Book Review: The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca + GIVEAWAY!
***The giveaway is now over, thanks to everyone who entered!***
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of The Streets of Maradaine
Publisher: DAW (March 7, 2017)
Length: 352 pages
Yes, Marshall Ryan Maresca is back with a third series set in Maradaine, the great city that features at the center of his fantasy universe. But even with all these novels under his belt, Maresca is keeping things interesting; each one of his series brings something different, retaining their own individual flavor. They’re also headed up by their respective casts of unique and diverse characters. Already, we’ve embarked on several adventures through the eyes of a vigilante magic student in Maradaine and patrolled the crime-ridden streets with a pair of resolute detectives in The Maradaine Constabulary.
And now, we get our chance to see yet another side of the city with The Holver Alley Crew, the fantastic opener to The Streets of Maradaine starring a group of plucky thieves who are just burning to exact their own brand of justice. Oh, and did I mention that this is a heist book?
The Rynax brothers were raised by their conman father, who taught his sons the tricks of the trade. But now the boys are all grown up and are ready to go legit. Recently returned from his service in Druth Intelligence with his mind broken and fragile, Asti is ready to settle down, and getting married and becoming a new father has convinced Verci that he needs to set aside a life of thievery and do the same. After taking out loans and using up all their savings, the brothers were able to buy a shop in their old neighborhood of Holver Alley where they have plans to set up a business selling gadgets and trinkets.
But then, the great fire happened. It spared nothing on Holver Alley, incinerating everything in its path including the Rynaxes’ shop and home. That night, Asti and Verci saw their entire future go up in flames, and with nothing left to their name, the brothers are forced back into their old life of crime. Along with a crew made up of other victims of the fire, they agree to take on a job involving a carriage robbery—a situation that quickly blows up when Asti stumbles upon information proving that the inferno that gutted all their lives was in fact no accident. Soon, what began as a simple smash-and-grab escalates to become a full-blown heist planned on a gambling house owned by the powerful man behind the conspiracy. It’s a dangerous job which, if skunked, could cost them all their lives. But the risks are worth it, in Asti and Verci’s mind. For the Holver Alley crew, it’s not even about the money. It’s personal.
Reading The Holver Alley Crew made me realize it’s been a while since I read a heist novel, which happens to be one of my favorite sub-genres. It was also the perfect book to get me back into the action. Every page was packed with fast-moving plot developments with plenty of twists and turns, made even more exciting by the presence of a large and interesting cast. At the heart of the story is of course Asti and Verci Rynax, our masterminds. Next we have Helene and her cousin Julien, the crew’s sharpshooter and muscle, respectively. Then we have Kennith, the driver and designer of specialized carriages; Mila, the scrappy young urchin who knows the streets inside and out, making her the perfect scout; Almer Cort, the chemist who cooks up helpful (albeit sometimes unstable) creations for the Rynax brothers to use; Gin, an actor and make-up artist who joins the crew later in the novel; and finally, we have Win the locksmith, so naturally he is also our resident safe-cracker.
It’s true that we have a big crew here—ten members in all, if you include the Old Lady, their shadowy benefactor who funds their activities from behind the scenes. Books with a large number of characters are often problematic, but to my surprise, I didn’t run into any issues here. In part, this has to do with the story’s flawless pacing. Maresca didn’t introduce the whole gang all at once, but instead broke his novel up into several stages. First we had the Holver Alley fire, then we had the carriage job, and ultimately the events that led up to the big heist. Each section flowed into the next, and as the plot grew in scope and complexity, so too did our cast of characters.
I also thought the author did a great job jazzing up the traditional heist story elements to fit his fantasy world. Think Ocean’s 11 set in Maradaine, complete with magic, violence, and plenty of double dealing. Of our diverse group of characters, many of them have roles that will probably be familiar to fans of heist fiction, but others will also have more innovative, specialized skills to get them past certain obstacles. Levels of intensity are through the roof because the stakes are so high and failure is not an option. Along with great banter and humor to break up the tense scenes of planning and carrying out the job, the overall result is a novel that’s lots of fun to boot.
Certainly, fans of caper stories should be making The Holver Alley Crew their number one priority. A strong start right out of the gate, this series opener is a well-written and brilliantly executed example of the fantasy heist genre, and of all the novels written by Marshall Ryan Maresca so far, this might be my favorite one yet! The Rynax brothers and their crew are so good at their jobs that they will steal your heart from the very first page, and I simply can’t wait to see what the gang will be up to next.
The Holver Alley Crew Giveaway
Interested in the book? Now here’s your chance to win it! With thanks to the publisher, we’re happy to be hosting this giveaway for one print copy of The Holver Alley Crew. This giveaway is open to addresses in the US and Canada. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to email@example.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “THE HOLVER ALLEY CREW” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.
So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!