The Holver Alley Crew

I’m on a roll with book reviews right now? Maybe I should just entertain y’all with these while I figure out my next story.

Today’s selection? The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca.

Back a while ago, I talked about the rest of the books that relate to this one (drop down to the section on Maradaine in the blog). As a bit of a story recap, this is a set of (potentially) inter-related series that all take place in the magical city of Maradaine, which is effectively a fantasy version of New York. (This is not a knock on it. I giggled so hard once it sunk in.)

The first series (under the heading of Novels of Maradaine) follows Veranix Calbert, a young man on a mission to stop the drug trade in his neighborhood while studying at the local magic college. He’s more or less a magic Batman.

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The next series is the Maradaine Constabulary, which, from that name, you can tell is about the cops. They’re in a section of the town a few neighborhoods over. Like Law & Order? Then this is a series for you.

Which leads us to the latest series, the Streets of Maradaine, with its debut, Holver Alley Crew.

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Blurb:

The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax’s service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life. 
 
Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income–and saddled with a looming debt–they fall back on their old skills and old friends.
 
With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land.
 
Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti’s crumbling sanity, the brothers and their crew of amateurs and washouts swear to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.

I said in my last reviews that the blurb made me think of Ocean’s Eleven. I wasn’t too far off. We’re short two people to make it to the full 11.

But this book is a fast paced adventure that leads from one heist to the next with some really smart characters taking the lead. One of the features I like was that one of the main characters had a family that actually got used both against him and for him in various ways. Typically, family is just used as background and things that can be talked about or threatened by without playing an active role in the story. I felt like I was reading a Shadowrun write up with a fairly sadistic Game Master at those moments. Definitely approve of that.

I also appreciate the relationships and motivations of this book and how quickly Maresca gets you invested in the problems. These are some very relatable people with relatable problems. How do you survive when everything is taken from you in a blink? Where do you turn when you find out it was done deliberately and there’ll be no justice from those that should deliver it? Hard times and hard choices is one of the ideas of this book.

If there was something I disliked, well, I’d say the fact that it’s a pretty close mirror to the Ocean’s. I won’t say much more, but I kinda ruined a twist with that knowledge. And I’d add in Asti’s mental issues. It’s apparent a few chapters in that he has PTSD. And, in certain ways, I appreciate the way Maresca portrays the effects, given the source of them (not going to spoil the full reason, but it’s a magical setting, so magic plays a role in why he has this illness.) On the other, some of the end conclusions and the almost convenience of Asti’s spells kinda bugged me. I’m going to give it a pass for a first book, but I’m hoping that they either honestly address the issue as the series goes or that it becomes more of a liability.

But beyond that, I enjoyed it. The heists were creative, I loved seeing more of Maradaine exposed and developed, and I’m really interested to see how this particular thread is going to connect to the wider tapestry.

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