Tough Traveling is a weekly feature, created and hosted by Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn, in which participants come up with a list of books that follow the fantasy tropes that can be found in Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Each week, Nathan picks a new subject. This week the top is:
Heists/Cons: Smash and grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in fantasy land. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a little bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.
This topic was remarkably easy to do. There seem to be more heist/con stories out there in fantasyland than I expected! I’m also including “thieves” in my choices, individuals who may act alone and not necessarily in a crew.
California Bones by Greg van Eekhout. This awesome urban fantasy series features a magician who not only ingests the bones of other magicians to do magic, but has found himself entangled in the shady dealings of his crime boss uncle. Daniel Blackland and his crew have just been asked to pull off one hell of a heist: stealing one of the most powerful magical objects in the land.
Hexed: the Sisters of Witchdown by Michael Alan Nelson. This book was a total surprise to me, and I loved every second of it. Lucifer is a teen girl who is hired to steal dangerous magical items from bad people, in order to get them off the black market. She should have just kept doing that job, but instead she gets mixed up in a kidnapping case, a very dangerous one.
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey. I’m sensing a theme here…this is another urban fantasy, this time about a human girl who is a skilled pickpocket. Echo survives on the streets by stealing artifacts and selling them on the black market. Yes, today the black market of fantasy is very popular:-D
Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish. And yes, this is also an urban fantasy! Owl is a skilled thief who on occasion works for some dangerous individuals. This time around she’s been hired by Mr. Kurosawa to find a scroll that was supposed to be in the artifact she has already stolen for him. Whoops. Get the job right the first time, girl, or there will be hell to pay!
Premonitions by Jamie Schultz. I had so much fun with this book! Yes, it’s a story about a gang who are hired to steal magical artifacts, but this story has an interesting twist: our main character Karyn needs the money to pay for drugs, a drug that helps her survive her debilitating hallucinations.
Dying is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann. Trent is a thief who works for a dangerous crime boss in Brooklyn, stealing artifacts for his boss to—wait for it—sell on the black market. But Trent has a unique talent, which is why he’s considered an asset in the thievery business: every time he dies, he comes back to life.
So what if selling magical artifacts on the black market is (maybe) an over-done trope? It’s the way each author twists it to their own advantage that makes each of these books so much fun to read. And by the way, the other thing all of these stories have in common is that they’re fun. Urban fantasy + heists = FUN!