Thieves' World

Books: Fantasy

Thieves' World (1979), Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn (1980), Shadows of Sanctuary (1981), Storm Season (1982), The Face of Chaos (1983), Wings of Omen (1984), The Dead of Winter (1985), Soul of the City (1986), Blood Ties (1986), Aftermath (1987), Uneasy Alliances (1988), Stealers' Sky (1989)


Janet Morris: Beyond Sanctuary (1985), Beyond The Veil (1987), Beyond Wizardwall (1987), Tempus (1987), City At The Edge Of Time (1988), Tempus Unbound (1989), Storm Seed (1990)

Andrew Offut: Shadowspawn (1987), The Shadow of Sorcery (1993)

Lynn Abbey: Sanctuary (2002)

Turning Points (2003), Enemies of Fortune (2004)

Thieves' World I

Some of the authors include: Andrew Offut, CJ Cherryh, Diana L. Paxson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lynn Abbey, Diana Paxson, Robin W. Bailey, Diane Duane, Robert Asprin.

I love this series, no matter how much it makes me cringe. Thieves' World is the place that makes you realize things could always be worse. A lot worse.

For some reason, I was thinking about Thieves' World, when it struck me that, Thieves World has a lot of female characters that are not only important characters to the series but are important to the functioning of the town. There are of course Ischade and Roxanne, the witches, Shupansea, the Beysib ruler, and there is also Illyra the S'danzo seeress. All four shape the town the events that unfold in the series as much as any male character. And there there are other female characters who play integral parts: Myrtis,the Madam of the House, Cheynaya, cousin to the prince and general trouble maker, Moria, hawkmask and thief, Kama, the daughter of Tempus Thales, Gilla, the wife of Lalo the Limner... I could go on, but for the sake of brevity, I won't. What struck me about the number of female characters, it's not a big deal that these women play such a big part in Sanctuary, in fact it took me years to even realize it.

So why am I writing about this, if it isn't a big deal? Well, that is precisely what struck me. Sure, there are other fantasy books out there that have strong female leads, but many of these books seem to be almost pushing a female agenda (Mercedes Lackey is a good example of this). The women are so strong, and so central, that they are almost in our faces with their competence, even when they screw up. Now don't get my wrong, I really like many of Mercedes Lackey's books, and I think she is a fantastic author with the ability to create characters about whom I really care, but I do think that at times she comes across as having a feminist agenda, and many of the other books I have read (and liked mind you!) with female leads come across the same way. But in Thieves' World they are just characters with all to human foibles and problems and issues us normal people have, and to be honest most of them are not even likable (except,of course, for Illyra) which is perfect, because almost none of the male characters are likable either. Well, perhaps likable is the wrong word. I really like Ischade and Hanse the thief, but I am quite sure that I would not want to meet either of them in a dark alley, or even a well lit room with armed guards.

So what struck me was that you have these fabulous female fantasy characters who are just strong women in the way that women you meet every day are strong.In other words, it's just one more reason for me to like the books, and to rave about them, even when I have not read them in at least a year.

Thieves' World (1979) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

Let me be clear. I love–nay, adore–Thieves' World. But I cannot in good conscience recommend the eBook version, which combines the first two books, Thieves' World and Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn into a single book. The copyediting is, essentially, non-existent, with numerous, repeated, glaring errors.

For example, Ils, one of the local gods, is repeatedly written as lis, which is a perfectly respectable word, but WRONG.

I fear the fed the book into an OCR program and printed as is, without even glancing over the output, for so many grievous errors to have made it to publication. I realize this makes it nigh near impossible to find a new copy of the book, but really, do yourself a favor and find a used copy or borrow from the library, or a friend.

That out of the way, it's been many years since I reread this series, and I was once again struck by how some of the characters personas' were fully developed in this short story. Not there aren't a couple of missteps–almost no one had read anyone else's characters at this point, so a couple of renditions are very off. But for the most part, it's surprising what a good job was done from the start.

It's also interesting, what stories I liked and didn't like, upon this reread.

Sentences of Death by John Bunner, has a story–and characters–that could easily have appeared in a later anthology. It's our introduction to Enas Yorl, as well as Jarveena, who never becomes a central character, but who nevertheless, returns in later stories.

The Face of Chaos by Lynn Abbey, introduces Illyra the S'danzo seeress and Dubro her protector. Illyra is still being worked out in this story, but the essence of who is is–and who she becomes–is here.

And of course, we learn a valuable lesson about Sanctuary.

"So the gods of Ilsig and Ranke are equal?"

The hooded man laughed. "We have see to it that all gods within Sanctuary are equally handicapped, my child."

Doesn't that just turn out to be true!

I was surprised to discover that I didn't like The Gate of Flying Knives by Poul Anderson. I actually remembered the ending of this story quite clearly, and it always amused me. But despite some wonderful bits, I kept wanting to get past it so I could get on with the next story.

In Shadowspawn by Andrew Offutt, we get Hanse's story, and although Shadowspawn may be the one character that develops the most over the course of the series, his personality and traits are here quite firmly.

And we also get a glimpse of Prince Kadakithis, though he doesn't really make much of a personal appearance until later in the series.

The Price of Doing Business by Robert Asprin introduces us to Jubal, the ex-gladiator turned crime lord, who is pretty much unpleasant from the start. One wonders how much trouble the city would have been saved had Zalibar come along when he did.

Weirdly, I'd forgotten what happened to One Thumb in Joe Haldeman's story Blood Brothers. Of course by the time you reach the end, you're quite sure One Thumb completely deserves his fate–and possible more.

The last two stories, Myrtis by Christine DeWees and The Secret of the Blue Star by Marion Zimmer Bradley have one of my favorite, Myris, make an appearance. I can't say that I adore Lythande, but I do very much like Myrtis, and hers is one of my favorite stories in the first book.

