Kef is without doubt the life and soul of the story. She is sassy, witty and packs a mean punch (and knife). Initially, it took me some time to warm up to her as she came across as a little too perfect, but the more pages I spent with her and the more I learned about her past and especially what drives her, the more I realised that a lot of that is just a front for an otherwise deeply troubled soul doing what she thinks is right by those she cares most for.
To aid her in her ambitious endeavour, Kef spends the first half of the story putting together a small crew. These include the old genius and architect Gabine, the soft-hearted bomb-making alchemist Harold, the eager and gullible honourborn fool Nicholas, and my personal favourite, the mutant giller Squine. Each has a role to play in ensuring the success of the heist. Unfortunately, not all these roles feel fully fleshed out and I wish I got to spend more time with each character as they are likeable and have interesting stories to tell. Herne also mentions Kef's old crew which don't feature in the story but still make a memorable impression. I look forward to meeting them in subsequent books.
My favourite aspect of The Thunder Heist is the worldbuilding. Herne has outdone himself here in creating a truly fascinating world in Entoris, in which humanity has forsaken the surrounding monster-infested lands to a life on the Twisted Seas. From floating cities made of thousands of boats chained together to deep ocean depths haunted by hungry leviathans to red skies lit by the debris of falling stars, there is so much to love here. The majority of the story takes place in Zorith, which Herne vividly brings to life in all its storm-wracked glory. It reminded me a lot of Dishonoured's Dunwall and the City of Guerdon in Gareth Hanrahan's The Gutter Prayer, with its modern tech, oppressive aristocracy, smog-filled skies and murky waters. I feel like we have barely scratched the surface of Entoris and the Twisted Seas and I am keen to explore further.
The Thunder Heist is a short novel, which most readers could probably devour in one sitting. Nonetheless, its pages are filled with plenty of action (including an explosive prison break in its opening pages which really set the tone), betrayals and surprising revelations. It is often lighthearted but has its fair share of dark moments, one of which really stuck with me. All I can say is that it involves a locket. I really like it when a book strikes an emotional connection with the reader even if it is one drowned in sadness. One thing that I was disappointed by is what felt like a rushed latter half and abrupt end to the novel. I feel like Herne could have fleshed it out further and given the plot the added weight and time it deserved.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first seafaring escapade on the Twisted Seas. The Thunder Heist is a terrifically fun heist adventure in what is a unique and fascinating world. There is so much potential here and I eagerly look forward to Kef's next adventure. If you are looking for a quick and enjoyable weekend read, then definitely check this out.
I received an arc from the author in exchange for an honest review.