I was looking for something to break up my more serious and heavy fantasy and science fiction picks when The Thunder Heist by Jed Herne caught my eye. Heist novels have always been a favorite subgenre of mine ever since The Lies of Locke Lamora paved my way back into adult fantasy many years ago. Although The Thunder Heist is very short, slightly longer than some of the thicker novellas at 250 pages, it still manages to pack a lot of exciting action and plot into a small package.
Our protagonist is Kef Cutmark – self-proclaimed pirate, monster-slayer, and scourge of the Twisted Seas. She is a solo act with a mysterious past and she is returning to Zorith, her one-time home, in order to steal its heart. Zorith is a massive city-ship that is made up of a tangled jungle of a thousand boats, all lashed together to make a floating barge. At its center is a massive electrical heart powered by continuous lightning strikes that fuel the entire city. Mysterious, unique, and locked in an unbreachable tower, it’s a target for every thief in the area. But despite all the obstacles, Kef is determined to assemble a crew to steal the device and cripple a city that wronged her in the hopes of finding justice for her past. But with an unreliable crew, unbreachable walls, and a quickly approaching deadline, can Kef escape failure?
If you are looking for the next Ulysses, The Thunder Heist is not your book. There isn’t an enormous amount of depth here. It’s a fairly simple book that devotes most of its page space to the prep, execution, and escape stages of a heist and it doesn’t deviate a lot from the classic heist formula. There are classic twists, events that look like a failure that were all part of the plan, and dramatic reveals. But, if you are looking for a fun popcorn read with a lot of bang for your page then you should look no further.
The Thunder Heist’s strengths are that it’s very streamlined with nice meaty pacing that keeps the gears turning. The book hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until its final pages. Although the plot isn’t reinventing the wheel, it does have a lot of fun twists that I really enjoyed. The big reveal at the end when Ref is finally reaching her goal is particularly delightful. Ref herself is very fun to have behind the wheel, despite not being endless well of insights. It never got old watching her show up to numerous old acquaintances from her past life and hearing them go “oh shit, she’s back.” The fact that the crew she recruits is somewhat inept puts more pressure on Ref to be entertaining as the sole source of competence, but I think she wears it well.
The place where The Thunder Heist stands out the most is in its world-building. While it is primarily surface level, there are a large number of cool ideas and imaginative elements constantly introduced to tickle the reader. There are tons of original fantasy species, weird magics and technologies, fascinating character quirks, and a setting that is just begging to be explored. Zorith in particular is a very interesting location and I will absolutely be stealing it for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
That’s about all I have to say about The Thunder Heist. This isn’t a book that needs a lot of examination or discussion, it’s just a prime example of a great beach read. If you like heists, rascally protagonists, revenge stories, and cool original fantasy worlds then this should be right up your alley. Take it out for a spin, it only takes a few hours to read to completion.
Rating: The Thunder Heist – 6.5/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.