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Reviews of 'The Thieves' Guild'

The Thieves' Guild

by Jeff Crook
Crossroads, Volume 2

Reviews of 'The Thieves' Guild'

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Reviewer: Cassandra Jacobs

Rating: Stars

The story follows an elven thief by the name of Cael. A freelance thief, he has skills that far surpasses many in the city of Palanthas. An encounter with several thieves belonging to the guild though, makes him a target for them. Pursued by the thieves, the Knights of Takhisis guarding the city and the mage who he stole from, Cael finds himself surrounded no matter where he goes. He is eventually captured by the guild, which sentences him to death, but the intervention of one of the beautiful guild captain Alynthia saves his life. Instead, they decide to "break him" into the guild, believing that his skills will benefit them.

Now hidden within the guild, Cael has to pass their tests and follow their rules, while still pursued by the Knights. Given some respite from the hunt at least, he finds a sense of fellowship among his team and a grudging respect for the captain. Through them, he learns about loyalty, as he gives of his skills to help them and receives help in return.

An interesting "twist" to the story is Cael's claim of being the child of Tanis Half-Elven. It seems to be more of a claim in order to build up his reputation, but later on in the story, his sudden growth of beard seems to attribute some human in his heritage. Whether he truly is or not is never confirmed.

Overall, this was a good book... adventure, romance, action, intrigue and a mystery, all rolled into one. I found it well done and the plot line was well done. Definitely an entertaining read and worth suggesting.

Review made January 24th, 2003.

Reviewer: Dark One

Rating: Stars

HELL YEAH!!! Let me tell you about my DL "initiation". When I was 13, 2 of my friends were heavily into DL and I was like:" wtf, I don't care" as i was more into Gothic Horror then. But after reading The Lord of The Rings I got more and more into fantasy so it was only logical I read DL. DL books are only available in very few places and I usually rent DL books (among others) from one place. I wanted to start on DL and I got The Rose And The Skull and The Thieves Guild from there. Coincidentally both books were by Jeff Crook and I loved both, especially The Thieves Guild! You see I love these action books about some stealthy character stealing stuff, it simply thrills me. I loved The Legend of Nightfall by Mickey Zucker Reichart and this book is more or less in the same vein, especially when Cael's master thievery met with the cunning and prodigious detective work of a high-ranking Thorn Knight (who was almost all-knowing). This book really rocked I mean I love stories about bounty hunters in a big city. In addition I was greatly intrigued by the underground network of the Thieves Guild. I am a great fan of the Thieves' Guild in Baldur's Gate II and this almost tops it. The action never ceased, never erred, not least during the chases Cael and Co. had to endure. Cael's streetwise astounded me and won me over.

Overall a great book by a great new name in fantasy literature: Jeff Crook. If you're like me and you like chases through streets and sewers of a metropolis, coupled with the thrills of robbing a place, then you will find this book fits like a custom-made glove.

Reviewer: Matt Lynch

Rating: Stars

Let me start off by saying that, compared to The Rose and the Skull, Crook's first novel, and "The Restoration," his short story before that, The Thieves' Guild reads like his master opus. Solid plot conventions, good dialogue, and believable characters are more abundant in this book than in both of his previous efforts combined. That, and the book was a good read. However, as you can likely tell with the above, I had some issues with it, which I will get into at the end. Let us go back and review, first, though.

The book opens with what will be later referred to as the Night of Black Hammers (a cool name to say the least, although it sounds like something out of Pink Floyd's movie version of "The Wall"). Basically, a prominent member of the Palanthas Thieves' Guild sells out to the Knights of Takhisis, though the reasons why are yet unknown to the reader. The Thieves' Guild is obliterated, completely, and its many stolen treasures taken in turn by the Dark Knights... and the traitor. We then timejump (no Timereaver spell required!) to about 40SC, as a thief steals into the home of a wealthy (and therefore powerful) Palanthian merchant. As he is attempting to make his escape (what he was after we still don't know), he encounters members of The Thieves' Guild (yes, it was reformed under new management, with almost militant structures to it), attempting the same burglary. In the scuffle, he manages to lift something off their leader and escapes scot-free. The thief names himself as Cael Ironstaff, and though he is charged with being elven, he denies it. The book truly begins as the Lord Justice of the newly-rechristened Knights of Neraka of Palanthas (a Thorn Knight named Arach Jannon) begins a search for the thief, as does the Guild. Cael manages to elude both for some time, but is eventually captured by The Thieves' Guild, though he does not have the item he stole from them. Due to his skill, a death sentence is rescinded in return for his induction into the Guild and the beginning of his training. The eventual goal will be for he and his Circle to pilfer a potion from the house of one Mistress Jenna of the Red Robes... the same person whom the object Cael stole from the Guild was supposed to be delivered to. Once the game is afoot, the true drama begins to unfold....

