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Publisher's Summary

A ragtag crew with forbidden magic must pull off an elaborate heist and stop a civil war in An Illusion of Thieves, a fantasy adventure from Cate Glass. 

In Cantagna, being a sorcerer is a death sentence. 

Romy escapes her hardscrabble upbringing when she becomes courtesan to the Shadow Lord, a revolutionary noble who brings laws and comforts once reserved for the wealthy to all. When her brother, Neri, is caught thieving with the aid of magic, Romy's aristocratic influence is the only thing that can spare his life - and the price is her banishment. 

Now back in Beggar’s Ring, she has just her wits and her own long-hidden sorcery to help her and Neri survive. But when a plot to overthrow the Shadow Lord and incite civil war is uncovered, only Romy knows how to stop it. To do so, she’ll have to rely on newfound allies - a swordmaster, a silversmith, and her own thieving brother. And they'll need the very thing that could condemn them all: magic.

©2019 Carol Berg (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about An Illusion of Thieves

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A brilliant new series for Cate Glass (Carol Berg)

In a world where magic has been banned and anyone displaying any signs of ability to perform it is drowned, murdered ... or worse (yes, there IS worse). Amidst the terror, a group of secret magic users discovers each other. They have the talent to do great things, though the law forbids it. If they are caught, they will die and probably their entire family with them.

Unlike the author's earlier writings, this series promises to be ongoing. Somewhat emotionally less intense, it is nonetheless breathtaking in its complexity and originality. Beautifully written. I read it in two long evenings. Give me a week and I will read it again. Carol Berg, all of whose books I have read as hard copies or on Kindle is -- in my opinion -- a very underrated fantasy author. She creates characters who, by happenstance, bad luck, politics or some bizarre law, have been beaten down to near nothingness, yet survive, find their power and are greater than before. You cannot steal or crush their greatness.

She hadn't written anything in a few years and I have been hoping she would emerge with a new set of stories. She has.

Under the new name of Cate Glass, "An Illusion of Thieves" has the feeling of a (hopefully!) long series. A bit more upbeat than earlier works, the story is exciting and highly complex. For the entire book, it's as if these folks are tiptoeing through a vast minefield where even a minor misstep would mean destruction for all. How many secret magickers live under the constant threat of terror of death and ruin? We can only guess, but I'm sure there are many and laws notwithstanding, many other secret practitioners exist on all levels of society.

If you have not read any other of Carol Berg's books ... well ... given the state of our world, could there be a better time to start? She is a wonderful author and I highly recommend all of her books to anyone who enjoys these kinds of stories.

These days -- since my eyes are not quite what they were -- I prefer audiobooks. I listened to this the day after it was released. All of her previous books I read first in print, either on Kindle or as a hard copy ... and later as audiobooks.

Carol Berg (Cate books are not like other fantasy novels. Her characters are not typical fantasy characters. Her stories aren't long quests to save the world from a dark lord or prince. They are profoundly personal, deep, and sometimes, heartbreaking ... yet good in the end, great events. You'll meet dragons, lords, prisoners, sorcerers and many more. If you've been looking for something new -- Cate Glass's new book is a fine start, after which, you can joyfully dig into Carol Berg's earlier series.

You will not be disappointed.

6 people found this helpful

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Kushiel's Dart meets Mystborn

Combine elegant language, interesting characters, mysterious magical gifts, incredible tension, a courtesan turned scribe, a caper, and you get Illusion of Thieves.

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took a bit to get used to the voice cadence

delightful story. love lost , brats and spies. o, my!
coming of age story with magic

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Brilliant~!

I went in with high expectations, and I wasn't disappointed!! Listen to what the stellar reviews say!

Other reviews discuss the plot and how great the characters are, the intricate world-building, etc. I don't want to repeat, but here are some key take-aways:
- GREAT narrator. Seriously. Top class. I will definitely be on the look out for anything else she's done.
- Romy is a FORCE, and I can't wait to see what she and the rest of the crew will do next.
- Politics, intrigue, magic...need I say more?

Final point. When I was looking at the reviews before purchasing, I saw one that complained about how they expected there to be such a great theft/massive heist and they were disappointed with what actually happened. Let me just say. Reread the title. What happens is exactly as promised. And that in itself, was brilliantly executed. Bravo Cate Glass! I've already purchased book 2 and can't wait to dive in!!

