In the usual realm of swords, sorcery, dragons and direwolves, aren’t we all occasionally partial to a protagonist that’s a bit, well… shifty?
I’m not talking about the big muscle-bound, honour-bound heroes that are as predictable as the British weather, I’m talking about the sneak-thieves, the tricksters, the rogues!
There’s something devilishly enjoyable about a character that walks the line of morality, their pockets full of ill-gotten goods, their minds full of cunning plans, and their hearts (eventually, after some character development) full of the right intentions.
So, buckle up as we take a tour of fantasy’s ten finest novels where the heroes are thieves, and the morals are as loose as a poorly-fastened coin purse.
1. “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch:
In the gloomy yet enthralling city of Camorr, young Locke Lamora isn’t just a thief—he’s a bloody artist, he is.
His plots aren’t petty pickpocketing, but intricate scams comparable to a masterpiece painting, each stroke of deceit layered carefully to create an overall image of bromance.
Picture an underworld Ocean’s Eleven, with a dash of Italian renaissance and a liberal helping of naughty words.
One might say it’s crime at its most entertainingly convoluted.
If you fancy your thieves with a bit of style and a whole lot of cunning, then Mr. Lynch’s work might be right up your crooked alley.
2. “Theft of Swords” by Michael J. Sullivan:
Ever seen a pair of thieves who can banter as smoothly as they can pilfer?
Meet Hadrian and Royce, the dynamic duo of larceny, the jesters of jeopardy, the… you get the idea.
These two might be the most likeable robbers you’ll ever read about.
Expect swordplay, sarcasm and situations so sticky they’d put a jar of Marmite to shame.
This ensemble cast of characters, led by the wily thief Kaz Brekker, are about as far from virtuous knights as you can get.
Bardugo creates a motley crew of criminals and misfits, each with their own set of unique skills, emotional baggage, and snappy one-liners.
The group’s mission? To infiltrate an impenetrable fortress, of course!
What could possibly go wrong?
4. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien:
Remember our good old friend Bilbo Baggins?
Yes, that cuddly, comfort-loving hobbit who got dragged on a journey by thirteen dwarves and a wizard with an apparent disregard for proper notice.
Hired as a burglar to reclaim the dwarves’ treasure from Smaug the dragon, Bilbo might be the most unlikely, and yet most endearing, thief in all of fantasy literature.
5. “The Queen’s Thief” series by Megan Whalen Turner:
If you’re a fan of political intrigue, clever schemes, and a thief who’s a touch more regal than your average cutpurse, then you’ll love Gen, the protagonist of this enthralling series.
Starting with “The Thief,” the series follows Gen’s evolution from a simple (if ridiculously talented) thief to a player in the highest echelons of power.
6. “Among Thieves” by Douglas Hulick:
What’s that? You want more thieves? Well, I hope you’re not tired of twisty alleyways and shadowy figures because that’s exactly what you’re getting in the form of Drothe, a Nose (information gatherer) for one of the criminal organizations in the city of Ildrecca.
With its gritty atmosphere and compelling plot, you’ll feel like you’re right there in the criminal underworld (without the risk of being pickpocketed).
7. “Mistborn: The Final Empire” by Brandon Sanderson:
Our next stop on the larceny express takes us to the heart of the “Mistborn” series.
The story begins in a city oppressed under the iron fist of the Lord Ruler, where our resourceful heroine Vin exists as part of a thieving crew.
But Vin isn’t just any common thief—she’s a Mistborn, able to consume metals and gain powers from them.
She’s soon embroiled in a plot to overthrow the tyrant, and you can bet your last bent copper that there will be heists, intrigue, and a fair amount of metal-fuelled mayhem.
8. “The Blacktongue Thief” by Christopher Buehlman:
This is a tale with a fresh and compelling voice that might just swipe the top spot on your favourite thieves list.
Our main character, Kinch Na Shannack, is a thief trained by the Takers Guild (so he’s got a professional edge, you see).
He owes the guild an awful lot of money (or ‘guilders’ as they call it), so he’s trying to earn… or, let’s be honest, steal, his way out of debt.
He’s sardonic, rough around the edges, and utterly captivating.
This book is a wild, action-packed ride filled with danger, dark humour, and a dash of magic.every.
9. “The Palace Job” by Patrick Weekes:
Want some audacious heists with a side of snappy dialogue and a diverse cast of characters?
Look no further than “The Palace Job.”
This tale follows Loch and her eccentric crew (which includes a death priestess and a unicorn, among others) as they attempt to steal from the most secure building in the Republic.
It’s Ocean’s Eleven meets high fantasy, and it’s every bit as delightful as that sounds.
10. “Master Thief” series by Ben Hale:
Rounding off our list, we have Ben Hale’s “Master Thief” series.
Here, we follow the (mis)adventures of Jack Myst, the titular master thief who’s so adept at his craft that he’s practically an artist.
Well, an artist in stealing everything from precious gems to tightly guarded secrets.
The story is a delightful romp of thievery set against a backdrop of a richly built world.
And Jack? Well, he’s as charismatic a rogue as they come.
So, go ahead, immerse yourself in these fascinating worlds of fantasy where the thieves reign supreme.
Remember, though—stealing is wrong.
But reading about it? Now that’s a crime I’m willing to commit.