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Book Review and Interview: The Thief and the Historian by Brendan Corbett

The Thief and the Historian by Brendan Corbett

Get ready for a heart-pounding adventure in the world of the Known Lands, where history is about to be rewritten in The Thief and the Historian, the first book in the gripping Runetree Chronicles series!

Aeda, a gifted Thief, is confined to the coastal city of Biersport, where she is a member of the elusive Grey Society. Bound by their commands, Aeda is reluctant to continue her life of crime but knows no other way to survive.

One fateful day, Aeda is tasked with stealing from the Historian Gieral, a member of the legendary order responsible for chronicling all of history. But when their paths cross, Aeda’s life takes an unexpected turn. She is suddenly torn from the only life she has ever known and thrust into a new world filled with strange creatures and ancient mysteries.

As Aeda struggles to find her place, she is pulled into the mystery of missing Historians. Along the way, she will traverse perilous landscapes, encounter terrifying beasts, and be forced to rethink her own purpose in life.

Will Aeda be able to rise above her circumstances and find her place in the world? Join her epic quest in The Thief and the Historian, a spellbinding tale of adventure, belonging, and the power of history. Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Garth Nix, this young adult fantasy will leave you breathless and begging for more!

The Thief and the Historian Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was compensated with a small amount for my time and effort in reading the book and writing this review. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and are based on my honest personal experience reading the book. Nor did the publisher in any way shape or form ever pressure me to give a positive review.

The Thief and the Historian transports us to the enthralling realm of the Known Lands, where Aeda, a talented thief and member of the shadowy Grey Society, must live under their orders. When Aeda is tasked with robbing Gieral, the historian in charge of recording all of history, her fate takes a drastically different course.

Aeda is sent into an unknown world full of strange monsters and archaic mysteries after this encounter. She is forced to confront her new reality and become engaged in the mystery of the missing Historians. This leads her across dangerous terrain, up-close experiences with fearsome creatures, and deep introspection about the meaning of her life.

To see if Aeda can rise above her surroundings and forge her own identity in a dangerous world, The Thief and the Historian unfolds as a thrilling adventure perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Garth Nix. It promises to be a captivating trip that resonates with themes of belonging and the transformational power of history.

The Thief and the Historian really nailed it with its imagery and descriptions, which I’m super pleased about, especially considering its genre as a fantasy adventure. It genuinely brought the worldbuilding to life, making me feel like I stepped into a whole new realm. It’s fantastic when a book can do that, and I’m really impressed with how vivid and immersive the writing was.

The worldbuilding shone not just because of the captivating visuals though. The systems in place were also very well done, and the overall structure felt like a cohesive puzzle that fits seamlessly together. This thoughtful design significantly enhanced my immersion in the story.

Despite its shorter length, I initially had concerns about whether the book could effectively handle the multitude of upcoming events. However, as I reached the end, those worries were pleasantly dispelled. The conclusion was well-crafted, leaving no noticeable plot holes, and the pacing struck a perfect balance between not too fast and not too slow. The brevity of the book did not compromise the delivery of a satisfying and well-rounded narrative.

I also found the overall tone of the story to lean towards the lighthearted side, especially when compared to some of the more intense fantasy adventures I’ve delved into. This choice in tone contributed to making the narrative feel less dense and more digestible, creating an easier reading experience. I would recommend The Thief and the Historian for those seeking an enjoyable and captivating story without the weight of excessive stress that can arise from a book with too heavy themes and storylines. Not implying the worldbuilding or plot is oversimplified by any means, I just personally feel like it’s a perfect choice for anyone simply looking to immerse themselves in a fun and engaging tale.

Being a woman, I particularly appreciated the portrayal of the female characters in this book, especially the female protagonists. These characters felt authentic, with their experiences and journeys written in a way that was both genuine and immersive. Aeda’s character development, as she becomes more and more confident and ultimately embracing her role as an Apprentice Historian, provides a deeply satisfying narrative arc. I found myself genuinely invested in her story throughout, enjoying the nuanced and well-crafted depiction of her growth and achievements. The author’s ability to create such compelling and relatable female characters significantly enriched my reading experience.