And now, I need to read the next volume.

Rating: 8/10 

Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn (1980) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

Again, I absolutely cannot recommend the eBook version of this anthology. The number of errors were no better than the first half/book.

But as a story, this is where it really starts to get good. The first book is really an introduction. Now, most of the main characters are here (with a few notable exceptions) and their personalities are starting to become consistent across stories.

The anthology begins, as usual, with the Introduction by Robert Asprin. And like the first book, we begin with Hakiem giving us the lay of the land–in this case, the decline of the Vulgar Unicorn since the disappearance of One Thumb. Many of these stories are set–or at least spend time in–the Vulgar Unicorn, and it's fun how much worse the place gets every time.

Spiders of the Purple Mage by Philip José Farmer is a story set in, but really separate from, Thieves' World. This is the only story Philip José Farmer contributed, but I have to admit that it's one that always stuck with me–despite the ridiculous title. (Don't get me wrong, it's amusing, but also terrible.)

I like Masha, and I really like Smhee.

"I've been looking for him for thirteen years. During that time… I have had to break some of my own vows and commit crimes which I must pay for when I return to my land."

"Won't she pardon you for these because you have done them in her name?" Masha had said.

"No. She accepts no excuses. She will thank me for completing my missions, but I must still pay."

I really like both the fact that there are no excuses for doing wrong, and that Shmee does what he has to anyway.

But remember, this is Thieves' World, so no good deed goes unpunished.

David Drake's story, Goddess introduces Samlor hil Samt, who appears twice more in the series, but isn't really a part of Thieves' World. Despite that, I also enjoyed this story.

Well, maybe not enjoyed. But it was good. I love how not describing things makes them more awful.

One group of carvings made clear the unguessed unity between "sorcerer" Hast-ra-kodi and the "goddess" Dyareela. Samlor stared at the conclusion of the pattern, swallowing hard but not speaking.

It also amuses me how Dyareela is always referred to as a horrible, terrible goddess, but we only ever get bits and pieces.

The Fruits of Enlibar by Lynn Abbey is another Illyra story, where we learn she has a half-brother who is just as damned as everyone else in Sanctuary, but still hopes Illyra can help him.

The Dream of the Sorceress by A.E. van Vogt is another story with a character who makes a but a single appearance in the series, but who does integrate many other members of Sanctuary into his story. And I find this description of Ilsigi amusing.

The Ilsig language, suddenly, did not seem to be a sufficient means of communication. Stulwig had heard that it's verbal structure was despised by Rankans who had learned the speech of the conquered race. The verbs–it was said–were regarded by Rankans as lacking force. Whereas the conqueror's tongue was alive with verbs that expressed intense feeling, absolute propose, uttermost determination.

That makes me want to study linguistics.

And then, with Vashanka's Minion by Janet Morris, we meet Tempus Thales.

"You have doubted it repeatedly… You have been unruly, faithless though you pledged me your troth. You have been, since you renounced your inheritance, a mage, a philosopher, an auditing Adept of the Order of the Blue Star, a–"

"Look here, God. I have also been a cuckold, a foot soldier in the ranks, a general at the end of that. I have bedded more iron in flesh than any ten other men who have lived as long as I."

I think that passage tells you much of what you need to know about Tempus. Someone who is willing to interrupt and argue with his God probably isn't going to care two figs about any mere mortals.

Shadow's Pawn by Andrew J Offutt–for me, not Thieves' World book is truly complete without a Shadowspawn story–gives us a taste of the future of the series, with Hanse and Tempus appearing in each others' tales, and one story building upon the other.

This is where it starts to get good, and where the intrigue and nastiness really get started.

To Guard the Guardians by Robert Asprin shows us precisely how nasty the inhabitants of Sanctuary can get. A story where a vivisectionist isn't even the nastiest person in this book.

And we close with Essay: The Lighter Side of Sanctuary by Robert Asprin, which always cracks me up.

"Every year tourists flock to Sanctuary by the tens."

That ALWAYS makes me giggle.

"There is no shortage of willing workers in Sanctuary. You'll find most citizens are for hire and will do anything for a price."

Again, I recommend you skip the eBook and instead look for a paper copy of the book. You should be able to find a half decent used copy.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 8/10

Shadows of Sanctuary (1981) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

Now things are starting to get good. More stories are entwined and linked, and most of the big players are now here

Introduction by Robert Asprin gives us the return of One Thumb, but things will not return to normal in Sanctuary any time soon.

Looking for Satan by Vonda N. McIntyre is a very good story that doesn't really belong in this collection. All the characters are nice. Yes, some of the characters in Sanctuary are nice, but they have horrible histories or bad things happen to them. Nice, just doesn't last in Thieves' World.

Also, this story has some of the more obvious copy editing errors. One character's name goes back and forth between Chan and Chad, which is irritating, but could have been a lot worse. (My volume is the 10th Ace printing with the original cover–not the cover displayed here. I actually greatly prefer the reissue covers–the tone matches the contents much better than the original Ace covers.

With the story Ischade by C.J. Cherryh, we have one of the last of the major players arrive in town. (Not counting the invasion, later in the series.) Ischade is a cursed witch, who comes to Sanctuary to steal. Really, it's the perfect place for her, and she quickly makes herself at home, and quickly she meets up with some of the bigger players in Sanctuary. She also enters into dealings with Mradhon Vis, a man for hire who has no idea what he has just gotten himself into.

A Gift in Parting by Robert Asprin brings us finally to the docks, where we meet the Old Man and some of the citizens who live there. We also see some of the aftermath of last volume, with the death of the Purple Mage, and all his creatures freed. Well, that and the fact I like the Old Man.

