Welcome to another review as part of the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship, or SFINCS, which I am judging as part of Team Jamreads alongside a cohort of other lovely judges. For my SFINCS reviews, I will be judging each book on the following five criteria: Characters, Setting, Plot, Writing, and Enjoyment with a bonus point for Cover Art and Formatting. This review contains my honest thoughts and does not represent the opinion or final rating of the team.
This review is for A Wolf in Thief’s Clothing by Lily Anne Crow and has been chosen by Team Jamreads as one of the team’s semi-finalists.
Phrai joins a crew to pull off a dangerous heist. Little do her fellow thieves know that the end of their job is just the beginning of hers.
A Wolf in Thief’s Clothing is a fantasy heist gone wrong with a twist. When a group of thieves assemble to pull off a high-stakes job, their new recruit is hiding a deadly secret.
This is the story of Phrai, a new recruit to a group of thieves who appears sloppy and careless from the outset, but she’s more than what she seems. The story begins with the heist and Phrai making a beginners mistake that costs their band of thieves the job and results in their capture. Phrai completely ruined their chances… or did she? To say more would be a spoiler, but Phrai’s character is intriguing as we follow her through the story and try to decipher exactly what her goal is and her motivations are. She’s an especially calm thief, and doesn’t show much emotion as she gets on with her own side mission. Despite this, I was fascinated by her character and would love to read more about her.
This story also features a ragtag group of thieves and we learn a bit about them and their history as Phrai does, which I quite enjoyed. They’re not a cutthroat bunch, and the head thief has his heart in the right place. Though we only learn enough about them as much as Phrai needs to, which was a shame.
The city felt like a fantasy Mediterranean, and we get to explore it a little as Phrai does, making her own preparations for the big heist. At one point, she stops by a tavern to play a fantasy game called Ships that involved a detailed explanation of counters and rules. While that game sounded interesting and added some flavour to the world, it did drag on for a bit and was perhaps the only slow moment in an otherwise wonderfully paced story.
As stated, the story begins with a heist gone wrong as Phrai completely bungles it and she and her crew are captured in the act. But before our intrepid group of thieves can receive the consequences of Phrai’s actions, the story then steps back in time to before the heist as we watch the thief group come together and make their plans for the big day. But while the thieves settle down ready, Phrai has some preparations of her own to make. As she makes her way across the city, we’re left wondering exactly what she’s up to and what her stake in this heist really is. It’s only as the story unravels that we learn of Phrai’s real role.
The ending wasn’t what I’d expected and I loved the twist! This story deserved a second read through to catch hints of the deception.
The story moved along at a fast pace and I personally liked how it started with the heist first and then stepped back.
I’ve read a few fantasy heists to get an idea of where I expect the story to go, so bravo to A Wolf in Thief’s Clothing for shaking that up and leaving me in suspense until the very end. This is a prequel novella, though it worked well as a standalone for me. However, I am intrigued enough by the world and Phrai’s character to want to read more from the author’s series, A War of Whispers.
Cover Art and Formatting
I don’t think the cover art really does the story justice, to be honest, as I don’t get much of a hint of the genre or story from the cover or blurb. But the title “A Wolf in Thief’s Clothing” is genius.