While I know this is a continuing series, this novel stands solid on its own as a complete and compelling independent story. I think because of this, The Thief and the Historian is a fantastic introduction since it doesn’t pressure or stress the reader to continue the series to gain closure. But instead promises more to offer with its current polished product to get the reader to continue the series.

Its robust narrative arc, captivating beginning, well-paced build-up to the climax, and ultimately satisfying conclusion make it a standout read. The author’s ability to craft an engaging standalone narrative is commendable, and I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those seeking a thoroughly enjoyable and well-rounded story.

If you liked this review and want to see other book reviews like this one, check out my book reviews collection!

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The Thief and the Historian Interview with Brendan Corbett!

The Known Lands in the book are filled with beasts and magic. How did you approach building the fantastical elements of the world in your writing?

Worldbuilding is one of my favorite parts of writing. I really try to embrace my inner child and imagine things freely; inspiration can be found everywhere! Whether I’m hiking and looking at moss, gardening with my hands in the dirt, browsing concept artist work online, seeing random people at the grocery store, anything can serve as inspiration.

To keep this world believable, I also relied on a set of rules. For example, runewriting is accessible to everyone with the time and resources, there is a material cost, there is a place in the economy, yet also has reasons for not being used by everyone. Similarly, the management of history is a balance between Historians and Librarians with neither having the full ‘keys to history’ if you will. I set rules for these groups before refining characters so their personalities can be distinct while still fitting.

Ultimately, it’s a balance of ideas, the little details that add life and vibrancy to the world, with rules that ensure the world fundamentally makes sense.

What inspired you to create the order of the Historians, and their counterparts the Librarians, in The Thief and the Historian?

I think it’s easy to under-appreciate the importance of history. I say this knowing that as a teen I had very little interest in history. Yet today, it’s clear so many issues lie in a lack of awareness or understanding of history, a disinterest in learning from the painful lessons of the past.

There are also two major areas of history I wanted to touch on. First, societal history shapes the world we live in. Second, individual history, a person’s background, has an incredible impact on just about every aspect of a person. Intergenerational trauma is a fascinating subject that sheds light on just how family history can impact a person today.

I wanted to dive into that, creating a world where history and the people associated with it are revered – if not seen as an active part of the world. This is my way of imitating a bit of what we see today, where history is understood to be important, yet we allow ourselves to frequently exist separate from it.

Aeda is a strong female protagonist. Can you share more about her as a character, and the importance of representation in young adult literature?

I love outcast stories. It’s a familiar place for me. Being biracial, autistic, and constantly moving as a kid meant there was very little stability and fitting in was a challenge. I also didn’t get to see many people like me on TV or in film. My background directly influenced my desire to write about belonging. I believe we all need belonging to grow and thrive. This isn’t a new concept either; if you look at the Circle of Courage model, which is based on Native American principles for positive youth development, you’ll see a focus on belonging being the root of growth.

Aeda’s personality and background was developed to emphasize the importance of belonging and also drive storytelling. A headstrong, brash young person exploring a new world invites conflict and creates situations that can be humorous and serious alike. I also wanted to showcase that this outward strength is often a skill of self-preservation. Aeda is this way because it is how she keeps herself safe. She might seem strong but in reality she’s vulnerable, and I wanted to highlight that – not only that vulnerability exists, but it’s ok too.

Combining these pieces, the story of Aeda is ultimately about taking a person who – minor spoiler alert – finally finds belonging and thrives. This serves to demonstrate how everyone, regardless of their background or where they are from or their identity, has purpose and, especially when belonging is found, is capable of doing amazing things.

How did you come up with the magic system in the book?

One of my favorite parts of any fantasy work is the magic. For the Runetree Chronicles, I wanted a magic system that felt grounded. To best align with the world, I started by setting rules for magic.