"You ask too many questions. Does he know you ask so many questions?"

In The Vivisectionist by Andrew Offutt, we see the friendship–of sorts–developing between Hanse and Tempus, as Shadowspawn determines that no one should be left to the tender mercies of a vivisectionist.

The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn by Diana L. Paxson brings another major player–though in an entirely different way–to our attention with the introduction of Lalo the painter and his wife Gilla. Lalo and Gilla are "regular" citizens of Sanctuary, rather than powers like Molin Torcholder and Ischade and Tempus. Like A Gift in Parting, we get a look at the lives of the non-wizards and thieves and Rankan overlords.

Then Azyuna Danced by Lynn Abbey doesn't give us a Ilyra story this time, but instead we see the start of the machinations between Tempus and Molin, and an even greater look at their God. (He doesn't get any more pleasant upon further inspection.)

It must be an act, Molin decided. No one could attain physical maturity with only Kadakithus' apparently intelligence to guide him. He had attained physical maturity, hadn't he?

This volume closes with A Man and his God by Janet Morris, where we see Tempus dealing with the aftermath of his time with Kurd, and the formation of the Stepsons from a group of Sacred Banders. If the citizens of Sanctuary thought the Hell Hounds stirred things up, they've not seen anything yet.

Essay: Things the Editor Never Told Me by Lynn Abbey closes the volume, with a glimpse at how the set up for this series allowed things to get so nasty–a sign that things are only going to get uglier in the future.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 8/10

Storm Season (1982) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

This is the fourth book of Thieves' World, and we're now well into the intrigues.

Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin see Hakiem on the docks learning that the Old Man and his son have disappeared.

Exercise in Pain by Robert Lynn Asprin gives us Jubal, with two arrows through his knees, trying to regroup from the destruction of his compound by Tempus. Very slowly, we see cracks in Jubal's thick skin, and start to see him become human–slowly, slowly.

It's also a good look at physical recovery.

What is more it is your strength… which will determine the extent of your recovery. Strength of muscle and spirit.

Very true.

Downwind by C.J. Cherryh see Mradhon Vis in Downwind, looking for work, and trying to escape the thought of Ischade.

He drank to take the taste from his mouth, made the drink small, because his life was measured in such sips of his resources.

He finds Mor-Am and Moria, former Hawkmasks, hiding themselves, and an alliance that will do no one any good is formed.

In a A Fugitive Art by Diana L. Paxson, Lalo the Limner has slowly learned to live with–and profit from–his gift. But unfortunately, this is Sanctuary, and that gift doesn't remain undiscovered. And Lalo himself is struggling to understand these changes in his life.

He put his hands over his aching eyes and shook his head. If he only knew–there was something missing in him, something that he sought in each new thing he tried to do… What use has it to have my heart's desire? he thought, if I myself am still the same?

And this story is where I fell in love with Lalo.

Steel by Lynn Abbey returns is to Walegrin, and to Ilyra, who is pregnant and due any day. Walegrin has found his fabled Enlibar ore, and wants swords from that ore–and wants also to escape Sanctuary, hopefully forever.

Wizard Weather by Janet Morris takes us back to Tempus, but also to the Stepsons, the band that is staying with Tempus. And we meet Niko, the young mercenary whose marvelous skills will do him no good in Sanctuary.

(C)heese wire, the right handhold, or a knife from behind oblivatesa the need for protacted dissembling, or forged papers.

But nothing good for Tempus, either.

Glumly, he wondered if his god could be undergoing a midlife crisis.

Godson by Andrew J. Offutt shows us why Hanse decided to take Tempus up on his offer of training, and why Niko had to spend hours–weeks–training a thief to the sword.


The Epilog by Robert Lynn Asprin, is actually a story, and presages more changes for Thieves' World. And if you think anything good will come of this, you haven't been paying attention.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 8.5/10

The Face of Chaos (1983) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

So, this is where is starts to get really dark and nasty and ugly. The first two stories, High Moon by Janet Morris and Necromant by C.J. Cherryh, are very dark and full or horrors–torture and murder are things the characters in these two stories expect.

And they get what they expect.

Take this bit about Haught:

He had learned that he was for using and when he stopped being useful he could not see what there was in him that anyone would want.

That's one of the cheerier bits in those stories.

So, the Stepsons want to follow Tempus to fight on Wizard Wall, but they have commitments in Sanctuary. Commitments they have no taste for keeping, especially when they are targeted by beggars and witches.

Luckily, these are the first stories (not counting the introduction) and so although none of the following stories are light-hearted, they're also not full to the brim of torture and murder in the dark of night.

So taking a step back, the anthology opens, as usual, with the Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin. This gives us an overview of what's happening in Sanctuary–in this case, the Beysib have settled in, and are changing the place even more than the Hell Hounds and Prince did.

After the darkness of the first two tales, (the first half of the book, really), The Art of Alliance by Robert Lynn Asprin is an almost cheerful change. We see how how downfall and healing have dramatically changed Jubal–and we also see his reaction to learning the double cross of the Stepsons.

The Corners of Memory by Lynn Abbey follows Cythen, who has joined Walegrin's Mercenary Guild. Her sister has been murdered, and she is willing to pay any price to discover the murderer and bring him to justice. It's also our first good look at the Beysib.

Votary by David Drake brings back Samlor hil Samt, searching for is niece. It's strange how, despite some of the more graphic descriptions–like the execution in the square–this story is nowhere near is dark and the first two stories. Possibly because Samlor is looking to rescue his niece, which somehow makes his casual killing seem less horrifying.

