Title: The Facefaker’s Game
Author: Chandler J. Birch
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Published: November 1, 2016
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Quick Synopsis: Ashes lives in Burroughside—the dirtiest, most crime-ridden district in the huge city of Teranis. His neighbors are gangs of fellow orphans, homeless madmen, and monsters that swarm the streets at nightfall. Determined to escape Burroughside, Ashes spends his days begging, picking pockets, and cheating at cards. When he draws the wrath of Mr. Ragged, Burroughside’s brutal governor, he is forced to flee for his life, only to be rescued by an enigmatic man named Candlestick Jack. Jack leads a group of Artificers, professional magicians who can manipulate light with their bare hands to create stunningly convincing illusions. Changing a face is as simple as changing a hat. Ashes seizes an opportunity to study magic under Jack and quickly befriends the rest of the company: Juliana, Jack’s aristocratic wife; William, his exacting business partner; and Synder, his genius apprentice. But all is not as it seems: Jack and his company lead a double life as thieves, and they want Ashes to join their next heist. Between lessons on light and illusion, Ashes begins preparing to help with Jack’s most audacious caper yet: robbing the richest and most ruthless nobleman in the city. (Goodreads)
My Review: This book was sent to me by Simon & Schuster, but all thoughts and opinions remain my own. The Faecfaker’s Game is pitched as a fantasy story for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Scott Lynch. In other words, all the biggies of fantasy. That definitely made me a bit skeptical going in, but the premise sounded intriguing, so I decided to give it a chance anyway. Luckily, it delivered. This was the perfect book to ring in the New Year with!
I don’t read a ton of adult fantasy, partially because I don’t read a ton of adult fiction in general and partially because adult fantasies in particular tend to be massive tomes full of flowery, detailed language. I was happy to note that The Facefaker’s Game didn’t read as clunky at all. In fact, it was a quick, enticing read that pulled me in rather quickly. Now, I don’t see anything on Goodreads about a sequel, but I really feel this could turn into a great series that follows Ashes, the quite young protagonist, as he grows older. There are definitely still things left to be accomplished by him that I would love to see get fulfilled. Ashes is deceiving, a master at sneaking around and learning to survive with the little he has, but he’s also compassionate when it matters, willing to learn, and is ultimately made up of the characteristics that would make a good hero. Or, anti-hero, at least. He’s likable, and I found myself routing for him all throughout the novel.
Ashes isn’t the only well-written character, though. I also quite enjoyed his mysterious mentor, Candlestick Jack, his best friend, Blimey, and his newly found friend, Synder. However, if I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Synder. She is feisty and determined and doesn’t take crap from anyone, especially from Ashes. Another reason I would love for this book to get a sequel is so I could see how she develops within the story. Her friendship with Blimey was heartwarming, and I want to see what she’s capable of under the right circumstances.
While I loved the characters, I think the most stand-out aspect of this book was the magic system! The magic used was all about disguises and changing faces. There’s a lot of light, concentration, and practice involved. I was so intrigued with the descriptions of how it all worked, and I loved seeing the characters use the magic in action. I know I personally haven’t read a book with this sort of magic. I could see how living in this world would be dangerous if you weren’t knowledgeable about what was possible. So much illusion! There were also the creepy monsters that walked the streets at night, as well as something called Rasa, both of which weren’t fully explored (once again: sequel, please). I found myself fascinated by all of these aspects of the world and was interested in their developments.
The writing in this book was pleasant, and it flowed along well. It wasn’t quite on par with the big authors I listed above, but it still stood out. There were a few reoccurring phrases that I enjoyed, and the writing really contributed to the pacing, which I thought was spot on. There really wasn’t a slow moment. I felt like I was being pulled swiftly along the whole time. I think Chandler J. Birch has the potential to add a lot to the adult fantasy genre, and I think there are a lot of readers out there who would love his work if they gave it a shot, particularly readers who are fans of heists, thievery, and unique magic systems. And I do believe the writing contributes a lot to these feelings I have.
If there was one thing that I wanted more form, it was the world-building. I was slightly confused at the beginning when it came to the layout of the world and the different places where the protagonists lived. I probably sound like a broken record, but I think this could easily be further developed were there to be a sequel, but I did wish there was a bit more description in this first book. This didn’t take away from my reading experience by any means, but it would’ve been an added bonus to have more details about the world and the structure of leadership.
If you love fantasy and high risk adventure, this could be the book for you! I think The Facefaker’s Game is a great debut novel by Chandler J. Birch, and more people should read it. It was reminiscent of a lot of big fantasy titles, yet it still stood on its own as a unique tale of illusion, revenge, and friendship. I highly recommend checking this book out if any of what I’ve talked about sounds exciting to you – I know you won’t regret it.
Thanks again to Simon & Schuster, and if anyone out there is listening, I would read the sequel to this book, and I hope it gets picked up.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
What was your first read of 2017? Let me know below!
Until next time,