The first rule is setting a power limit. I didn’t want a single spell to completely turn the tide of battle. Having to write out runes takes time and focus. The second rule was to have a cost. This is where essence comes in. They are potentially expensive to create and require skill. The third rule was to be accessible. This simply means that anyone has equal ability to learn, given they have access to the resources needed to learn. You can work for it and become good. The final rule was having reasons that not everyone uses magic, which is encapsulated in the second and third rules – there is a cost and it takes time, and not everyone has that luxury. This is an intentional commentary on modern society, where many activities that supposedly are open to all have barriers in the form of time and money.

With those rules, I wanted an elemental focused magic, hence the varieties of essence. Add in a few mechanical pieces like writing and storage for the essence, and the system came together as we see it.

The book is categorized as young adult fiction. How did you approach writing for a young adult audience and what themes do you hope resonate with readers of this age group? What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I’m extremely fortunate in that my parents were always open to getting more books. Reading was always a part of my life, but young adulthood was by far the time where books were most important. We moved from Okinawa back to the US when I was in middle school, and the transition was challenging with no friends and very few Asian Americans in my school.

Through books I was able to find belonging, because in books there is a place for everyone. This is a core value I hope resonates in The Thief and the Historian – that everyone has a right to exist and belong. That we have a right to be happy and free of judgement for who we are and things we can’t control. Sometimes our journey to finding that place of belonging can be a bit rocky, but it exists. Further, everyone has value and worth, no matter how little we might think of ourselves at times.

The final piece is providing an avenue for escape. I believe that sometimes we just need to run away to a place of fantasy, escape the pressures and stress of reality, especially youth today who are faced with challenges like no generation before. I hope this book can also simply be a fun and exciting place to retreat to.

Why is food so prevalent in your writing?

There are a few reasons! One of the most profoundly impactful books I’ve ever read was Redwall by Brian Jacques. His descriptions of food reeled me in, created a sense of existence I didn’t know was possible. When I finally read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I again found food a critical part of the world. It’s one of the tools authors have to express and share a place. How people forage, farm, or hunt, how they prepare their food, the manner in which they eat, it all serves to better describe a society.

Much the way music is touted as the universal language, in my view food is an intensely powerful descriptor of culture. You can find examples of this all over the world, from fiery and intense Korean food, to ocean-centric food from island nations, food gives a unique window into cultures.

Adding to this, cooking is a special interest and hobby of mine, and it’s uniquely satisfying to express my love of food through writing.

The Thief and the Historian is the first book in the Runetree Chronicles series. Can you give us a glimpse into what readers can expect in future installments of the series?

I’m happy to share that the second book is nearly complete, and the third and fourth books in the series are ready to go. Spoilers here – you can expect to see Aeda continue to grow in her newfound role, her dynamic with Gieral as a mentor broaden, and more investigation of the missing Historians. While this first book is focused on belonging, you’ll see more on agency, purpose, independence, and leadership in the coming books.

About the Author of The Thief and the Historian

Brendan Corbett appears to have done it all. From growing up in a military family and moving over a dozen times to careers spanning from job shop operator to nonprofit director. Corbett seems to embody the idea of “been there; done that.”
Recently, he added a new title to his impressive resumé, author. Corbett is the author of a new young adult fantasy piece called, The Thief and the Historian, the first in a series of the Runetree Chronicles. The book follows a young and upcoming Thief, Aeda. Skilled in her craft yet confined to the small coastal town of Biersport, her newest task is to steal from a Historian, a member of a legendary order of chroniclers. However, things don’t go as planned, and Aeda soon finds herself on a quest that may change history as the world understands it.
“I wanted to write a book that resonates with young adults, exploring themes of escape, belonging, and finding purpose in a thrilling and fantastical journey,” said Corbett.
The Thief and the Historian is a captivating blend of fast-paced action, rich world-building, and well-drawn characters that will leave readers on the edge of their seats, eagerly turning pages to uncover the next twist in the plot.
Corbett is available for interviews and discussions about The Thief and the Historian and the upcoming Runetree Chronicles. Contact him via email for review copies and visit his website for additional information.
Zamiz Press

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