The Facefaker’s Game by Chandler J. Birch- Review


Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: November 1, 2016

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/ Simon451

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 464 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0




For fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch, a picaresque fantasy about a clever young beggar who bargains his way into an apprenticeship with a company of thieving magicians and uses his newfound skills in a vendetta against a ruthless crime lord.

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.

A dramatic adventure story full of wit, charm, and scheming rogues, The Facefaker’s Game introduces an unforgettable world you won’t soon want to leave.

The Facefaker’s Game was one of those books that just popped up in my radar while I was browsing around the vast bookish realm of the internet. I was immediately intrigued (but also a little skeptical) of its claim to be for fans of Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss. Those are mighty large and majestic shoes to fill. If it doesn’t live up to it, scores of readers will be disappointed and pick up their proverbial pens to share their feelings of betrayal with the world.

I do see parallels to both Scott Lynch’s character Locke Lamora and Rothfuss’s Kvothe. Ashes is a young orphan, turned to thieving and conning to survive in the rough streets of Burroughside. When he gets brought into a group of Artificers (those who can manipulate light) he finds a whole new world opened up to him because he too can manipulate light. While learning the tricks of the trade, Ashes begins something of a street war with the Governor of Burroughside, Mr. Ragged, who is a cruel overlord to the poor and the street folk. I liked Ashes and his Artificer companions, all of which remained a bit mysterious even at the end of the book, though I liked the direction things were going.

The world the story was set in was interesting, though had several elements that remained nebulous and unclear. Ashes is self-described as a rasa,which is a child that appeared with no prior memories. This is intriguing without a doubt, but didn’t quite to really fit anywhere within the story. Several other characters were also rasa, including Blimey (Ashes friend) and I think he’s going to provide the explanation for what’s going on because he might actually have some memory of his past. There was also a considerable amount of culture and terminology that wasn’t explained. The society is broken into Ivories (highest class), Denizens (upper middle-ish?), and everyone else but it was unclear as to what makes them different. I’m totally okay with some aspects of a story being unclear, but it seemed like almost everything lacked enough definition for my taste.

Though this is certainly similar to Lynch and Rothfuss’s books in regards to character and plot, the writing is not on the same level. The Facefaker’s Game reads more along the lines of a Young Adult fantasy and it left some to be desired. I enjoyed reading it and will definitely be keeping up with future installments, though I can’t say I’m passionately excited about it as with some other books. Overall, it’s a fun and, at times, intense read with a likeable cast and an interesting world that could use some more explanation.


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