Book Review: Thieves at Heart (Valley of Ten Crescents #1) by Tristan J. Tarwater

18751216Title: Thieves at Heart
Author: Tristan J. Tarwater
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Back That Elf Up
Publication Date: September 28th 2011
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Tavera is a half-elf child in a land of humans, an outsider dragged from bad to worse–until Derk whisks her away and adopts her as his own. Tavera soon finds out her new Pa is a master thief, a member of a secret, elite group of professional scoundrels called the Cup of Cream. Outlaws, yes, but they have their pride; thievery is as necessary as any other profession in the Valley of Ten Crescents.
To Derk’s–and her own–delight, Tavera grows into a natural thief and works her way toward membership in the Cup. An invitation would finally give her a place to belong, and it would please the father she loves so much.
But being a thief means being only one step ahead of the law. When the law finally catches up, Tavera must choose: go against her Pa’s wishes for the sake of loyalty and love; or obey him, break her heart and survive.

Tavera, or Tavi as most people call her, is a half-elf in a world of humans. When we first meet her, she is hiding in the shadows of her mother’s luxurious chambers. Her mother, or well, the woman Tavi was sold to, works as a prostitute, and whenever she can, Tavi steals money from the customers. Tavi’s thieving actions catch the attention of an elite thief, Derk “The Lurk”. Derk buys Tavi and introduces her to his lifestyle. While taking care of Tavi, Derk soon grows to be a father figure, and it’s obvious he truly and genuinely cares about Tavi.

The novel starts out strong, and the premise is more than a little intriguing. Unfortunately, that’s when the story falls a little flat. The story lacks a climax. There is no nemesis to fight at the end, no valuable object to steal in the most exciting burglarly of the century, nothing, nada. Tavi steals some things, she has a few moments with Derk, and she spends the rest of the time talking and growing up. I truly enjoy coming of age stories, but here I lacked a certain bit of story. I wanted an epic adventure, or at least an adventure, and this reads more like a memoir. Tavi grows up, meets people, gets her period, and meets some more people. There is no real tension, no real story. This feels like part of a much larger story, but not in a way most first books of a series do. Even though they’re part of a larger story, they do have tension and a climax, both which are lacking in Thieves at Heart. The action does pick up at the end though.

However, I did enjoy the rest of the book as well, although I was a tad bit disappointed there wasn’t more to it. Tristan J. Tarwater creates vibrant, well-rounded characters that could do so much more than what they set out to do in Thieves of Heart. The characters made up for the lack of plot at times. Tavi and Derk were my favorites, but the side characters were intriguing as well, and I loved meeting every single one of them.

The fantasy setting is phenomenal. The world this author has created has everything you’d look for in a fantasy world, and a lot more. The descriptions of the various places Tavi and Derk visit are outstanding as well, and made me feel like I was really there. The setting and characters alone were intriguing enough to keep me reading. The writing itself is solid as well. There were some long, confusing sentences along the way, but nothing that off-putting that it would make me stop reading. I’m known for making long and confusing sentences as well, so I really had no problem with it.

Classifying this book is difficult. It’s obviously fantasy, but I’m not sure if the book is suited for young adults. It’s definitely not suited for younger children, in my opinion, but some young adults could read it properly, at least the older half of the young adult age group. For a debut novel, I do think Thieves at Heart is pretty impressive. The writing is solid, the characters are well-rounded and intriguing, and the setting is just plain awesome. Tristan J. Tarwater is planning to write more books in this fantasy world, and I have to say that’s an excellent choice. I would love to learn more about Tavi and Derk, their world, and some of their adventures. I recommend this books to all fans of fantasy novels, who want to see something different from the epic farmer boy turns into magical hero plot.

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