Even a school for rogues is, at its core, a school.
“So you run a school for thieves…I mean, rogues,” Colm Candorly asks, early in the novel. He’s speaking to Finn Argos, who’s missing two fingers and bears a scar across his face. “It’s not a school,” Finn tells him, more than once. But Finn lies. Learning to be a dungeoneer means endless lock-picking drills, reading the Rogue’s Encyclopedia, and listening to recitations of rules. The rules turn out to be extremely useful, though, and even funny, like Rule 23: “Be the best there is at what you do and always aware that someone does it better.” The dialogue in the book is often witty, especially when it comes from Finn. He has a long list of terms for meeting your maker, including “paid his debts” and “lost his wager.” “Of course,” he says, “anyone else—a warrior, a wizard, a ranger, you name it—they just die, plain and simple. But we rogues are much too clever for that.” The problem is that for chapters at a time, the book is nothing but clever talk. Colm spends some of his time as an apprentice rogue escaping from deathtraps, fighting orcs, and being attacked by a giant scorpion; the battles and heists—when they finally come—are satisfying and occasionally shocking.
Readers may well feel that the wait in between battles and heists feels a little too much like school. (Fantasy. 8-12)