Book Review: Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe by Marshall Ryan Maresca
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: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Streets of Maradaine
Publisher: DAW (March 6, 2018)
Length: 352 pages
Nobody does light frothy fun better than Marshall Ryan Maresca, and his latest series set in Maradaine seems like the perfect avenue to showcase his skill and passion for stories featuring boisterous action and rollicking adventure. Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe is the second installment of The Streets of Maradaine starring the Rynax brothers and their ragtag crew of con artists and thieves, and like its predecessor, it is once again a heist novel.
In the aftermath of the events seen in The Holver Alley Crew, Asti and Verci Rynax finally have proof of what they suspected all along—that the fire that gutted their entire street, robbing them and their neighbors of their homes and livelihoods, was in fact no accident. But to get to the roots of the conspiracy, they’ll need to dig deeper. After uncovering a development project funded by some powerful people, the brothers follow the clues to a Lord Henterman, a rather empty-headed nobleman who likes to throw a lot of parties—hardly the criminal mastermind they’ve envisioned. But then, of course, looks can be deceiving, leading the crew to devise a plan to infiltrate Henterman’s next big soiree to see what he’s all about.
Meanwhile, the gangs of the city are becoming unsettled as a new boss known only as Treggin begins to move in on their territories. He’s quickly amassing a fair number of followers, enough to make Josie, the Rynax brothers’ patron, a little nervous. The constabulary forces have also stepped up their game, sniffing around the neighborhood for the perpetrators of the crew’s last heist, forcing them all to lay low. Asti himself is trying to deal with some personal demons, and the constant struggle to reign in his beast is putting him off his game. Even without all the distractions, their plan to infiltrate the Henterman party is a little more slapdash than usual, and that’s before they discover the truth about the lady of the house, which is when all hell breaks loose.
Indeed, the energy of the story was rather subdued until this point. Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe had a slower start compared to the first one, and it wasn’t until halfway that things began to pick up. As a result, I thought this sequel was a little weaker than the original, and also because the story wasn’t as tightly told. Heist books can be tricky, and the best ones are always those that involve elaborate plans and unexpected plot twists which keep up the level of suspense. Unfortunately, readers have come to expect the Rynax brothers’ plans to become “skunked”, which in turn diminishes any surprise or appreciation for their cleverness that might have been felt. In truth, the characters’ plans felt sloppy in this one, and there was also too much chaos. For instance, the heist on Henterman’s house was proposed by Asti with no distinct goal in mind, and yet the rest of the crew was simply content to go along with his idea to just wing it and see what happens? I just don’t buy it.
The aim of a heist book is also to get the reader to root for the main characters who are essentially the criminals trying to break the law and get away with their nefarious schemes. As such, your crew needs to be likable and they must have a sympathetic cause. While finding out who ruined their lives with the Holver Alley fire is unquestionably a good reason for everything the Rynax brothers are doing, I nonetheless found myself starting to become frustrated and annoyed with them both. Asti is a lot more careless and irresponsible in this sequel, and his dogged determination became more of a nuisance than a strength. And Verci, I just wanted to shake him for going along with Asti’s half-baked plans. Loyalty to your brother is one thing, but Verci’s choices repeatedly put the lives of his wife and young son directly at risk, making you wonder what the hell is going through his mind and why Raych puts up with him when he’s always choosing reckless Asti’s side over her and Corsi. There was really only one character who stepped up in this book, and that was Mila. She came across as more perceptive and competent than both brothers combined, often taking matters into her own hands and bringing the real leadership.
Still, in spite of the book’s weaknesses, I found it entertaining. Even though I didn’t think it was quite as good as the first book, Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe is a solid sequel and readers who enjoyed The Holver Alley Crew will want to continue the series to see how the characters have grown and how their quest has developed. Fans of heist stories should put this series on their list right away.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Holver Alley Crew (Book 1)