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Booooring

it was hard to finish, don't feel attached to any of the characters and the so called "heist" is weak sauce. I was hoping it would be more like leigh bardugo's Six of Crows but alas there was not even one character to really love and root for, dont waste your time on a so-so book.

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A unique magical Italianate world

An Illusion of Thieves, first in the Chimera series, introduces us to clever Romy, a woman who was trafficked by her own parents at age ten, because they feared her magic, and who eventually became the mistress of the most powerful man in Cantagna, the Shadow Lord. After almost a decade under his wing, during which time Romy has enjoyed privilege, education, and learned the strategies of court intrigue as Sandro's companion. But all that comes crashing down when her brother Neri steals three rubies and leaves their father taking the blame. In Romy's world, a small number of people are born with magical gifts, like her own ability to overwrite people's memories and to weave such a convincing guise that she can forget her own name and identity, and Neri's ability to thieve masterfully, even walking through walls. But magic is illegal in the Costa Drago, where Cantagna is but one of nine independencies that manage a delicate dance of power. Though their father takes the blame to spare Neri's being discovered as a magic-user, Sandro banishes Romy's family from Cantagna, and Romy from his court, making her responsible for her brother Neri's adherence to probation, thereby placing her own life at risk should Neri falter. Finding her way with her damaged reputation, with her headstrong and angry brother in tow makes for one adventure but Sandro's jealous young wife places Romy's life in even greater danger. While resolving these challenges, Romy encounters two other magic users with unique skills (Placidio, Dumond) and other friends like Vashti, as well.

I enjoyed this magical world and the character of Romy. How refreshing to have a mature female protagonist, who is already worldly and resourceful. (I frequently wanted to smack her brother Neri, which was Glass's goal, I'm sure...) This is an engaging read, and as part of a series I know that we will come to see learn more about secondary characters who seemed a bit thin on the details.

Cate Glass offers a Glossary and Character List, with a pronunciation guide on her website.

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Utterly Fabulous!

Cate Glass aka Carol Berg has out-done herself with this book. The characters and world building are so real that they sweep you away to another world. The characters feel like your best friends and their incorrigible kid brother. And like real people, they all have secrets and they all do fascinating and unpredictable things, which leads to a fascinating and unpredictable plot, especially when a bratty princess puts their morals to the test. The narrator for the audiobook also does a fabulous job, bringing voices accents and dialects to life.

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well done

this book had an excellent development of character, excellent pace, and a very interesting spot we could still use a little more information about what makes the magic work, but I still give it five stars

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  • N. Hill
  • 09-13-21

Enjoyed this more than I thought I would!

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The narrator was really great, and I enjoyed the story enough that I will probably pick up the second. The strength of this book was its multi-dimensional characters and the gritty realism of scraping just enough of a living to survive. My expectations about the brother were subverted (thankfully) and I was quite happy with the ending. The author made the romantic tension between two of the characters at the end so palpable and - again, thankfully - I was extremely pleased that this tension was not focussed upon too much nor eased in any way, which would have devolved this into some sort of romance story. It was just enough to add depth to both the characters. We also see the growth of character in Romy's brother, which was subtle and came across realistically as the way a young man might while he finds his place in the world. Romy, too, was textured. I liked that her motivation for learning to fight was not to kick ass so much as to occupy herself so that she didn't drink herself into the ground. She comes across as very capable, and I enjoyed the political intrigue. While the names and places of all the political stuff sometimes came in a sudden rush, the author didn't get too caught up in it and effectively swept me back up into the action. It was enough that Romy understood what was going on. I was just along for the ride.

I was apprehensive of this book seeing that some people had shelved it as YA on Goodreads, but after finishing it, I do not agree that it is YA. While it is not grimdark and the plot is fairly straight-forward, the characters are adults and act like adults. The main focus is not romance or a "chosen one" trope, but rather how Romy is going to survive and support herself after her world is turned upside-down, and while harbouring a secret that could easily get her killed. The cost of living day-to-day in this city provided a great way to flesh out the setting. I expect more worldbuilding in the next book as Romy and the group's adventures continue.