Published: March 7, 2017
Publisher: DAW Books
Pages: 352 (Mass Market)
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
A review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, The Holver Alley Crew is the first novel of Maresca’s third interconnected series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine– The Streets of Maradaine
The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax’s service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life. Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.
With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land. Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti’s crumbling sanity, the brothers lead their crew of amateurs and washouts to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.
My reading list for 2017 is awash in glorious, top-notch fantasy and The Holver Alley Crew is one of them. I’ve loved each and every one of MRM’s books and I was pleased to find that this might be my favorite yet! In addition to stories about police and a vigilante crimefighter, we now have a story about a group of dispossessed individuals that have turned back to crime in order to make a living.
The Rynax brothers were going clean, preparing to open a legitimate business in Holver Alley. Asti got kicked out of Druth Intelligence and Verci had a new family, so time to kick crime to the curb and leave the associated dangers behind. Easier said than done. Someone set Holver Alley ablaze, killing innocents and destroying Asti and Verci’s plans of becoming upstanding citizens. Now they, along with their crew of wayward neighbors, are seeking revenge on the man behind the blaze that turned their lives upside down.
Every second of this book was a gripping thrill ride that kept me up late into the night. I only sacrifice precious sleep for the best adventures and The Holver Alley Crew was well worth a day of dark circles and yawns for the entertainment it provided. The story is a fantastic heist story (of which I’m terribly fond) and rather than focusing on a single big job, there’s actually two heists in a single book! Every character on the crew is a bundle of issues and they’re as vibrant as the city of Maradaine itself. Asti has a traumatic past that shows up to haunt him at the most inopportune moments. Verci has to worry about providing for his wife and daughter (and deal with his in-laws). Helene and Julien Kessler used to get all the good work, but things have gone downhill after a failed job, plus Julien can’t take much more damage to his brain. Kennith is out for revenge for stolen carriage plans. Almer Cort- well he’s a bit difficult to figure out, but he was impacted by the Holver Alley fire as well.
The neighborhood of North Seleth and Holver Alley are well-written and thoroughly described environments that I could visualize being in any city. The alley is a close-knit community where the neighbors help each other out and everybody knows everybody else. The Rynax brothers demonstrate this closeness when they risk their lives to pull other from their burning homes and Almer Cort demonstrates this when he conveniently disposes of some bodies for the brothers. The reader gets to be immersed in this little segment of Maradaine- bars, churches, sewers, the chemist shop, a bakery… you name it. This whole world has depth equivalent to the most well-known and loved fantasy works on offer.
The final verdict: You’ve GOT to read this book! You can jump into the world of Maradaine starting with this book or with A Murder of Mages or The Thorn of Dentonhill without feeling lost or that you’re missing out on anything. This book is my favorite to date, though not by much, as everything by MRM is of the highest caliber and I would recommend them without reservation. Again, I still wish that these were available in a larger paperback or hardcover format for optimum display on my shelves, but maybe one day! Fans of Scott Lynch or Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows will be head over heels for The Holver Alley Crew, so be sure to check it out once it’s released on March 7, 2017!