The closing story is Mirror Image by Diana L. Paxson. The last time we saw Lalo, he was wondering precisely what he would see if he painted his own portrait. Unfortunately, this question gnawed at him until he decided to find out.

This story finally gives us Gila in all her glory. She'll do anything for her husband, and we can see in her actions what Lalo sees when he paints here. It's actually a lovely story.

A couple interesting things I've noticed. Character's whose authors pretty much left the series seem to recur in stories almost more frequently than the regular characters. Cappen Varra had only a single story, yet he appears multiple times in each book, and Enas Yorl also makes a regular appearance in these stories.

Second, is that the second set of covers (the ones I've used so far) match the tone of the books far better than the original covers. Those original covers–especially the cover for The Face of Chaos–really don't come anywhere close to matching the tone of the stories inside.

I mean, check out that cover. The sun is shining for goodness sake! Never mind the fact that no one is bleeding or murdered or tortured.

So as disturbing as many of the second set of covers are, they really match the tone of the books much better.

One negative point in this book is there is no Shadowspawn story. For some reason, any volume feels incomplete if it doesn't have a Shadowspawn story. Luckily, there's one in the next volume.

Published by Ace Books 

Rating: 7.5/10

Wings of Omen (1984) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

As usual, the book opens with the Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin, which sums up the previous books in a brief scenne. But Hakiem's personality comes through, no matter how brief.

As a street storyteller he had always been polite to those who gave him a few coppers in return for his entertainments. Now, with the hefty stipend he was receiving in gold, he was a paradigm of courtesy.

What Women Do Best by Chris & Janet Morris introduces us to Zip, a denizen of the Maze who wants they Beysib gone, and will kill whomever it takes to remove them. And Kama, Tempus Thales' daughter. And the Rankan 3rd Commando. So, pretty much no one to like in this story, as is expected. I realized I simply don't like Janet Morris' stories. Doesn't matter whether it's Tempus or Kama–don't like any of them.

Daughter of the Sun by Robin W. Bailey introduces a new, unlikable character, Chenaya. She's been blessed by the Rankan god Savankala, and uses those gifts to–fight in the gladiatorial ring. And generally be a bitch. Chenaya is the poster child for, "just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."

Luckily, the next story, A Breath of Power by Diana L. Paxson, is a Lalo the Limner story. With the power he was granted by the gods, when he breathes on his paintings, they come to life.

(T)he bright speck quivered, expanded its shimmering wings, and buzzed away to join the jewel-scatter of flies that were already orbiting the garbage-basket by the door.

Unfortunately, he has nothing to do with this skill, and even worse, this is not a talent that combines well with getting angry and then drunk.

The Hand That Feeds You by Diane Duane brings us the goddess Siveni Grey Eyes and her priest Harran, who has been slumming as a barber for the Stepsons. Despite being rather despicable himself, you can't help but want him to succeed in calling up his goddess.

Witching Hour by C.J. Cherryh, finds Moria and Mor-Am ensconced in Ischade's fine uptown house, and Moria no happier here than she was living in Downwind–it's just a different kind of fear, working for Ischade.

Though you can't help but like seeing Roxane get her comeuppance.

Rebel's Aren't Born in Palaces by Andrew J. Offutt takes us into Sly's place.

Sly's Place! Name of Father Ills, Sly had taken dropsy and died three years agone, and the dive was still called Sly's Place because no one wanted to admit to owning it or to take responsibility either.

Amusingly, in later volumes one ends up rather fond of the proprietor of Sly's place. But this is a Shadowspawn story. Where Shadownspawn is introduced to some characters who are more unpleasant than he is.

"Any friend of Zip's" he said affably, "is suspect."

The story Gyskouras by Lynn Abbey, is exceedingly dark for a story about Ilyra the S'danzo. Zip pays her a visit, from which no good comes, and worse, her son Arton has fallen ill to a magical malady.

Even worse, we learn of the (probable) replacement for Vashanka, who was killed (banished) earlier.

A Fish without Feathers Is Out of His Depth by Robert Lynn Asprin closes the story on a much lighter, happier note. We spend a little time with Monkel, head of the Beysib Setmur (fishing) clan. It's a pleasant end to a rather dark volume.

The thoughts of Monkel himself, with an increasing number of scars and half-healed wounds adorning his features and appendages, are best left unrecorded, save to note that he often found himself wondering if the bird was edible. At this point in their duel, simply killing it would have been an insufficient expression of his frustration.

That whole passage delights me every time I read it.

Again, this is one of the darker volumes (though not the darkest) but so much happens, it's not like one can completely skip these stories.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 7/10

The Dead of Winter (1985) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

More than halfway through now. Luckily, there were lighter stories to counteract the darkness of Janet Morris' story.

The Ace reissues with the covers I prefer have a Dramatis Personae by Lynn Abbey in the front of most volumes. Not sure when they started with the reissues, but they're here in book 7. This was particularly helpful if you were unable to find earlier versions, and didn't know who everyone was. (That's how I was–it was years before I got my hands on the earliest versions, since I was haunting used books stories for copies.)

Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin gives us Hakiem and Jubal discussing the current situation in Sanctuary. In short: not good, and getting worse.

Hell to Pay by Janet Morris brings the original Stepsons back to Sanctuary to clear their barracks and their name of the bumbling fools who they left in their place. As these replacements were their own idea, the bloodbath seems a little harsh, but this is Thieves' World, and if anything there is common, it's bloodshed. However, there is a fascinating scene between Niko, Molin, and the storm children, told from Niko's point of view.

The second story, The Veiled Lady, or A Look at the Normal Folk by Andrew Offutt, is not a Shadowspawn story, but it still has that ineffable something of an Andrew Offut story. A veiled woman comes to town, and the owner of Sly's place seems to be who she's looking for.

