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Giant Thief by David Tallerman
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Giant Thief (original 2012; edition 2012)

by David Tallerman

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854322,451 (3.17)9
Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer. Even the wicked can't rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland.Damasco might get away in one piece, but he's going to need help. Big time. File Under- FantasyBig Trouble | Deception | Saltlick's City | Hang 'im High e-book ISBN- 978-0-85766-212-5… (more)
Member:psutto
Title:Giant Thief
Authors:David Tallerman
Info:Angry Robot (2012), Edition: Original, Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:12 in 12

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Giant Thief by David Tallerman (2012)

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Showing 4 of 4
This started strong, with an interesting rogue in interesting trouble and just getting deeper. But the entire extended middle section of the book is driven in spite of the main character, because all he wants to do is escape it. It's hard to maintain much interest when he has none, so by the time he finally came around and realised he'd been an arse (something I'd realised approximately a hundred-fifty pages earlier) I wasn't really that involved. In the end, he learned some heartwarming lessons, maintained his devil-may-care grin, and encouraged us along for further adventures that I will not be attending, even if he might actually be more invested in them now.

I do appreciate the way it turns the humble-boy-taken-from-home-turned-king and magic-stone-is-the-key-to-it-all on its head. But I dramatically do not appreciate the way the paper-thin villain has tremendously bad plans, buckets of evil, and a scimitar. There is just not enough new, interesting, or compelling here. ( )
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
Nice pacing, and the protagonist's voice is fairly enjoyable, but the events failed to grab my interest. ( )
  Jarandel | Oct 25, 2012 |
I picked this up on the basis of a) thief; and b) giant. There's not enough fiction with giants in in my world, and I'm a sucker for thief-based fantasy.

SHORT VERSION: Readable, but bland. Feels like some wasted potential.

The broad premise of the book worked okay for me. Easie (the thief) is forced into an invading army as bow-fodder, and desperate for a way out. Through a fluke, he ends up in charge of a giant and makes a break for it, pausing briefly to loot the enemy general's tent, both for much-needed cash and for revenge. It turns out the loot he stole includes a MacGuffin that's the secret of controlling the army's giants, and they're pursued frantically through the land, suffering various hardships and setbacks before finally returning it to its rightful owners, the giants themselves.

I read most of it on a train journey, and it was okay, but aside from the giant premise I found it a bit bland and without anything particular to hook me. The story itself is adequate, but doesn't really throw up any surprises. Most notably, the characters just didn't sell themselves to me.

Easie Damasco himself has no distinguishing features whatsoever, which is a bit of a drawback in a protagonist - he's just a cut-and-paste fantasy thief, gutter class. He's known by sight to the guard, cynical, selfish, treacherous, and largely amoral, until he develops a rudimentary conscience towards the end. Just like 90% of fantasy thieves, in fact. But there's nothing to help you pick him out in an identity parade, or give you much of a feel for what he might do, or an interest in what happens to him. There's a hint in the cover, which says "from the tales of Easie Damasco", that Tallerman might be planning to turn him into a recurring protagonist, which I can only hope he'll rethink. Easie Damasco isn't clever, he doesn't have an interesting way of seeing the world, he's not witty and at no point did I find myself cheering him along. That's not to say I disliked him, because I didn't; I was more or less apathetic, and that's not how a first-person viewpoint character should make me feel. I was interested in the story, but not in Easie, who seems to serve mostly to get in the way of the plot. His self-centredness isn't comprehensive enough to be entertaining, or knowing enough to be attractive. We don't learn anything much about him to give him a place in the world, amd he seems largely ignorant, with limited interest in what's going on. His thoughts aren't enlightening and his comments aren't amusing. There's also a slight puzzling tang of mysogyny in Easie's character. He claims to have thought the election of Mayor Marina Estrada was a joke, and talks slightingly of her and her abilities for most of the book, but it feels weirdly out of place. The rest of the world seems entirely free of this trait; the other residents of Muena Palaiya eagerly elected her as Mayor, she's trusted and obeyed by her troops, and nobody else questions her. Now that's obviously not to say that Easie can't be a bit mysogynistic, but it just felt like an odd loose end floating in the book, especially as it doesn't seem to crop up outside the Estrada context. I'm half-inclined to say it's just an unconscious artefact of the many other books with a thief protagonist with old-fashioned views of women, which feels a bit mean, but I honestly can't see why Tallerman included it and it doesn't seem to serve any purpose in the book. It doesn't even seem well-developed enough to be a character trait.

While I'm talking about women, there's also a brief scene where an apparent ally, Mounteban, turns out only to be helping them out of love for Estrada. When she rejects him, he sexually assaults her and Easie comes to her rescue. Mounteban then blows hot and cold on them for the rest of the book, alternately rescuing and betraying them. There was just no need for the (we are led to assume) attempted rape. It doesn't add anything to the plot, it doesn't produce any character development, and it doesn't establish Mounteban's character any better than his abandonment and later betrayals do. Estrada is the only woman in the book, she's a competent and trusted leader, and the best-realised character in the story, with an actual history and some flaws. I felt like Tallerman did a reasonable job elsewhere of having attraction influence men's attitude to her without it becoming a central point, and without her deliberately manipulating them. I don't understand why he included this rather clumsy throwaway scene, which is never relevant again.

