By David Tallerman
If you’re a wily thief, you usually go for small, concealable objects. Giants don’t fit those criteria. So when Easie Damasco steals a giant from a brutal warlord, well, it makes for a good read.
Moaradrid has come from the north. He’s united the various factions and led them on a campaign to conquer southern lands. He’s also brought with him a band of giants. Easie gets conscripted into his forces and to escape, well, he steals one of the giants. Moaradrid gives chase, sending half his vast army to track the thief. What makes this particular giant so important? Did Easie simply strike Moaradrid’s pride, or is there more at work? And when Easie encounters the resistance, will he be forced to work for them?
If you’ve read reviews on this site before, you know I’m a sucker for a good opening line. This novel offers up a fine one: “The sun was going down by the time they decided to hang me.” Things go downhill from there for Easie. The thief proves a likable protagonist. He’s witty and creative. He’s also a great rogue. Though he encounters the resistance, he never really sides with them. He’s not interested in doing the right thing; he’s interested in surviving to see tomorrow. And if that means siding with the “good guys” for a few days until he can get away, very well. If it means fighting for the bad guys, that’s all good, too! Yet I never found myself upset as Easie switches sides and betrays one person or another. He’s such a likable character!
The novel soars when Easie’s on some mission. From the opening scene where he tries to get out of a hanging, to his theft of the giant, to sneaking into a walled city, to training his new giant in the finer points of being a rogue, Easie shows himself a great protagonist. However, for stretches of the novel, he has no such missions. For one fifty-page stretch he’s simply forced to join with the resistance and… well, nothing happens. I could have done without those fifty pages. They stopped me in my tracks as we meet other characters that Easie doesn’t really care about, and so neither did I as the reader.
I am very pleased that while Easie shows solid character development, he never breaks character. He remains a rogue through and through. He never has a moment where he becomes a “good guy.” Yes, he’s the protagonist, but that doesn’t mean he’s the good guy. Tallerman did a fine job in establishing Easie’s code of conduct and maintaining it.
As I stated before, there’s a fairly long stretch of the novel where we meet characters that Easie doesn’t care about. Here’s the main weakness of the novel. Easie is such a nuanced character that everyone else simply pales in comparison. Moaradrid is a fine villain, but we never see his motivation to conquer other than, “Well, he’s the bad guy.” Marina Estrada, the mayor of a town trying to fight Moaradrid, becomes whatever that scene needs. I’m sure Tallerman had a defined vision for her in his head, but one moment the mayor is fighting for right, the next she caves, and soon she’s virtuous and fighting again. I had a hard time following her logic, other than, “That’s what the scene called for.” Similarly, the noble Alvantes is… noble. We never get to see more of him. Giant Thief is a fun read focusing on Easie, but it limps when other characters take the spotlight. It’s a shame; the world is great, and the concept of stealing a giant… what a fun concept!
Legal nuts and bolts: I received this book for free form Angry Robot for this review.