And, of course, Sweetboy, who is missing Notable.

Any cat expressed itself or at least acknowledged noises or its name with movements of its tail, often merely the tip. A tailless cat, if not a cripple, was at least the equivalent of a human with a severe lisp. Sweetboy, however, seemed unaware of his lack and expressively moved what he had. He even manged to make it obvious when he was not just moving the thumb-length stub, but lashing it.

The God-Chosen by Lynn Abbey gives us Molin Torcholder and the storm children, but what makes this story so fascinating is we see the same scene as was told in Hell To Pay, from Molin's point of view. This is also the first story where we see Molin in anything even close to resembling a positive light, which is one of the things that makes me enjoy the story so well.

"I have often wished to greet you," he greeted her, lifting her tiny hand to his lips after the custom of Rankan gentleman.

"That is a lie."

"I have wished for many things I never truly wanted to have, My Lady."

I think that exchange right there salvaged Molin for me.

Keeping Promises by Robin W. Bailey is Chenaya story, and I don't like her any better in this story than I did the first, although she does have the first glimpses of sense here. Too bad it's not fast enough to stop her from causing more damage.

Armies of the Night by C.J. Cherryh is a strange story. Like Janet Morris, her stories are very dark and wander afar. Yet, there is always something that catches at my memory.

He blinked at the black-clad figure who walked forward to meet him. She was always so much smaller than he remembered. She towered in his memory.

Down by the Riverside by Diane Duane is one of the stories that I'm never sure I enjoyed, but damned if bits of it don't stick with me. Especially this bit about Tyr, written from the dog's point-of-view.

For a moment she couldn't see where the tall one was. Then the horses separated, and Tyr whimpered and sniffed the air. She caught the tall one's scent. But to her horror it did something she had never smelled it do before: it cooled. It thinned, and vanished, and turned to meat.

That is the most striking portrayal of a death I think I've ever read.

When the Spirit Moves You by Robert Lynn Asprin is a short story about the Hell-Hound Zalbar, trying to set the ghost of his friend and companion Razkuli to rest. It also does a lovely job referencing the previous story.

The final story is The Color of Magic by Diana L. Paxson. Again, Lalo's gifts bring him noting but trouble. The picture he drew of Niko (back in the first story) comes back again to haunt him, and now that his gift is becoming known, he is becoming a target for the Powers in Sanctuary, who seek to use him.

Afterword by Andrew Offutt is an amusing, rambling look at what writing these stories was like.

I do believe this volume, for all the darkness, has some of the most memorable stories, with many characters finally starting to rise to their potential.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 8.5/10

Soul of the City (1986) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

This is, hands down, my least favorite Thieves' Word book.

It takes an entire book to do it, but they finally resolve the problem of Roxane, my (hands down) least favorite characters. That's pretty much my only positive for this book.

The city has fallen to pieces, and before anything else can be done, they have to deal with the Nisibisi witch and her globe of power.

And they do, but at a cost to some of my more beloved characters, including Ilyra, who appears only to have terrible things happen to her.

But, as I said, it resolves this major problem, so you have to slog through it to move on.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 5/10

Blood Ties (1986) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

Thank goodness. Back to normal–or as normal as it gets.

We're back to the Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin, which finds Hakiem once again considering leaving Sanctuary. And after the last book–who can blame him?

Lady of Fire by Diana L. Paxson isn't a happy story–both Gilla & Lalo and Illyra & Dubro lost children in the last book, but Illyra also took an axe to the stomach and lost her son to the gods of sanctuary–he may be alive, but he's no longer her son. In their anger, they attempt to take vengeance on the city.

It doesn't go well.

But again, the strength and love Lalo and Gilla have for one another save themselves–and the city.

Sanctuary is for Lovers by Janet & Chris Morris sees the Stepsons again seeing what they can do to leave town and escape the chaos. But first, they have to cobble together a peace, and a security force to maintain that peace–and do a better job than they did of it last time. We also see the last of Roxane, and the undoing of the engagements from the previous books. We also see Tempus and Ischade discussing whether their curses are compatible.

Lovers Who Slay Together by Robin Wayne Bailey is another Chenaya story, and we see Chenaya in her pride attempting to undo the work Tempus and the stepsons did to bring peace to the streets.

We also see her angering both Tempus AND Ischade, with her attempt to steal Tempus' Tros horse. We'll come back to this in a moment.

In the Still of the Night by C.J. Cherryh we see the bits and pieces left from the last book. After all they've been through, one wishes better for Moria and Stilcho. But we also see the fall out from events in the previous two stories. Tempus and Ischade see if their curses are compatible (they aren't) and we see their reaction to Chenaya's stealing of Tempus' horse. I really do love seeing the difference perspectives in these stories.

No Glad in Gladiator by Robert Lynn Asprin sees Chenaya finally getting a well-deserved dressing down (somewhat literally, as she's naked at the time) from Jubal.

"I've had you watched since you arrived in town, as I do anyone who has the potential of influencing or disrupting the balance of power in this town. So far, your actions have been that of a spoiled brat: alternating malicious pranks with tantrums. I have heard nothing that would give you value as an ally."

And another favorite of mine:

"You're just saying that because I'm a woman," Chenaya protested. "Men do it–"

"That doesn't make it admirable," Jubal interrupted firmly. "You consistently take the worst role models for your behavior."

The Tie That Binds by Diane Duane sees an end to Harran, Mgria, and Siveni–Siveni isn't doing well, adjusting to being a mortal.

"What's the use of losing my virginity," she said, "if I keep getting it back every morning?"

"Some people would kill for that," said Mgria.

"Not me. It hurts, and it's getting to be a bore."

That always makes me giggle.

