned a remarkable adventure. Though the very end of the second epilogue feels a little too pat, this is a journey worthy of readers’ attention.
Even as a novella, Ough has written a satisfying story that will make readers wish for more stories from this world.