The Facefaker’s Game
By Chandler Birch
Simon & Schuster
For fans of Brandon Sanderson and Scott Lynch, a 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 is a book about a street urchin being offered a new life, apprenticed to a benevolent conman magician who work to bring down a corrupt crime lord. You would think from that description it would be archetypal, mundane, and rather boring. Well it’s anything but that.
For a debut author, Chandler Birch writes with the style of a master. His voice is witty and humble, gritty and heartwarming, familiar and foreign. Several parts of the book required me to break out my highlighter to mark passages that were particularly perfectly written. The world-crafting is immersive, with language that is colorful in it’s description and creative in it’s interpretation.
There are a few places where plot threads lead off and do not tie back up in the end, which lead me to question whether or not there would be a sequel. The author has been planning one, but has not yet convinced his publisher to publish it! Very disappointing. I hope he finds a way to publish it anyways, because his writing is far too big for just one book.
Background: This book was published by Simon & Schuster after the author, Chandler Birch won their contest for emerging speculative fiction writers in 2014. Birch was just 22 when the book was picked up. What a well-deserved win!
It should be noted while written by a Christian author, this book is intended for a secular market. There is definitely some PG-13 language, and although the language of a street urchin is likely to make me laugh, it is something you should be aware of before you pick up the book.
Fantasy readers will love this book.