Received: Publisher (DAW Books)
Date of Publication: March 2017
Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, The Holver Alley Crew is the first novel of Maresca’s third interconnected series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine-- The Streets of Maradaine.
The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax's service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life. Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.
With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land. Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti's crumbling sanity, the brothers lead their crew of amateurs and washouts to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.
I don't read very many books involving a ragtag band of thieves and elaborate heists. Usually this scenario falls more under the contemporary spectrum -- which is not a genre that I enjoy reading. However, when you add a bit of fantasy into the mix - you've got my attention.
I did not realize that this series is one of three written by Maresca, all of which take place within the same universe. From what I've heard, though, they don't have to be read in any particular order, so it was perfectly okay for me to begin with this third series - The Streets of Maradine. I have to say that I was hooked from the first chapter and because of the relationship that Asti and Verci possess. However, before I get into the whole brother relationship, I want to take a moment to appreciate the fact that Maresca is entirely capable of constructing a whole world with unique countries, peoples, customs, and magic without making things overly complicated. I would not call this a high fantasy series, and I was extremely happy with the fact that I could easily follow, for a lack of a better term, the ways of this world.
Maresca also included a wonderful diverse range of characters (both in terms of ethnicity, personality, and skill):
- Asti and Verci Rynax: Two young men and brothers who have left behind their life of crime and attempt to use their skills for the greater good. However, they are slowly pulled back into their old ways when Holver Alley is set aflame and they lose their entire livelihoods.
- Helene and Julien: Cousins who have been blacklisted in the underground crime community for Helene's temper and argumentative personality. However, Helene possesses excellent marksman skills with a bow, and Julien is well-known for his brawn, rather than his brains.
- Kennith: Inventor of some very interesting carriages and the driver of the getaway vehicle.
- Almer Cort: The quirky chemist and all around mad scientist.
- Mila: A teenage girl whose street smarts and talent make her the perfect scout for all missions.
Honestly, I was drawn to this book via the official summary's mention of two brothers, particularly Asti and his "crumbling sanity." For some reason I just love stories that are capable of bringing to life a heartfelt relationship resulting from familial bonds. Asti and Verci have a great chemistry between them. Their banter is hilarious and their strengths and weaknesses offset one another -- making them the perfect team. I also appreciate the fact that they were both intelligent in their own right, rather than one brother solely being the brains of the operation. Asti is a great tactician and his previous occupation as a spy also brings quite a few more talents to the table. On the other hand, Verci is extremely gifted with inventing all sorts of amazing devices. Also, I love the fact that they often address one another as "brother." Consequently, I was constantly reminded of my love for anime and how boys and girls often address their male siblings as "brother" instead of their given name.
I love to read stories involving broken characters, too. For some reason, I find it interesting to view a world through their eyes and witness the challenges they must face. Asti was betrayed and captured by the enemy when he was a spy. During his incarceration, he was subjected to unimaginable torment, especially mentally. In the end, this resulted in Asti developing blackouts when he becomes extremely enraged. He describes it as releasing the chains of a beast and allowing the red to take over. However, he never remembers what happens during these episodes, and only awakens to dead bodies and bloody hands. This side of Asti was intriguing and had good development throughout the novel. You are left hanging a bit when more information is discovered about how Asti escaped imprisonment after he had let the beast's chain loose, and I hope that the next book explores this mysterious aspect of him further.
Overall, I found the story to be intriguing and entertaining. One might think that reading about tactics and plans to pull off a large heist to get a bit tedious and boring as the story progresses. However, I did not feel bored in the slightest, and I was fascinated by the technical aspects of the Rynax brothers' plans. Maresca knows how to keep a reader's attention, and he crafted the conclusion in such a manner that the plot was leading up to a far more sinister plot. Thus, I will definitely be picking up the next volume when it comes out!
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