From the beginning of the book, Tavera, or Tavi as she is affectionately known, is an endearing character. We first meet her as a young child whose mother is Prisca the Tart - literally - a prostitute. While Tavi's mother is servicing her gentleman callers, Tavi hides in the shadows and pilfers money and valuables from the man's clothing. This doesn't seem like a great upbringing for a child, but Tavi doesn't seem to be suffering or have a bad life.
However, Prisca sells Tavi to a thief, Derk "The Lurk," who had noticed the young half-elf's abilities and takes her under his wing. And while she grieves for her lost mother, Derk ends up being a great father figure (except for the whole "thief-in-training" apprenticeship aspect) and seems to genuinely love Tavi. He protects her, he tries to provide for her, and has his sometime lover, "Old Glam," teach her the secrets of womanhood that he is unable to.
The story unfolds as Tavi becomes a young woman, hones her skills, and eventually has to learn to stand on her own. I enjoyed Thieves At Heart very much. I think Tarwater's characterization of Tavi and Derk was spot on; I feel like I really knew these characters, their fears, their ups and downs.
On a scale of 1-10, I'd say this is a strong 9. This is a book I would definitely recommend to fans of the fantasy genre, but also anyone who enjoys a story about a bond between two people who aren't blood relations, but are family nonetheless. I will be keeping an eye out for the second book in this series, which, according to Tarwater's website,[...] (I just had to throw that in there somewhere - what a great name!), is going to be a prequel focusing on Derk.
(Review written by Kathy, a Literary R&R book blog reviewer)