Monday 18 November 2013

Giant Thief ... Closing Thoughs

Ever since I read a piece by Aliette de Bodard analyzing what she felt she got wrong and right in her "Obsidian and Blood" trilogy*, I knew I wanted to do something similar.  In fact, let's be honest, I knew I wanted to shamelessly rip it off.  So now that the Tales of Damasco are complete and out to buy, and now that I've had time for all the emotional dust to settle, here are my thoughts on where I messed up and where I can conceivably claim to have nailed it in my first novel Giant Thief.

Let's get the bad out of the way first, because then I get to finish with all the good stuff:


  • There are a couple of overly slow chapters in Giant Thief, a couple of places were the plot doesn't move on as swiftly as it should, and in general the pacing is a bit off.  It was bad planning, basically, and I think it's the one area in which Crown Thief and Prince Thief are unquestionably better books.  That said, I do like how damn fast the thing moves, how little it lets get in its way, how blindly determined I was to throw in action at every opportunity.  I'm glad, on the whole, that I wrote a fast paced, action-packed first novel with a couple of slow patches than the other way round.
  • I overestimated the tolerance readers would have for an obnoxious protagonist.  I wanted Easie Damasco to be unconventional, and the convention I had my eye on was the lovable rogue.  Rogues, in my experience, are anything but lovable, and I wanted to write a thief who was every bit as despicable, immoral and self-centered as a real life thief would be.  But while I still feel that that was a worthy intention, I see now that I should have leavened all those flaws with a few more virtues, so as to make Damasco slightly more pleasant company (although, see the successes for more thoughts on this.)
  • I should have found a way to get more of my villain Moaradrid's back-story and motivation into Giant Thief.  I knew it, bits of it were implied, and it almost all gets told in Crown Thief and Prince Thief, but that isn't good enough, and it weakened an otherwise strong character.  I like Moaradrid, I think he's an interesting portrait of how good motives can be warped in a moral vacuum and he gets some cracking lines, but I can see how his apparent lack of character logic frustrated a few people.


  • I'm proud of my core cast.  One or two reviews suggested that they're mostly archetypes, and that's not entirely unfair - there's the witty thief, the harsh-but-fair guard captain, the kind-hearted monster, amongst others - but I think that misses the point of what I tried to do with those archetypes.  Every character, even the ostensibly heroic ones like Estrada and Alvantes, have deep flaws, and it's those flaws more than their virtues that define where they go after the first book.  But of everyone, I'm proudest of Castilio Mounteban, a man who does something irredeemable in Giant Thief and then spends Crown Thief and Prince Thief striving to be redeemed anyway, mostly in the worst possible ways and all in the name of love, albeit a deeply warped interpretation of it.  To me, that's one hell of a character arc.
  • Following on from that, and perhaps a slight cheat since it doesn't really come to the foreground until Crown Thief, but I like the degree of moral complexity in the Tales, and all the more so because I was writing in a genre that isn't particularly known for moral complexity.  Plenty of people do awful things, and few more so that Easie Damasco himself, but nobody once does anything that they can't justify to their self, (except the once, and I just covered that, above.)  Perhaps more interestingly, characters frequently try to do right and end up doing considerable harm, and no good deed goes unpunished.  It's not easy to do the right thing in real life, so why should it be in fiction?
  • I'm glad that I didn't write about white men running around a thinly veiled misinterpretation of medieval Europe.  We've had that book too many damn times, and I sleep a little easier at night for knowing that, whatever else I got wrong, I didn't add to the Tower of Tolkien.  By Prince Thief, I have an almost entirely non-white cast** and two well-rounded female characters who get to do things like run towns and entire countries without, necessarily, being Strong with a capital 'S'.  None of that necessarily makes it a good book, of course, and I feel a little bad even bringing it up because in a perfect world the art we create would represent the diversity of our species and we wouldn't even have to talk about it ... but, this world not being that one, I'm glad that I get to be one of the tiny handful of authors in 2013 (perhaps the only?) with a black and an Hispanic protagonist sharing their cover.
So those are my thoughts, anyway.  If you strongly disagree, with the good points or the bad or both, then I've love to hear about it.

* Which I now can't find for the life of me.  Anyone remember where it was published?
** The arguable exception being the giants, who are sort of grey.


  1. "no good deed goes unpunished" - In other words, unintended consequences, or to put it another way, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.. That was one of the things I liked about the books. There were consequences to just about every choice from the very beginning.

  2. Thanks Keith, that's certainly what I was going for.

  3. Aliette's? You... =chuckles= AR.

    Trick question, was it?