‘Tough Travelling’ is a weekly feature. Every Thursday I’ll be rummaging around in my memory to come up with various examples of commonly used fantasy tropes. Full credit goes to Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn for coming up with the idea: be sure to check out his blog!
This week’s topic is HEISTS/CONS.
Smash-and-grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in fantasyland. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a little bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.
(The Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch)
I’m not going to name any specific examples here, because a) spoilers, and b) there are too many to choose from. Locke Lamora and his Gentlemen Bastards are accomplished thieves and con-men: they run cons within cons within cons, so that not even the reader is aware of their true objective. The Bastards learned their art from a true master of the profession: Chains, a man who carefully conned thousands of people for years on end by pretending to be a blind priest. Yep, seriously.
Drawlight’s Naughty Scam
(Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke)
Society whore and wannabe social climber Drawlight is a vile person, a parasite who uses the misfortunes of others to pave his own road to success. A man of enormous cunning but little wealth, Drawlight uses his wits and inside knowledge of English magic to set up his own lucrative con business: pretending to be Jonathan Strange and charging outlandish prices for a correspondence course in magic. Shame Jonathan finds out about the whole thing . . .
(The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham)
Cithrin Bel Sarcour is a banker. Sounds boring, right? Truth is, she’s one of the most interesting characters in this series. Abraham makes economics and accounting Fun by demonstrating how an adept mind can use money to consolidate power and undermine their enemies. Cithrin and her loyal associates have a huge plan underway to topple the tyranny of the current rulers, and it’s this particular thread of the story that I can’t wait to see come to fruition (if the final book’s publication date stops getting pushed back – mutter, grumble.)
(Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson)
Tehol Beddict lives in a grimy building, wears a blanket, and sleeps on a roof. He’s also a genius. Along with his trusty manservant Bugg, an undead thief called Shurq and a giant named Ublala, Tehol begins to establish a grand scheme to destroy the successive hegemonies of two ineffective governments using the most powerful weapon at his disposal: economics. Tehol and Bugg are without a doubt two of the best characters in this entire series.
(Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding)
Darian Frey is captain of the Ketty Jay, a slightly decrepit airship with an even more dysfunctional crew. The gang frequently operate outside the law, and are always thinking of creative ways to make a little cash. Perhaps one of their finest moments is the carefully-planned robbery of an orphanage, resulting in a hilarious pursuit of the Ketty Jay by the airborne equivalent of peasants with pitchforks.
That’s it for this week! Join us again next week for the topic of DISGUISES and be sure to check out the Tough Travelling tab above for links to my previous posts and fellow travellers!