The giants seemed genuinely intriguing, and I was encouraged early on by Estrada pointing out that the reason "Saltlick" is monosyllabic and taciturn is that he only knows a few words of their language. Right at the end there are some tantalising glimpses of giant culture, but I have to admit that on the whole I felt a bit let down. The other characters' attitudes towards "Saltlick" don't change much throughout the story, even Estrada doesn't seem bothered to find out any more about giant culture, and they don't even use his proper name when they learn it. The giants' utter obedience to the Macguffin seemed to need more justification in my view, considering they were shown to be intelligent and civilised, and it was being used by a non-giant to force them into actions utterly against their nature. Basically, it seemed like the giant aspect of the book was severely under-developed.

In general, the characters all felt underdeveloped to me, while the plot seemed a bit unsatisfying, as though loose ends weren't quite tied up. Character development didn't quite seem to get anywhere, apart from a slight relaxing of the general distaste for Easie and Saltlick becoming slightly more confident. To some extent it seems like so much of the book was spent fleeing that there wasn't enough time for much else, be it character interaction, witty dialogue or revealing of interesting details. If people aren't belting for their lives, they're too exhausted to talk or pointedly ignoring each other. Even the antagonist doesn't get much development except "wants to usurp the King" and "is violent and treacherous", which is a shame when a compelling villain can really make a story.

Before I go, here's one line which stuck with me a bit, which made me feel that Tallerman had something decent in mind and just didn't quite manage to pin things down.
Estrada: "For all that, you're only a small part of a very big picture."
Easie: "To me, I'm a large part of a picture only slightly bigger than I am."
I can't help wondering if part of the problem is that he had a really solid mental picture of what Easie Damasco was like, and forgot that the readers didn't, and that it was his job to show us. With a better-defined protagonist and some tightening up of things, it could have been a lot less generic.

NITPICKING
Before I finish, I feel the need to go off on a slight tangent here. There's a Very Specific Level of Criminal common to fantasy rogues, where despite being a liar, cheat and common thief, they've never done anything really *bad*. They don't tend to rob the elderly, beat up victims to find out where their valaubles are, use unnecessary force in robberies, leave people destitute or set fires to cover their tracks, which is how real criminals operate. I'm not suggesting I want to have people like that as protagonists, but I'd like authors to think carefully about constructing their thieves in order to explain how these career criminals manage to steer clear of anything particularly unsavoury. Tallerman isn't a particularly egregious example, but I couldn't help noticing the contraditions of Easie's character. He's infamous, but not very successful and doesn't seem especially competent. He comments that he wouldn't normally stoop to looting a baggage train, but he never seems to have had any money, so what does he usually steal? Since he apparently *isn't* the romanticised high-class thief who robs lords for the hell of it and loots temples, and who has money for luxuries, he must steal from common people. Similarly, his old stalking ground is a large town which apparently supports a flourishing underworld; on the plus side at least it wasn't a Thieves' Guild, but they do have a secret passage into the town and a vast network of tunnels in solid rock, neither of which are known to the authorities until a thief is recruited to the war council. Am I seriously to believe that no kids have spotted either of these fascinating things while running wild about the place, no keen soldiers or guards have noticed them while searching for defensive weaknesses or hidden criminals, and most of all that no drunken thugs have boasted about them or revealed them under questioning? None of these things bothered me too much, but they did niggle.

There were also a few typos that should have been picked up, including "a rope pulled taught" (which made me cringe) and a spot of feigned drunkenness that didn't make sense because (I can only assume) an enthusiastic spellchecker had corrected the drunken misspelling. A bit more attention there would have been nice. On a lighter note, I couldn't help noticing the rallying cry that "Castovalians have never worn a yoke, never called any man master!" conveniently ignored the fact they lived in a monarchy filled with powerful nobles, but that's all too common in real life. I would love to think it was a wry observation on Tallerman's part, but the rest of the book doesn't have the tone to support that.

EXTRA
The copy of "Giant Thief" I bought for the train includes a bonus short story, "Imaginary Prisons". The contrast is huge. "Imaginary Prisons" is novel, unexpected, has touches of humour and doesn't waste words. I'm not going to say it's a work of genius, but it's a good solid short fantasy story that I thoroughly enjoyed, all ten pages of it. If Tallerman produced more stuff like that I'd be happy. ( )
2 vote Shimmin | Jul 22, 2012 |
Fun fantasy.

Lured in by a fun title and silly cover but sold on the humorous excerpt I read. This is your typical fantasy setting, but no detailed world building and in-depth discussion of how the magic system works. Bang we hit the 1st fantasy trope (of hanging thief) before we are off on a wise cracking adventure set amongst potential civil war and the odd giant. If there are no surprises there is much relief that Tallerman delivers, the action is well done, the pace fast and the characters flesh out and (the most difficult) constantly amusing. Easie damasco is great rogue to hang a tale on and it doesn't even stop the humour or drag the story as he slowly matures. If fact it’s a hook to hang the next book on, one that I will be buying.

Recommended to fantasy fans and those looking for a fast paced read. ( )
  clfisha | Apr 27, 2012 |
Showing 4 of 4
Capturing the brisk pacing and snappy dialog of comic fantasy adventure, Tallerman's accomplished swashbuckling series opener should appeal to fans of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories and Robert Asprin's "Thieves' World" series.
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Jackie Cassada (Jan 1, 2012)
 

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Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer. Even the wicked can't rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland.Damasco might get away in one piece, but he's going to need help. Big time. File Under- FantasyBig Trouble | Deception | Saltlick's City | Hang 'im High e-book ISBN- 978-0-85766-212-5

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