Sworn In Steel, by Douglas Hulick [A Tale of the Kin #2]

Title: Sworn In Steel (A Tale of the Kin #2)
Author: Douglas Hulick
Publisher: Tor (UK) Roc (US)
Publication date: May 8th 2014
Rating: ★★★★★

sworn_in_steel_UKWhen I realised that we were approaching the release date for Sworn in Steel, the second Tales of the Kin book by Douglas Hulick, I knew I had to beg, borrow or steel a copy to get it NOW. Because Among Thieves was one of the best books I’d read that year, without a doubt. I’ve been patiently (must read now!!!) waiting since, desperate to know how Drothe will adjust to his new, loftier existence. So, I scored an ARC, thinking I needed to read this as soon as possible (so thanks to Doug’s publicity department for arranging an ebook for me).

I wasn’t wrong.

At the end of Among Thieves, Hulick’s first Tales of the Kin novel, we left Drothe in a bit of a “situation”. Somehow, through circumstance, chance and dumb luck, he’s found himself a Grey Prince. Not only does that mean an entire organisation to run, people to protect, dodges to organise and cons to run, but it’s put a solid end to his days as a Nose.

Problem is, that’s what Drothe is good at: he lives the street, knows how to work it, play the game and shake down what he needs. It’s what he is.

Except it’s not, not any more. Drothe is the newest Grey Prince – and he’d better get used to it.

But there’s another thing Drothe is good at: trouble. They’re on first name terms and trouble is always looking to hook up, whether Drothe likes it or not. So when a sticky situation goes belly up and another Grey Prince is dusted, with Drothe’s knife stuck in his eye, everything looks set to crumble, unless he acts fast.

Drothe needs to shift the focus from him if he doesn’t want the other Grey Princes and the rest of the Kin knocking at his door. Basically everything is starting to slide already, and without Degan at his back – an absence he’s beginning to feel – Drothe doesn’t have many people to rely on. There’s Fowler, of course, always standing oak, but she’s still not forgiven him for playing the wide nose after he’d gone long for Kells. But she’s back and though things aren’t the same – what is? – it’s good to have the Oak mistress there.

Only, whilst Drothe still regrets what happened with Degan, another of the order comes knocking. It’s not a social call and soon Drothe learns that this Degan – Silver, though Wolf seems more apt – was the one who dusted this Grey Prince and he’s deliberately setting Drothe up. He wants something, does Silver. He wants Bronze Degan.

Before he knows it, Drothe is planning a trip to Djan, away from the Empire and into the reach of the Despot. This brings its own challenges and problems, but Drothe believes he can find a way into the old city, where the movement of foreigners is closely monitored, and somehow find Degan. Besides Wolf’s incentive, Drothe wants to find Degan and make amends. If he even can.

Only… In a city where he doesn’t have an organisation at his back or know the local talent, how can Drothe manage to stay ahead of the game? Never mind when that game changes. Before he knows it, everything has gone to hell. Suddenly he’s stuck in the middle of clan politics and something much darker. Whatever it is, it has to do with his unusual night vision and how he got it. But it’s hard to ask a dead man questions, so he won’t be quizzing his stepfather, Sebastian. Drothe only knows the ritual he underwent but that doesn’t mean he knows anything else.

But being Drothe, that’s just not enough trouble.  Having been asked to carry a package to Djan in return for the promise of aid, Drothe expects it’s contents are probably a slightly greyer shade of legal. Little does he know that what he carries is about to bring him a whole world of hurt.

There’s more to this package than Drothe imagined and when it comes to his expedition to Djan on the whole, far more tangled and overlapping intentions than it first seemed. As usual, Drothe is about to step into something huge and seem to the world far more calculating and unscrupulous than he really is.

Drothe has a lot on his mind, lots to do – but that’s okay, right? Since every second he spends entangled in the problems his coming to Djan has stirred, is a second less spent thinking about being a Grey Prince.

Sworn in Steel is a deliciously devious, perfectly plotted adventure that is heart-stoppingly tense and stuffed full of excitement. I got everything I expected, and more: more of Hulick’s incredibly addictive and colourful narrative, more twists and turns and “oh god, what now?”. There’s not a part of this second book that suffers for following after such a fantastic book as Among Thieves. In fact, however good Drothe’s first outing was, this is undeniably a thousand times better. It’s just better and offers more, demonstrating that Hulick is a writer worth waiting for. Yes, there’s been a wait between books: do I care? The hell I do. Now Sworn in Steel is all finished up and I’m already gnashing my nails in anticipation fro the next, every second of the wait was worth it. There isn’t another writer like Hulick; with all the personality of a Harry Dresden narrative and the day-to-day grind of being a Kin on the street, there is something that feels utterly unique to the Tales of the Kin. Something that kept me up late reading, night after night.

Sworn in Steel is funny, light as well as engaging easily with the gritter aspects of what is basically fantasy organised crime. But who doesn’t love a good mob story? And that’s what you get here, only with fantasy and the moreish culture of the Djanese, all tangled up with an incredibly complex and deep secret that lies not just close to the heart of the Empire, but smack bang in the middle of it. This book reveals surprising secrets, introduces completely unforgettable characters with their own unique agendas, and does so whilst maintaining a fast pace, a brilliant sense of humour, and incredibly gripping narrative. I’m a huge, huge Hulick fan, and Sworn in Steel just made me fanboy from here to the mountains of Tibet. Absolutely nothing whatsoever brings this book down from its pedestal. It is exactly what I was expected–and more. As the story deepens and we learn more, all I can say is that Hulick is the kind of writer I think everyone secretly wishes they could be–I know I do!

If Sworn in Steel isn’t way up there on your reading list, you’re missing out. It should be at the top. This was a completely unparalleled pleasure and as usual, Hulick certainly knows how to end a damn book! Now all there’s left to do it hole up and wait for book three. And I couldn’t care less how long that wait is, my tent is firmly pitched.

Awesome, just damn awesome.


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