Wednesday, October 28, 2015

ARC Review: A Talent for Trickery by Alissa Johnson, release date: November 3, 2015

Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon, release date: November 3, 2015
Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository

I really loved the books from Alissa Johnson's debut series (Providence), and I've read 2 out of 3 of her stand-alone stand-alone full-length novels. (I actually have a copy of that last book, and I'm wondering to myself now how I had forgotten to read it. Her last novel was published in 2012, and she released a novella in 2014, so I was delighted to see that she has a new series coming out.

The first book is A Talent for Trickery, and let's take a moment to admire the cover. *points up* I rarely talk about covers, but this one merits a sentence or two about how dramatic the colors are. Such a great cover for a Fall/Winter read. ^_^

Owen is known as The gentleman Thief-taker, and Charlotte is the daughter of the infamous William Walker, a con artist and master thief. They haven't seen each other in years, but Owen seeks out Charlotte because he needs her help in his latest case.

There's a lot of unresolved issues between Charlotte and Owen, whom Charlotte blames for her father's death. I understand Charlotte's anger -- she believes Owen had betrayed her father's trust, and had taken credit for her father's rescue of Lady Strale and her diamonds -- while Owen enjoyed the fame and adoration of society, Charlotte's father was never redeemed in the eyes of society, and she and her siblings left London, and assumed different identities.

What makes this story stand out are the female characters. Charlotte and her sister, Esther, we're both trained by their father and it's fascinating to read about how they can size up a person so astutely. These aren't naive and sheltered ladies, but women who recognized their "unique" talents and abilities to survive.

Between the two, Charlotte is the idealist -- she loves their new life, and has painstakingly maintained the fictional narrative of their past, for the sake of their little brother, Peter. The story they've concocted reveals Charlotte's yearning for normalcy and decency.

Esther is the realist. I really love Esther (and can't wait to read her story). I love how she embraced and accepted herself. She respects and loves Charlotte, which is why she plays along and pretends along with Charlotte, for the sake of their brother. (Esther kicks ass in Chapter 18.)

..."This family became respectable three weeks after my fifteenth birthday. Just like --" she lightly jabbed the tip of the knife into the armrest -- "that, and we were all good children of the God-fearing Mr. Bales, successful tradesman. At fourteen we were criminals and at fifteen we were not. Do you know how much changed for me then?"

"How much?"

"Not a damn thing."
- loc 2794 to 2806

When Owen steps back into their lives, Charlotte doesn't know what to think or feel. On one hand, it's a reminder of a past she has worked so hard to escape all these years, and, on the other hand, it's a chance to resolve things between the two of them.

It's always interesting when two people with a shared past reunite once again, and more interesting if the parting wasn't amicable. There's a lot of anger and a lot of resentment, but there's also a bit of confusion borne of the long-brewing attraction and yearning between the two of them.

If parents had a queen, he mused, she would enter a room like Miss Charlotte Walker-Bales.
- loc 58

And there's also a case that needs to be answered -- and the only clues are messages left at the scene of the crime, all encrypted in Charlotte's late father's very distinctive style. It's fun to read how Charlotte tries to break the code. (On a more personal note, as a fan of journals and planners, I loved how diligently William Walker chronicled his life.) I can't say much more about the mystery, for fear of spoiling it, but the author does a really great job of piecing together the puzzle.

William Walker, Charlotte's father, is such a compelling and curious character -- his daughters at once love, adored, and loathed him. I found his moral ambiguity fascinating, and he seemed like such a clever, and complex person. I wonder if the author will ever do a prequel novel featuring him.

"My father used to say morality was a currency. The very poor sell it off quickly because it is the only thing of value they possess, and the very rich spend it frivolously because they've other commodities with which to replace its value."
- loc 1020

There's a lot to love about this novel -- the characters, the storyline, and everything else just works out and makes A Talent for Trickery a real page-turner from beginning to end.

A Talent for Trickery is the first book in Alissa Johnson's The Thief-Takers series. To find out more about Alissa Johnson and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I received this ARC through Netgalley. Thank you to Alissa Johnson and Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.



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