And I do love the ending to that story (and that chapter of Thieves' World.

Sanctuary Nocturne by Lynn Abbey takes us back to Walegrin, still policing the streets, and wanting to help his half-sister Illyra and not knowing how. It's funny how despite everything, Walegrin remains a sympathetic character. Possibly because we actually saw him attempting to defend Illyra.

The final story is Spellmaster by Andrew & Jodie Offutt. We have brief word of Hanse, through the white magician Strick, who has come to Sanctuary to–of all things–help the people.

Afterword by C.J. Cherryh is amusing and gives one a peek at what the writing of this series must have been like.

Asprin/Jubal/Hakiem: Well, I think we have to get a consensus here.

Cherryh/Ischade/Stilcho: Look, I haven't forgotten about the ten bodies that got dumped on my doorstep. I can't stand still for that. It's a matter of professional pride.

Abbey/Molin/Illyra/Walegrin: We want the streets quiet.

Morris/Tempus/Crit: Hell, it's just a couple buildings we want to take out.

Asprin/Jubal/Hakiem: (as appalled silence falls at nearby table) Hey, those people are looking at us.

I can only imagine how much fun that must have been.

Published by Ace

Rating: 8/10

Aftermath (1987) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

And now the series is back to where I enjoyed it–more petty arguments and thievery rather than war ranging on the physical and etheral plains.

We open with Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin, with Hakiem and Hort watching the Stepsons leave town.

Good riddance.

Cade by Mark C. Perry, introduces us to Cade, a character who appears only in this single story, but whose tale fits perfectly into what I love most about Thieves' World. Cade is a scary, somewhat horrible, man. An assassin who is more of a serial killer, who has come to Sanctuary to revenge the murder of his brother.

He has the same opinion I do of Chenaya.

Take that madwoman Chenaya, building an army of gladiators. He smiled at the thought. Gladiators! Gladiators made poor soldiers, and were hardly equipped for the streets of Sanctuary. Everybody was insane here…

Well, yes.

Wake of the Riddler by Janet Morris has Strat and Crit and Kama remaining behind and trying to bring peace to the streets of Sanctuary. Sadly, what they have to work with is Zip.

It wasn't being co-opted by the enemy that bothered him the most. What bothered him the most was that his bad boys and girls were doing exactly what they'd done before–extort, blackmail, roust and roughhouse, burn and plunder–and doing it now with the protection and for the benefit of the state.

Inheritor by David Drake brings Samlor and his niece Star back to Sanctuary, to retrieve an inheritance Samlane had left for Star.

I really like Samlor.

Samlor restrained his impulse to do something pointlessly violent.

I know that feeling.

This story also contains a bit that caught my imagination and stuck with me.

Star had set swimming through the air a trio of miniature octopuses made of light. A blue one drifted beneath the ceiling frescoed with scenes of anthropomorphic deities; a yellow one prowled beneath the legs of a writing table sumptuous with mother-of-pear inlays.

The third miniature octopus was of an indigo so pale that it barely showed up against the carven door against which it bobbed feebly.

I love the picture that makes.

Mercy Worse Than None by John Brunner brings back Jarveena (Enas Yorl never left). This is another fascinating story, centered on justice, and I love how by not describing something, but describing only the reaction to it, it becomes far more horrible than anything the writer could have come up with.

But I am also amused by Melilot.

If perchance you fear I may trespass on some right of intimacy the lady has, for the time being, granted to yourself, I pray you consider the–ah–visible signs of my incompetence in the regard.

I just adore that sentence.

Seeing is Believing (But Love is Blind) by Lynn Abbey sees Illyra being healed from her damage. I also love the glimpses of Dubro.

"Had we rich relations or a hidden villa surrounded by lakes and trees, I'd send you away. It's Sanctuary herself who's hurt you," Dubro said with an eloquence few others knew he possessed.

And then we close with Homecoming by Andrew Offutt. Hanse returns to Sanctuary a changed man.

Hanse shrugged. "I've got my reputation to think of."

"But young ma–Hanse, it is a bad reputation!"

Hanse nodded. "It's mine, Termagant."

Two more books left.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 8/10

Uneasy Alliances (1988) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

One more book and things are starting to wind up.

As usual, we open with the Introduction but this time written by Lynn Abbey. This was is slightly more substantial than many others, being a tale as much as an introduction to the series. We see the interaction between Hakiem and Shupansea, but it also has some sharp commentary on Sanctuary.

The Vulgar Unicorn and the Palace were both places where style was generally more important than substance. They were both places where you belonged, or you didn't belong–and where you had to always prove that you still belonged. Both had reputations which exceeded reality, and–might as well admit it–were parasites in the city's lifeblood.

I also love this insight, and should try harder to remember it:

A successful drunk learns that death is not a likely consequence of embarrassment.

The embarrassment part; I don't feel the need to become a successful drunk at this point in my life.

The first story, Slave Trade by Robert Lynn Asprin, is little more than getting Shadowspawn out of the hands of the slavers who had grabbed him at the end of the last book. We also see Jubal still trying to hold power in Sanctuary.

The Best of Friends by C.J. Cherryh shows us what it takes to get Crit and Strat back together (mayhem and near death, of course) and what it took to put Stilcho back in Ischade's service (love of Moria).

The sergeant came up with the tablet and a stylus. Straton took it and wrote: Walegrin–and a long scratch that stood for all the damned protocols. Send the woman Moria to the palace guardstation with this messenger and your order to hold her there until I sign the release. Straton, for Critas– Another long line, for all Crit's authorizations.

Never really thought before about having to hand-write things like authorizations. Of course soldiers and other busy functionaries would take shortcuts.

