Master Thieves in Fiction

  • Above-average intelligence
  • Cunning
  • Manipulative
  • Moral Flexibility

All qualities that can be found in great “Master Thieves” in fiction. All of whom have a tendency to target people with more power and wealth than they do.

With such attributes that can be attributed to successful CEO’s, one might ask why they bother stealing? It certainly isn’t about survival. Though some “Master Thieves” might start out their careers stealing for food and other necessities.

By the time their already considered “Master Thieves,” money usually isn’t the reason they do what they do. By then, they already have enough to live comfortably.

But for most of them, they continue for other reasons. Some will do it as a means to another end such as vengeance or in service to what they believe to be a “higher” cause. While others continue their high risk activities not because of the reward but more as a way to fill some sort of hole in their lives.

If you’ve read any of the below books, then you’ll notice that the following didn’t become great thieves from only sleight of hand. They aren’t even the best fighters in their crew though they usually make up for it by having an ally who excels at it.

What makes them great is how they manage to accomplish their seemingly monumental goals (remember that these characters tend to target people or organizations larger and more powerful than they are). Hence, they usually gain their prize through deceit rather than force. And thus showing how the Master Thief is usually also a very apt conman.

In terms of personality, they can range from the serious to the flippant. But one thing “Master Thieves” have in common is the amount of effort they place on gaining their prize.

Expect the Thief Protagonist to plan extensively for his “heist.” He would usually be the one to gain and distribute information on his target. And for a monumental heist, he usually would recruit very competent crew members to aid him.

The “Master Thief” due to his profession has some moral flexibility. How flexible depends on the character. Some are only into stealing objects, while others are not above kidnapping and threatening children. But as a reader, these thieves impress you for their ability to outsmart their targets (who are usually portrayed as unsympathetic crooks and bullies that need to be put down)

The following are books I would recommend you check out for Thief Protagonists:

Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentlemen Bastards) 

Author: Scott Lynch

Locke Lamora leads a thieving gang of 4 in the island city of Camorr. Having sworn fealty to the city’s underworld boss, Locke’s gang isn’t supposed to be stealing from nobles. There’s some sort of treaty between the aristocrats and the underworld. But Locke does and even manages to hide this from the underworld boss Barsavi, even being well-liked and respected enough by Barsavi to be (unwillingly) engaged to Barsavi’s daughter. Unfortunately, someone wants to bring Barsavi down. And Locke & gang are stuck in the middle…

This book is in parts humorous and in parts dark. And I love the climax. Those who like morally ambiguous thieves as opposed to thieves with hearts of gold should give this a try.

The Thief (Queen’s Thief Series)

Author: Megan Whalen Turner

Gen starts this story in a dungeon. He has the skills to make a great thief. Unfortunately, having bragged openly about stealing from the King got him caught. But he gets a new lease in life when he is conscripted to steal an amulet with magical properties…

While the summary seems like the generic thief story, I suggest that you finish this book and go on to the next books. It’s a series that gets better as the book goes along. I would love to tell you why I love Gen and this series. But it would really spoil the story for new readers. Expect twists and turns with this series. So readers who like to be surprised might want to give this a try. Those who also like political intrigue might want to read this book as well

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy)

Author: Jennifer Nielsen

The orphan Sage steals to survive. A brief look at his history shows that he can be a consummate liar. This ability combined with his similarity in features and age to a lost prince makes him one of three candidates to act as a pretender (and puppet to one ruthless noble) to the now vacant throne.

If you’ve read The Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner, then you might also want to give this book a try. Definitely a very enjoyable read

Six of Crows (Six of Crows Duology)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Kaz Brekker has been described as a thug. But don’t let that description fool you into thinking he’s just a bully. Kaz’s skills has earned him a contract to steal something from one of the most fortified places on earth. And to accomplish this big heist, he would need to bring together a hypercompetent crew…

If you really want a dark character more black than white in the grey scale of morality, then Kaz is the person you want to read about. Kidnapping? Check. Threatening a kid? Check. Killing someone even after promising to let that person live? Check.

Kaz is pretty bad. But don’t worry. As a reader, I’m pretty sure you’ll sympathize with him. For fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, you might want to check this book out as it is set in the same universe as the Grisha

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl Series)

by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old genius who knows that fairies exist and that they have gold. He wants the gold and decides to get it by holding a fairy for ransom. Unfortunately for him, the fairies in Artemis’ world are definitely different from your common fairy tale fairies. The fairies not only have magic but also have advanced technology beyond that of human’s.

Good thing Artemis came prepared.

The Heist (Fox & O’Hare Series)

Author: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

Nicolas Fox is a thief and conman on the FBI’s wanted list. But as of the start of this series, FBI Agent Kate O’Hare finally manages to capture him and put him behind bars. Unfortunately, Nick escapes again. O’Hare pursues only to find out that her superiors let Nick go on the condition that Nick will be helping to bring down and capture people the FBI cannot touch by the usual means.

Readers who enjoy humour and non-dark capers will probably love this.


Leave a Reply