Written by: Livia Blackburne
Release date: September 12th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon
Add on: Goodreads
James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison.
When I recently heard about Midnight Thief, I was immediately super excited. I’ve been in the mood for more YA fantasy, and this new series sounds like exactly what I love: thieves and assassins and knights and capers! It sounds give-it-to-me-now fantastic. So when Livia Blackburne emailed me, saying she saw that I’d added Midnight Thief to my Goodreads shelf and would I like to read the prequel novella? I jumped at the chance.
And my excitement was not let down in the slightest. James and Thalia’s story is thoroughly engrossing and completely un-put-down-able, and I loved every minute of it.
James is a member of the Assassin’s Guild, meaning… you guessed it! He’s an assassin. He is not someone you’d expect to be the hero. He kills and beats people up for a living, and yet he’s got this underlying code of morals and decency that makes him a fascinating character to read about. (I definitely see a new favorite anti-hero in the making, guys, and I am so excited.) When Thalia comes to James asking him for help assassinating a powerful nobleman, she won’t say exactly why, and she remains a pretty mysterious and veiled character until the very end. But as she and James get to know one another, and she reveals her strength in the face of an incredibly dark situation, I really came to admire her ferocity and determination.
I have to admit, though, going into this novella I was a little wary. It takes a lot of skill to fully introduce a new world and brand-new characters in a novella this short. Eighty-some pages is not a lot of time to establish much of anything.
But apparently, that’s all Livia Blackburne needs.
I absolutely loved how Blackburne was able to to intertwine really fantastic worldbuilding, plus real character development, in such a short amount of time. James and Thalia were made vivid and intriguing after just a few pages, even though it did take the whole book to learn specific details. You’re thrust right into this world of assassins and intrigue; but it’s done in a way that, though you’re jumping into the deep end, you never feel like you’re drowning in new terminology or confusing details. It’s never awkward, and it all just seems to flow organically, the worldbuilding and the character development and the plot… Which is something my favorite fantasy books all have in common. My hat’s off to Blackburne for pulling that off in a novella.
Another thing I liked about Poison Dance is that it sort of walks the line between YA- and adult-fantasy — appropriately so, because James and Thalia are slightly older than the normal teen/YA range, and the plot is darker than YA books tend to be. So don’t go into this book thinking, Oh, a cute little prequel novella to a cool new fantasy series! Romance! Rainbows and unicorns! …There are very few rainbows, and not a unicorn in sight. Which isn’t a bad thing, but still something to remember. What’s really important, I think, is that this is pertinent backstory for James, who I’m assuming will be a major character in Midnight Thief.
I highly recommend checking out the Goodreads page for Midnight Thief. If it sounds like your kind of thing (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t think that sounds awesome?), you absolutely positively have to read Poison Dance. It’s a fantastic (if somewhat dark) introduction to the world, some of the characters, and especially to Blackburne’s talent for worldbuilding and character-development. I can honestly say that, though I’ve read quite a few prequel novellas, none have ever gotten me this excited for the book.
From December 11-14th, the Poison Dance eBook is on sale for .99 cents as part of the Fantasy Romance Holiday Promotion.
Check out eleven other fantasy romance books also on sale for .99 cents here. And enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card.