I also liked the tale that wove everything together–the Ilsigi father who wanted revenge upon Crit and Strat.

The Power of Kings by Jon DeCles brings an acting troupe to Sanctuary–the sign that things truly are upon the upturn for the city.

For an author late to the series, he does a good job with all the various characters he weaves in, and it's a fun story–especially the idea of an actor being obsessed with the Unicorn, because of all the personalities that inhabit it.

Red Light, Love Light by Chris Morris is… well, mostly it's just taking up space until the next story.

A Sticky Business by C.S. Williams brings us another new character who integrates well into the town: Chollandar the Gluemaker. With all the bodies that appear daily in Sanctuary, it's little wonder the town has a thriving gluemaker.

And I love how he makes house calls, but only for bodies.

"I was told you will pick up… uh-uh-uh …"

"Raw materials, Ma'am. Raw materials. For a fee we will pick up that which you no longer desire, and turn it into a variety of useful products. We do stipulate, however, that the goods must be ready to use without further treatment. Do you understand?"

That whole thing is horrifying and terribly pragmatic and amusing, all in one.

The Promise of Heaven by Robin Wayne Bailey is another difficult story. I can't stand Chenaya, but she isn't in this story. I also can't stand Daphne, and she IS in this story, but I feel bad despising her.

However, I unreservedly like Dayrne. Unlike Chenaya and Daphne, he had no choice to become what he was, and, like Jubal, worked to succeed and escape, and used the skills he developed to succeed further after he won his freedom.

And we close with The Vision of Lalo by Diana L. Paxson. Lalo is still discovering and developing his talents, and trying to survive in Sanctuary. It's good to see him settling into a comfortable and satisfying future–even if that future does seem to be lost to him.

And that leaves me just one book remaining.

Rating: 7/10

Stealers' Sky (1989) edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey

Alas, the end of the series.

And we end as we began, with the Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin. Zalbar find his attempts at a peaceful lunch interrupted by the hustle and bustle of Sanctuary–a hustle and bustle that was unforeseen3 even a couple years prior. Things have changed in Sanctuary, and Zalbar wonders where he belongs.

Night Work by Andrew Offutt gives us the last Shadowspawn story.

Markmor has come up with a solution for the problems caused by his apprentice Marype–exchange Marype's body for his undead one. Unfortunately, the help that remains isn't much better.

"I want you close by me, Tarkle."

Immediately Tarkle moved a pace closer.

Markmor took a pace backward and lifted a staying hand. "I don't mean now, you…" He broke off and sighed. "Be prepared for a new appearance."

Tarkle looked around as if expecting a new appearance.

The wizard ignored that and wished he knew how to make brains. Or to transfer one from, say, a cat to a human, for instance, this increasing Tarkle's intelligence severalfold.

We also get a glimpse at how Moonflower's next daughter is growing up (just like her sister, Minureal) and we get to enjoy our last time with Notable.

The handle clacked and an instant later the door opened. Light burst into the corridor. For once Shadowspawn was not happy to have Notable as company. Hanse might well have stood as he was and let the mage pass. That was not the way of a startled cat.

Also, those are the two I believe I'll miss most.

The Incompetent Audience by John DeCles again gives us the acting troupe introduced in the last volume, and they must deal with "the very vilest villain of all…a creature so reprehensible as to make all previous contenders–with the possible exception of Roxane–pale."

They try very hard to deal with this horror.

Unfortunately, after careful consideration of the situation, Lowan Vigeles could not think of a legal and legitimate way of breaking Chollander's contract with Vomistritus; at least not one that would keep the gluemaker both alive and adequately reimbursed.

The subject of murder was skirted with the greatest delicacy, and clearly left as a last contingency.


The story does have a somewhat distressing thread, but I think it does a good job dealing with the subject and with an adequate revenge. (This is Sanctuary. Of course there is revenge.)

Our Vintage Years by Duane McGowen introduces new characters–evacuees from the Rankin capital looking to rebuild their lives. And that is truly the theme of this last book: building a future from a tragic past (both the city and the inhabitants.)

Despite this late entrance, the story fits in quite well.

As the giant pinned Sinn to the ground, the bard felt his breath quickly leaving him. He worked his sword arm free and slammed the flat of the blade against the big man's skull. Had he know Wik any better, he would have aimed for a more vital part of the man's anatomy.

Quicksilver Dreams by Diana L. Paxson is the last Lalo story, and although it's good to see Lalo becoming comfortable and even competent with his power, I can't say it's one of my favorite stories, that might be A Breath of Power, but I did enjoy this last time spent with Lalo.

Winds of Fortune by C.J. Cherryh sees Ischade and her disparate family sorting themselves out and settling down into… something. Mostly, I liked seeing Stilcho being at the top of the pecking order.

"Don't trust him," Stilcho said coldly, Stilcho being at least the most privileged of her servants.

It's good to see Stilcho on top and happy (or at least have a kind of happiness).

The Fire in a God's Eye by Robin Wayne Bailey: Chenaya. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I have to say it surprised me how much I really disliked Chenaya. I remembered finding her irritating, but this time through, I found her nigh near unbearable.

Web Weavers by Lynn Abbey brings us Walegrin's ending. For some reason, I forgot that we didn't (really) have an Illyra story in the last volume. Probably because she at least makes an appearance.

Some things never change, in Sanctuary, or anywhere.

The cook was dragged from the kitchens. He insisted the flux couldn't be his fault; the meat was rotten before he cooked it.

"Why did you cook it, if you knew it was rotten?"

The cook said it wasn't his job to question the meat the stewards provided. He was a cook. He insisted he'd done his job well; after all, the men hadn't complained while they were eating.

Yeah, that nightmare isn't limited to Sanctuary. Or the past.