Sorry, I have to be cryptic, else there'd be no point in reading the novel. As I like to do, though, let me break into Crook's psyche through the use of major characters. Fortunately (for my fingers), this book only really had 2 main characters with a supporting cast of nearly a couple dozen. Lemme get into the MC's.

Caelthalas Elbernarian/Ironstaff is the protagonist/hero type. A freelance thief at heart, he is forced into the Guild in order to remain alive, and to keep out of the sight of the KoN. He is an elf, but one gets the feeling several times that he is perhaps not pure-blooded. His staff is one of the more intriguing aspects of his characters, as it seems almost a part of him. He claims on several occasions to be the son of Tanis Half-Elven, but it can be believed that he says such a thing because it adds a quality of importance to his name, plus he resembles the late Hero of the Lance (especially later, when he grows a beard during a month in a coma), which gives his story street cred. Beyond all this, Cael is an enigma of a character. Crook obviously has plans to use him later, as he drops several hints about the elf's past that don't get fully explained (almost a Weapon-X/Wolverine kind of idea for Marvel fans). He is, most of the time, a believable character, although Jeff needs to work on emotions as it relates to the progression of love interest and the death of close friends. I.e., when one of his Inner Circle mates is slain during the test for entry into the elite corps of thieves, he reacts with more fury and anger and sadness than he does when he learns of the deaths of two of his oldest friends. As a result, he seems somewhat hollow as a character... prompting me to say that Jeff, while he has improved drastically in conventions, needs to brush up on his character development skills.

The same goes for Alynthia Krath-Mal. Portrayed initially as Cael's enemy, she naturally makes the progression to trusted friend and, obviously, love interest as she spends more and more time with the elf. She is the wife of one of the Guild Captains (and a Captain in her own right) and the one from which Cael first steals from in the merchant's house. Fiercely loyal to the Guild, she is harsh and cruel to the elf for a long time, never giving him an inch, as she is still infuriated that he was able to steal from her and avoid capture for so long. After he is accepted into the Guild and they go on the mission to Jenna's, her feelings drastically change from that of loathing to love for the rogue, though the whys and wherefores are never explained. She develops a love for the elf that borders on adulterous in nature the longer she spends away from the Guild (on the lam due to the ultimately-failed Jenna mission) and with the recovering elf (who is captured by the Knights and tortured briefly (bookwise) before being freed by Alynthia and the gnome Gimzig). When they at last uncover the secret of the Guild's leader Mulciber (portrayed as a mysterious character seen by none but Alynthia's husband Oros), she suddenly remembers her loyalties. In the end, she seems to be more of a friend-who-wants-to-be-more to Cael, but the elf departs, saying he'll be back. Alynthia's early self is very well-done and credible, but when she suddenly becomes friendly with the elf that her credibility level takes a nosedive.

However, I know you're saying I mentioned something about very believable characters. And, indeed, Crook had quite a few. Kolav the minotaur, Gimzig, Kharzog Hammerfell, Arach Jannon, Oros, and a lot of the thieves Cael interacted with had great personalities and I know I could compare quite a few to people I've met. So, overall, the supporting cast was better developed than the main characters. Mistress Jenna, Sir Elstone Kinsaid, and Bertrem the Aesthetic (who should be dead by now, almost 10 years since he and Caramon wrote The Bestiary) all make appearances and Crook utilizes them very well and does not deviate from what we know. The only character I wish had received more airtime was the blue dragon, Kinsaid's mount I guess, who appears briefly near the end. The presence of a dragon is a big deal and should not be glossed over like it was, especially when it kills half of the fish population in the Bay of Branchala.

