No genre in YA fiction has received quite as much attention over the past few years as the YA mystery/thriller. Whether that’s mysterious inheritances and puzzle-solving in Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Inheritance series, podcasting whodunnit mysteries in Holly Jackson’s Good Girl trilogy, or in the case of Kayvion Lewis’ Thieves Gambit, globe-trotting teenage thieves duking it out to secure their heart’s desire.
Pitched as The Hunger Games meets Oceans 8, Thieves Gambit sees Rosslyn ‘Ross’ Quest, the scion of a world-renowned family of thieves, at an impasse – she wants to quit the thief life and be a normal, college-bound teenager, while her controlling mother wants her to stay at home and continue as the key to her schemes. When said mother is kidnapped by a mysterious group who demand a billion-dollar ransom, Ross is forced to take up the invitation to join the Thieves Gambit, a globally-lauded competition where master thieves compete to secure a wish from a shadowy, seemingly omnipotent cabal.
Ross herself is immediately rootable and likeable, whether she’s forging a found family of sorts within the competition, saving the life of a fellow competitor when it’s illogical of her to do so, or trying to uncover who is at the heart of her mother’s kidnapping. Lewis ensures that Ross’ rivals are just as fleshed out, whether that’s charming but mysterious British love interest Devroe, charmingly quirky teammates Kyung-soon and Mylo, or Noelia, Ross’ childhood friend turned nemesis, creating a group of characters whose dynamics the reader will quickly become invested in, even as more of them start to drop out of the competition.
The action set-pieces are enjoyable and freshly cinematic (fitting given that the book has already been optioned for film by Lionsgate before its publication), whether that’s evading guards in a lush museum, trying to steal sarcophagi via train rides to Paris, or emotion-laden chase sequences that are both suspenseful and emotive as likeable players battle it out for their own reasons, often leading to revelations and interesting developments set to be explored in future instalments of the series.
Ending on a jaw-dropping series of cliffhangers, Thieves Gambit more than proves its worth as a compelling new YA series, setting the stage of an explosive book two. This reviewer cannot recommend this first instalment enough if a prospective reader is looking for a high-stakes heist thriller with a beating heart and an immensely likeable hero. All this in a single book? It’s practically (pun very much intended) a steal…
Thieves Gambit is out on 26th September from Simon & Schuster.