The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes is one of the most hilarious and fun books that I have read in a long while. It is a heist novel filled to the brim with interesting and humorous yet compelling characters. While it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t overdo the humor to the point where it just becomes plain slapstick and no substance.
The premise had me sold when I first came across it. It goes something like this: Loch is in jail, but she needs to break out, recruit a band of specialized thieves/tricksters, and break into the palace of the nation’s most powerful man to steal a priceless elven manuscript. Wow! That’s an epic story right there. As if all that wasn’t enough, it also mainly takes place in a magical floating city called Heaven’s Spire!
The team is an intriguing mix of personalities and skills. It includes a thief (who runs around insulting the enemies’ moms), an illusionist, a shapeshifting unicorn (who seeks out pure virgins for “cough-cough”), a death priestess, a talking warhammer, a bendy acrobat, and a magical-safe cracker. The main thing this book does really well is the way it distinguishes each member of the team. When you finish the book you really feel you got to know each team member – there are no space-fillers. The way their personalities and skills come together during the heist create some amazingly awesome and hilarious situations. This book was clearly well thought out and crafted with care. Mixing fantasy with a heists is now a favorite type of book for me. It adds an extra layer of spice and unpredictability when magic is involved.
The book also touches on the issue of race. The main character Loch is a woman of color (known as an Urujar). The tension and racial divide between the Urujar and the rest of the society is a subtle theme throughout the book and is cleverly woven into the story. Nice to see a strong female lead as well! Actually, if you like a book with strong female characters this is definitely a book for you as there are quite a few. The delivery of the need to know political information was dealt with cleverly by using puppeteers that delivered news to the populace using puppet dragons and manticores. This was nice as it was entertaining and meant there was no tedious info-dumping.
I recommend this book to all lovers of adventurous fun and witty humor. This book is similar in style to the likes of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. If you’re looking for more serious hardcore Tolkienesque fantasy then this might not be for you.