And finally, we close with To Begin Again by Robert Lynn Asprin. Hakiem and Jubal played more in the stories of others than they did in their own stories, but it's still good to see their resolution as well.

(T)he bulk of diplomacy is making the untrue or unlikely sound plausible, if not desirable.

Makes perfect sense to me.

So, that's it for Sanctuary this go around. Now I have to decide if I'll read the two books in the second series, or if their abrupt ending would be more frustrating than enjoyable.

We shall see.

Published by Ace Books

Rating: 7.5/10

Thieves' World II

Turning Points (2003)

I loved the old Thieves' World series, despite the fact that no one else I know--not even my husband--likes it. A couple of years ago, when I read that they were coming out with a new series I immediately decided I wanted nothing to do with it, for it wouldn't be the old Thieves' World, the place I loved (but would not love to visit in person). It would be a disappointment, so I ignored the fact that new books were even coming out.


We were at the bookstore, and I was looking to see if they had anything by Charles de Lint (they didn't), when I saw that the new Thieves' World anthology was out, and--just out of curiosity mind you--I picked it up. The first thing I saw was "New Stories by Raymond E. Feist, Dennis L. McKiernan, and Others"... Dennis McKiernan wrote a Thieves' World story?! Then I opened it to see the list of contributing authors: Mickey Zucker Reichert, Andrew Offut, Diana L. Paxson, Robin Wayne Bailey, Jody Lynn some authors I don't know. Of course there are names missing: CJ Cherryh, Janet Morris...and some authors who have passed on since the first series: Poul Anderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Brunner.... but still! Dennis McKiernan? I love his books! Andrew Offut is back?! Shadowspawn was one of my favorite characters! Mickey Zucker Reichert? I loved The Legend of Nightfall--that character would fit into Sanctuary without a problem!

So, I broke down and bought the book--hardcover and all.

Now that I've read the entire thing, I'm glad I bought it, for I really enjoyed all the stories. There are a new set of characters, with only a handful of the old characters hanging around--which is good, for as much as I loved the books, sometimes you have to let characters go. (After all, most of the loose ends were tied up at the end of the series.) The book was not quite as dark as some in the previous series, but then Thieves' World didn't get really get ugly until the middle of the series--they eased you in before they turned on you. Some of it was disturbing, these are still not stories for young children, but the violence did seem a bit more muted this time around. Again, I'll be curious to see if that changes are the series progresses (of it progresses).

There were a couple of specific stories that I really loved. Apocolypse Noun by Jeff Grubb was great, I mean, with a title like that how could he go wrong? I was pleased with Dennis McKiernan's story, Duel. I had such high expectations, since I love his other work, I was a bit worried, but I really liked it. I do think, however, that in the future I will read the stories without checking to see the author is. Certain authors have a certain style, and knowing it was that author caused me to expect that style. Not that I could have read a story about Shadowspawn and NOT know that it was Andrew Offut... Raymond E. Feist's story One to Go was good (but then I expected that) and I also really liked the stories by Mickey Zucker Reichert and Jody Lynn Nye--the fit right in with my memories of Sanctuary. The stories by Lynn Abbey and Robin Wayne Bailey were quite dark, which is unsurprising for Robin Wayne Bailey, since she had created the unlovable Cheynaya, but Lynn Abbey's stories had, for the most part, been some of the lighter points in the series--typically something that was needed after reading CJ Cherryh describe smoking out a badger out of his hole through the soldier staked over the exit of the hole.

In other words, I liked the book, and if you liked the first series, you probably will not be disappointed.

Enemies of Fortune (2004)

I still haven't completely decided how I feel about this series. The stories are good, and I enjoy them, but they're not quite the old ‘Thieves' World' and I'm not quite sure what it is that's missing.

As I said, the stories are excellent--Lynn Abbey gathered an excellent group of writers for this second book: Mickey Zucker Reichert, Andrew Offut, C.J. Cherryh, Steven Brust, Diana Paxson, Dennis L. McKiernan--all authors I really like. And the others are excellent as well: Robin Wayne Bailey, Jane Fancher, Jeff Rosen, Selina Rosen, Jody Lynn Nye, Jeff Grubb. But there's something from the old series that's still missing, and I'm not sure precisely what it is. Of course this is only the second book, so it's quite possible that the series just hasn't perfectly gelled together yet. After all, I started at book three when I began the last Thieves' World books. Or it could be that I miss Enis Yorl and the old Prince.

Of the stories in this book, I particularly liked Jeff Grubb's 'Malediction' and Jane Francher/C.J. Cherryh's 'Legacies.' The second story surprised, because although I like C.J. Cherryh, I normally find her stories difficult to read--I feel like I'm missing something, and I'm never sure quite what. But this story didn't make me feel like I needed to read it again to figure out what was happening.

I also liked Jody Lynn Nye's 'Consequences.' It seemed to have exactly what I liked about the first series, although if I was to try to define precisely what that was, I doubt I can, though it may be the character Pel.

I still don't know how I feel about Steven Brust's story 'The Man from Shemhaza.' It's a good story, and fits well into Thieves' World, but it felt more like an introduction to the character of Tord'an J'ardin than a complete tale.

'Good Neighbors' by Lynn Abbey was good, although extremely depressing. Thieves' World stories are always dark, but this one struck me as particularly bleak. But it could just be me.

The other stories were good, but sometimes I felt like they were missing something--I loved Shadowspawn, but Andrew Offut's Lone does not yet seem to have that indefinable something that Shadowspawn had, and the fact that he has Shadowspawn lurking in the background only reminds me more of what I miss.

All in all the book is good, but not fantastic. It's not yet the Thieves' World I loved, but it definitely has the potential to get there.