Now, time for the rest of the complaints. My biggest issue with the book was that it seemed... well, to be blunt, pointless. It did not further any of the major storylines in the 5th Age, and did not really give any insight as to why The Thieves' Guild of Palanthas was worth writing a Crossroads book about. I would have rather set this as a stand-alone, like Tales of Uncle Trapspringer and The Odyssey of Gilthanas, as the Crossroads series was supposed to be about, or so I thought, important events that would influence the outcome/direction of the War of Souls trilogy. It was a solid effort for Crook, but just did not have the feel of an "important" book in the DragonLance series. It was more of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal, with the idea that whichever choice you took wouldn't affect how much you knew about the series. Beyond that, I don't have much to harp on. I will mention that, despite the fact that he is still Dragon Overlord of the Blue Wastes (which Palanthas resides in, by the way), Khellendros was not mentioned nor did the Knights seem particularly concerned with what he wanted. Makes one wonder how much the Blue is doing to run his realm of late. The other thing is that Cael's staff was impossible to figure out. It seemed, at first, like a staff version of a Forgotten Realms Moonblade, but the dragon I mentioned refers to it as one of the ancient "swords of power," and Cael hints that it could be either Wyrmslayer or that sword's sister blade. Either way, it wouldn't work, as Tanis was entombed with (or so we have been told) Wyrmslayer and Dhamon Grimwulf has Wyrmsbane (Redeemer), Wyrmslayer's twin.

The coolest part, above all, though, was when Cael and Alynthia entered the Shoikan Grove and found the pool that is the remainder of the Tower of Palanthas. The scene there and the feel of how terrifying the grove actually is is well done on Jeff's part. The book is worth reading for that one scene alone, even if the semi-romantic interlude between the two thieves therein is completely out-of-character for both.

So, in conclusion, The Thieves' Guild is a decent read and one that I would recommend to anyone who wants to know the innner workings of the group now as well as a lot of good information on the city of Palanthas itself (for those who don't game and therefore didn't buy the supplement), but it is not essential to the series and does not seem to reflect any deeper connection to the War of Souls trilogy it is supposed to be based around. Crook gets an A for his drastic improvement from The Rose and the Skull, though he still needs to work on character development.

Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

The Thieves' Guild looked like it possibly could avoid the many errors of the past. The Guild is a place of darkness and subterfuge, which he handled well in The Restoration. His talent for description and knowledge of Dragonlance could make for a great portrayal of Palanthas.

And the book started well. After the first chapter telling about how the Knights of Takhisis crushed the Thieves' Guild in 34 SC, it provided a unique insight into the life of Palanthas upper class, which earlier has been mentioned only in passing, even in the game product "Palanthas" (unfortunately, it's the Dragonlance curse of non-described areas and cultures rearing its ugly head again). Sad to say, the book never returns to develop the upper class. Anyway, it is intriguing as the reader is to wonder what is going on in the second chapter, who are those thieves and what are they after? The outlines of a mystery story can be discerned here, particularly with the Sherlock Holmes-ish Sir Arach Jannon, the Dark Knight investigating the crime. Unfortunately, all the answers are given at once. It is revealed the thief was Cael and his rivals members of the Thieves' Guild of Palanthas, and what they were after wasn't particularly interesting nor consequential, just a rare plant with magical properties from the Dragon Isles. Cael, an elf, is forced to become a member of the Thieves' Guild, and has to go through deadly tests in order to qualify. The story lags here, there is no goal, and no mystery that we wonder about. Only at the end, when the truth is revealed, did I think to myself "oh, so I was to wonder about the real truth behind the Guild being crushed in 34 SC?" The book wasn't good at building tension and maintaining it.

The descriptions were good, though. Crook knows his Dragonlance, down to the detail of a Knight of Solamnia being executed by his own sword. He has missed the fact that the Solamnic middle name "Uth" is spelled with a large "U", though, and that it's "shalafi", not "shalifi". He paints a relatively vivid picture of Palanthas. But what I found most interesting, of course, given the present situation, was the allusions to War of Souls: Jenna having problems with her magic, the storm at the end of the book and, most intriguing at all, the reflection of the Tower, stars and moons in the pool in Shoikan Grove.

There is some action at the end which was fairly entertaining but overall this is a book that could have been described as "a perfectly OK if forgettable timewaster for Dragonlance fan", but is dragged down to "mediocre" by the annoying nostalgia.

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