Berren has lived in the city all his life. He has made his way as a thief, paying a little of what he earns to the Fagin like master of their band. But there is a twist to this tale of a thief.
One day Berren goes to watch an execution of three thieves. He watches as the thief-taker takes his reward and decides to try and steal the prize. He fails. The young thief is taken. But the thief-taker spots something in Berren. And the boy reminds him of someone as well. Berren becomes his apprentice. And is introduced to a world of shadows, deceit and corruption behind the streets he thought he knew.
From the author of the hit debut, The Adamantine Palace, this is a fast-moving fantasy narrative in a vividly realised world with an engaging hero living a life fraught with evil. Full of richly observed life in a teeming fantasy city, a hectic progression of fights, flights and fancies and charting the fall of a boy into the dark world of political plotting and murder, this marks the beginning of a new fantasy series for all lovers of fantasy.
Stephen Deas is an electrical engineer working in the aerospace and defence industries. His first novel The Adamantine Palace has sold in a number of countries - it was sold in the US after a fierce auction and was pre-empted in Germany. He lives in the UK.
The Thief-Taker's Apprentice
Author: Stephen Deas
How does it feel to be compared to writers such as Trudi Canavan, Robin Hobb and Hannah Tinti?
Stephen Deas: I'm in the middle of writing an article at the moment about the pros and cons of making comparisons like that. The down-side, I suppose, is that they set up expectations that a new author will almost never meet. We all have our different strengths and passions and none of us like to be judged by some other standard. That said, they can be very flattering, too, and probably quite helpful - I'm sure there's no shortage of author's who'd give their eye teeth to be the next Dan Brown or the next Stephanie Meyer.
Ah, but if I cut to the chase and tell you straight out how it feels without trying to make something more of it, well then it feels pretty damn good. All sort of warm and glowing inside.
What inspires you to write fantasy novels?
Stephen Deas: Can I say laziness? In that, if you make everything up, you don't have to do any research on anything...? But that's not really what really drew me to fantasy, either as a reader or a writer. The world today is so desperately complicated. It's rare to have a clear black and white answer to almost anything when everything is intertwined and tangled together. Fantasy allows an escape from that. I think that's its great appeal.
Where did the idea for The Thief-Taker's Apprentice come from?
Stephen Deas: The spark that kicked it off came from reading Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle back in about 2006. I got a lot from those books, but one thing that caught my eye was the presence of a character who was a thief-taker. That got me interested in the real-world thief-takers, and the idea of a 'authorised' bounty-hunter clearly fitted with the renaissance-ish fantasy settings I was writing about at the time. The first draft of The Thief-Taker's Apprentice was almost an experiment to see what would happen if you took two fantasy archetypes and stuck them together: The traditional coming-of-age story for Berren, and the simmering dark past, dark secrets, hatful-of-bloody-revenge-on-the-agenda that is his master, the thief-taker.
What inspires you to create characters like Berren?
Stephen Deas: In many ways, Berren was an easy and interesting character to write. At the start of the series, he's quite simple. He's skittish, wary, he thinks he knows a lot, but really he doesn't. He doesn't have much by way of grudges or loyalties or plans or chips on his shoulder, he's just looking at what's right in front of him for a way to get by from day to day. The arrival of the thief-taker in his life suddenly opens up whole landscapes of possibilities (not all of them good ones). Over the course of the series, he changes from someone who largely does as he's told and rarely thinks beyond what's right in front of him, to someone who is forced to think and act for himself and to then accept and face the consequences of what he does. It's a journey we all make, from children into adults. It fascinates me and I wanted to go on that journey with him.
Finish this sentence; the best thing about fantasy books is . . .
Stephen Deas: The best thing about fantasy books is that you can be anyone, do anything. There are no constraints, no limitations on what an author can offer and on what a reader can imagine. You can have a flat world in which the clouds are pulled across the sky by winged horses and the sun sings old blues songs in a deep baritone if that's what you want.
Interview by Brooke Hunter