I enjoy a nice fantasy book as much as any other fan of the genre. I also like it when such books have some sort of LGBTQ element to it, so it was with great intrigue to pick up the title The Glamour Thieves when I learned that this was also a cyberpunk story! With this mashing of genres plus being LGBTQ, how could I go wrong?
Let me start off by saying that I didn’t go wrong. Ultimately I did like this book, but it was nothing like I had anticipated it to be. Initially I was not aware of any urban fantasy aspect to it. I just knew that it had a few male gay characters, and that it was cyberpunk. My mind ran wild, but after obtaining my copy of this did I then discover that this was also partially a modern day fantasy, though I am reluctant to refer it to it as “urban fantasy” for now.
The story opens and it’s relatively modern day, possibly a few years in our future. We first meet someone named Austin Shea who is out to meet someone of personal importance named JT. Austin is stylish, dazzling, and comes off as that super charming guy that people either love or hate. He visits JT, a young businessman who has his own robotic shop. He’s worked hard to get where he’s at, but his efforts have been proven successful given the clients he has. In fact he’s so well poised for great success in the business world that he’s not precisely happy to see Austin. On the other hand, Austin is quite eager to see JT for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that the two of them used to be something of a couple back in the day when they both ran on the wild side. Things didn’t work out quite right and they went their separate ways, and while neither of them could properly get the other out of his own mind, JT’s reaction to seeing Austin isn’t exactly what the latter had in mind. Then there is the other reason, and that is a protection job. JT isn’t eager to take it on, but Austin convinces JT to take the job so that the two of them can use their specific skill sets together. Oh, and Austin also bribes JT with a really stylish Corvette that JT is convinced is stolen. Once JT is talked into it they make their way to pick up the individual who needs protecting, only to see it’s a young man named Buzz, who has some history with JT, much to Austin’s chagrin. Buzz doesn’t want any part of this, but the truth regarding why Buzz needs the protection comes out, and that is because he’s being hunted by a Triad because of something he stole from them. Oh, I should mention that Buzz is a human. Why? Because when we first met him he’s in the company of a Wizard named Victor. Did I mention that Austin happens to be an Elf, and JT is an Orc?
For much of this book I kept wondering what was the significance of having this be some sort of modern day fantasy with characters of this type. Even as I started to approach the half way point I just could not see why any of these characters couldn’t simply be human, and then make this more of a science fiction because of the cyberpunk parts of the story. It wasn’t until I started to get in to the last half of the book did that all start to make some sense. During some heavy action sequences we start to see our characters live up to their species. Buzz is a rather brilliant hacker and has stumbled across some possible AI that could have personal ramifications for both JT and Austin. JT is more than just an Orc. He has some implants that allow him to plug into machinery so that they become one, not to mention that as an Orc he can be quite the “muscle” if needed, and then Austin the Elf does have some magical qualities, not to mention some of the graceful fighting attributes that are common in Elves. His magical abilities are not to the degree of what Victor has, but he does have some serious Elf skills (imagine a rather saucy Legolas) that help with the outcome of some of the skirmishes they find themselves in. While it was nice to finally get to some part of the book where Allmon finally validates the reasons for why the way they are, the first half made it feel almost unnecessary. Perhaps this is to serve as some sort of object lesson about trying to make Orcs and Elves as normal as humans, but it doesn’t come off that way. Instead what it presents itself to be is some sort of fetish like Orc to Elf slash-story, and this is probably its greatest shortcoming. Had there either been some sort of subplot that dealt specifically with the nature of each character’s species it might have helped to smooth out the first half of The Glamour Thieves. Then there is the fact that we have three gay male characters, and well before the book is done the reader is very easily able to see where things are going between JT and Austin. When the sex scenes do occur they generally present themselves as rather graphic. Little is left to the imagination when reading some of the sex passages, and we’re not just talking about two men, but a male Orc and a male Elf. Add the cyberpunk element to it and it turns into what appears to be sexual fetishes. It’s only because of the gay portion of the book that it might not appeal to mainstream audiences. Some people might even object to the Orc/Elf potential of a relationship, but the parts of the story where there is full on sex can possibly push more conservatively minded people away.
This is not a bad book. While I did find myself questioning much of it by the time I finished the first half, it was in the second that those questions sort of just evaporated away. They weren’t answered; they just disappeared. And despite the fact that JT is an Orc, he’s actually extremely likable as a character, as opposed to Austin who should be appreciated because of his “Elf-ness,” but instead he’s terribly arrogant and quite full of himself, making him a very undesirable character, which in turn can make the reader quite puzzled as to why JT had been so enamored with him previously. The young character Buzz is a lot of fun, but ultimately does not appear to have much impact beyond JT and Austin. There are other characters that float in and out of the pages of the book, but they are barely tertiary at best, causing them to feel more like distractions instead of major players.
The Glamour Thieves is not a bad book. As I said in the beginning of my review, I really did like it. While it did give me some difficulty up into the first half, the second half of it was enjoyable enough to allow me to overlook said shortcomings.
The Glamour Thieves, also referred to as “Blue Unicorn Book 1,” gets 3 out of 5 data blocks.
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