Obviously any book that describes itself as a “Fantasy novel with a touch of mafia and mystery” is going to be hard to place in a simple genre, and Ratpaths is definitely not something you’re going to immediately know where to place within the dewey decimal system of your home library.
But, if you’re like me, that just makes things that much better.
One of the things that I think is most amazing to me is that everything about this book instantly stands out as unique. Obviously the mafia/fantasy concept is not something I believe I’ve seen before, at least not to any great extent…it seems that Robert Asprin’s Myth series had a bit of a mafia bent to it, but, that would just put Ms. Rust’s debut novel in great company.
The title of this book, however, is even more unique. Right away you kind of have this dingy image in your mind, something that you can’t quite place, but you wonder what could be placed inside a book with such an unattractive title. The cover, as well, adds to that curiosity…bringing one to quickly see that this book itself, it something of an enigma.
So, when I first opened this book, I really had no idea what to expect, although I was, in every way, eager to find out.
I’m not even sure how much I can say about the book itself (outside of what the jacket already tells you) without giving away major plot points that are much more fun to find out as you go along. So…how about I highlight the jacket detail before I continue:
The city state of Istonnia is suffering, its people cowering under the thumb of a despotic ruler.
Nivvo is a young thief, not interested in anything except keeping himself and his sister alive. That changes when he accidentally overhears a conversation.
Now Nivvo finds himself up to his neck in trouble. He has only one night to find the rightful heir. He has to smuggle him out of the city before the tyrant and his black-clad soldiers kill them both. And he has to avoid the crime lord’s watchful eyes, for if Vicco Cambrosi catches them, they might be better off dead…
Once you actually start digging into this world that Rust has created, you quickly find yourself wanting to know as much as possible about Vicco Cambrosi and his wonderful underworld. One part Fagin, one part Jabba the Hutt, Cambrosi has cultivated a culture that really revolves all around him. The entire city seems to be devoted to him in one way or another, and young Nivvo finds himself quickly placed in a situation where he must either decide to serve Cambrosi completely or, well…that’s the question…or what.
Next thing you know, you’re being taken on this Mark Twain-esque adventure in a rather Charles Dickens world, if you’re one who likes simplified descriptions of stories that don’t really give you much for an answer as to what’s going on at all.
There is simply so much happening within the pages of this book that Ms. Rust could easily write a companion piece just to cover the history of this world she built…in fact, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea….would you, please?
In the end, Ratpaths manages to have an incredibly unique take on a fantasy genre which, generally, feels as though everyone just wants to be the next Tolkien. Here, we see a much more old school approach to story telling, in which standard conventions can be tossed out the window, allowing the reader to have a truly original experience..and in this case, one that’s worth the ride.