To change things up a bit, this week I will be reviewing an entire trilogy at once (because I could not stop reading it). The series is called The Rogues of the Republic, by Patrick Weekes, and it consists of The Palace Job, The Prophecy Con, and The Paladin Caper. I will be reviewing each book individually, as each book is interesting enough in its own right that I could do a post about any one of them. First, though, an overview of the series.
The Rogues of the Republic essentially reads like a written version of Ocean’s 11 in a fantasy setting. The stories follow a crew of thieves as they set out to rob, con, and cheat their way to the easy life. However, much like the movies, there is also a strong element of vengeance running through the books that makes the heists all the more sweet. The world is a classic high fantasy setting with a lot of unique additions by the author, however the real draw of the books is the incredible crew who consist of:
- The mastermind and former captain of the army
- The right hand man and former scout of the army
- A recently expelled wizard specializing in illusions
- An alchemist and artificer with an augmented crossbow
- A shapeshifting unicorn specializing in nature magic
- A monk acrobat specializing as the greaseman
- A necromancer priest
- A giant sentient warhammer
- A strong man from a dairy farm
These characters might sound ridiculous, but the largest draw of the books was the deep character development and growth of everyone on the team. Each character is given a good amount of “screen time” and has a well developed personality and background. The dialogue between them is also golden, constantly causing me to laugh aloud. Each one was a joy and it was very impressive that the books could have so many leads and perspectives and never lose track of any of the threads. To get more into the specific plot lines, let’s turn to the individual books.
The Palace Job is the first book of the trilogy, and is definitely the weakest. It is still a great book, but it shows many of the signs of being someone’s first novel. The world building in this book is fairly weak, with Patrick Weekes leaving it up to the reader to fill in the blanks. This is a big shame, as the tail end of book 1, book 2, and book 3 all show off a stunning world with a lot of thought and love put into its creation. Unfortunately, none of this comes through until the back half of the book. In addition, I found the very beginning of the book confusing. There are a lot of names, places, and things dropped on you a bit too quickly and I had some trouble just following who was talking at the start. Despite all of this, I finished the book in about 2 days; a sure sign I liked it. I feel the primary reason is simply because it is funny and witty, and if you are laughing it is almost impossible to not be enjoying yourself. The plot of book 1is a fairly simple heist with a lot of moving parts. Patrick Weekes does a really good job of helping the reader understand the powers and the limitations of his characters, so nothing during the grand reveals (as there are a ton) ever feels forced or “deus ex machina’d” in. It was a really nice touch that helped me get into the books, because with members like an illusionist you need to be careful how you go about things. It would be pretty easy to say something was accomplished with illusions, but Patrick Weekes thankfully always avoids the easy road.
The second book is The Prophecy Con, and it is immensely more polished. Patrick Weekes clearly learned a lot from his experience with The Palace Job, and his second book fixes all the major problem I had with book 1. The pacing is much better as the story follows a massive con with multiple settings and events at a breakneck speed. The world building is excellent, fleshing out the world, nations, races, and history of the world(s). I was very surprised to see that the character development, the strongest aspect of book 1, also improved. None of the characters feel stagnant or like they are falling into a two dimensional role. All of them get more fleshed out, and evolve with the story in interesting ways I really enjoyed. The heist itself in book 2 was also just more interesting and fun. The plot feels like it takes a significant step up in complexity, excitement, and stakes, which is important in a story about heists. The cast of secondary characters and villains is greatly expanded and the dialogue remains as witty and fun as ever. On top of all of this, Patrick Weekes works in some great social commentary and non-mainstream elements (such as a homosexual character) that I really enjoyed. My one complaint of book 2 was that the importance of the end goal of the book was not always clear. I found myself asking “wait, why do they want this thing again” more than once. A little more clarity on why certain events were happening would have been good, but the book still has a very strong showing.
Finally we have book 3, The Paladin Caper. This book goes in a different, but equally good, direction. It is more about the crew fighting to save the world than stealing something specific, but their methods remain more or less the same. While the pacing of The Paladin Caper was not as good as The Prophecy Con, Weekes did a great job of bringing together all of the events of the previous books into a stunning finale. I have read a lot of books with disappointing endings recently, and The Paladin Caper is a fantastic finish to an already impressive series. The crew all go through individual gauntlets, as they each work through personal crises while also trying to save the world. The villains once again take a step up in excellence, and the world building continues to improve. My one complaint for the finale was that while the social commentary in The Prophecy Con was subtle, it became a bit ham-fisted and blatant in The Paladin Caper. It unfortunately broke my immersion more than once, and while I enjoyed the message the delivery sometimes left me wanting.
These books made me reflect a lot on my post from last week on The Three-Body Problem. In it I talked about how The Three-Body Problem was really well written, smart, creative, and overall an objectively a great book, but I didn’t really enjoy it that much. On the other hand, The Rogues of the Republic are definitely clever and fun, but I don’t think they have the same gravity as Three Body. Many people would use that comparison when rating the books, but here’s the thing. For all Three Body’s grandeur I had to trudge through it on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, I could not put down The Rogue of the Republic or stop laughing while I read it. They are just fun, satisfying, witty heists that feel good on so many levels, and for that I would recommend them to anyone and everyone.
The Palace Job: 6.5/10
The Prophecy Con: 8.5/10
The Paladin Caper: 8.0/10
The Prophecy Con and The Paladin Caper we both provided to me from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.