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The Facefaker's Game by Chandler J.…
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The Facefaker's Game

by Chandler J. Birch

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As soon as I heard the words “fantasy heist,” I knew I wanted to read The Facefaker’s Game.

Ashes is an orphan scrapping a living in Burroughside, the poorest and most crime ridden area of the giant Victorian-esque city of Teranis. Then by coincidence he comes to the attention of Candlestick Jack: a master thief and Artificer, a magician who manipulates light to craft illusions. He offers Ashes a chance to be his student, but he wants his help with a grand scheme.

World building is one of the elements that keeps drawing me back to fantasy books. I love imaginative, mysterious, spectacular worlds. Teranis was a fairly familiar type – a large city reminiscent of London during the Victorian era – but it was well described. There’s clearly more going on than has currently been revealed. For instance, who are the “rasa,” the amnesiac children who’s sudden appearances are accepted and not questioned? What is up with that? I desperately want to know more. What about those creepy monsters that only come out at night? Where do they come from? There’s also mentions of witches, although we’ve gotten tantalizingly few glimpses of what their abilities are. I also enjoyed the magic based on illusion, even though I could never grasp the difference between Stitching and Weaving (yes, I know it was explained multiple times!). I feel like there’s still plenty to be uncovered there as well.

Teranis has a strict class system, which Ashes is at the bottom of. Chandler expertly conveys the dark, gloom and grit of Burroughside, although I don’t think I would go so far as to call the novel grimdark. For some reason, it does slightly remind me of Mistborn, but not in a bad way. The writing overall is pretty impressive for a debut novel. Reading it I would never have guessed it was a debut.

Although the city itself has plenty of oddities, I don’t feel like The Facefaker’s Game was offering anything particularly new. For instance, Ashes was clearly a character in the Artful Dodger mold, but that didn’t make him any less fun to read about. So while it may not be breathtakingly original, it is well executed and still fun. It doesn’t hurt that the book fits fairly well into the Venn diagram of Things Sarah Likes to Read About. Intriguingly magical world? Check! Heist elements? Check! Lovable rogue? Check! It was actually a little less heist focused than I had anticipated, but it still helped meet my love for that story type. Oh, it was also decent on female characters. It’s not a book I would recommend specifically for that, but I never felt aggravated by their treatment or anything.

At times The Facefaker’s Game felt like more questions than answers. If this was intended to make me read the sequel, it worked! I am 100% certain that I will be reading the next book whenever it is released. I would recommend The Facefaker’s Game to anyone looking for a fantasy book with a roguish protagonist.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Feb 1, 2017 |
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2016/11/01/review-the-facefakers-game-by-chandler...

The Facefaker’s Game is an entertaining coming of age story that features a number of familiar, but quite likable, tropes. I want to stress that it’s not a negative to contain tropes. I firmly believe these are traits that are so common because they can be quite enjoyable, which is the case within The Facefaker’s Game. The book has enough originality within it’s magic and characters to make the old familiar feel fresh and fun.

It feature a 14 year old boy, with no family, trying make it on the mean streets. And trust me, Burroughside is mean. In addition to the gangs of orphans and criminals, there are also monsters that come out at night. People don’t risk breaking curfew because staying out past dark pretty much typically means your life. Another interesting/mysterious feature of this book was certain people (though they don’t call them people) who would appear in Burroughside with no memory of who they are. The word amnesia was never used, but that is the general idea. And with no memory, no place to live, their lack of defenses against the monsters of the night means they are not likely to live long. It’s a mystery of the world that leaves you guessing a bit where they come from.

Ashes is not big or strong, but he is incredibly clever. So far, he survives through conning people with card games and working as a petty thief. Clever protagonists that get by on their wits, and maybe a bit of deception are often favorites of mine. It really makes way for an expected underdog to rise beyond what others expect of them. Ashes had enough unique qualities to him to keep me intrigued as he not only survives, but also lays out plans for vengeance. After conning a man he comes to know as Candlestick Jack, Ashes’ life takes an incredible turn. He is introduced to Jack’s world and the people who work for him, as well as his own capabilities, and starts to see opportunity to right some of the wrongs he sees with his world.

As for the political and social aspect to Birch’s, the town has an underground hierarchy/structure to it. Ashes and his like, the gangs of orphans that reside in Burroughside, are expected to pay a “tax” to the governor, and this price is getting steeper, making survival harder. And to complicate things, Ashes is not completely alone. He has a boy he has taken responsibility for, watches over and protects. It’s adds a nice dimension to his character as it allows the reader to see he is not always about the con, but is also fiercely caring and loyal.

At times, you can see that Ashes feels an enormous sense of obligation and tries to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, finding it very difficult to trust anyone, trying to single handedly do everything rather than ask for help. It can make his world lonely in a way that I think even Ashes can’t quite see. At least not yet.I feel like this is one of those series where there is potential for tremendous growth in the protagonist as he ages and comes into his own, something I eagerly anticipate. This was a very strong debut from Birch and I am definitely looking forward to see where he takes the story next. ( )
  tenaciousreader | Jan 4, 2017 |
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