This synopsis is literally all spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, don’t read this!
Synopsis by Kikki Boersma
Thief of Sparks opens with sixteen-year-old Kila Sigh and her older brother Wen hiding on a rooftop in the coastal city of Starside, watching a drunken man they mean to rob. The Sigh siblings are skilled thieves, but poor. Wen is sick with a bloody cough; they need money for his medicine. Though more experienced, Wen sends Kila to rob their mark; in his weakened state he knows he’ll just slow her down, putting her in danger of being caught. Kila asks Wen to let her carry a knife named “Cayne,” their father’s blade; however, Wen refuses.
Almost to the mark, using a rooftop tollway known as “the roofway” as a short-cut through the city, Kila notices a second person (who we find out is named Fallo) on the same mission. Physically taking him down is no problem for Kila, although the boy’s friend is quick to threaten her with a dagger. A knee to the groin defeats him and she takes his dagger, warning them to stay out of her territory.
Back on task, and now physically anticipating it, we learn that Kila (sometimes) has the ability to heighten all her senses. At the peak of this feeling, when she sees the world without naming its parts, Kila sees the metal around her as glowing in different colors. She calls it “the zing”, but she suspects it’s really something called “mercus vision”. In this instance, it allows her to see into her target’s pockets, revealing the coins she needs.
By the Harridan Gate, a passageway to the vast Dunne Medow Plaza, Kila tackles her victim. He attempts to fight back, poorly. She soon discovers that he has a cat stuffed in the sack he’s been carrying. Right away she thinks of a way to get more money – the Donse Masters at the Cathedral of Til pay a bounty of gold for cats, believing them to be possessed by evil spirits called demayne. She nicks the bag and the gold, leaving the drunken and angry target on the cobblestones.
Back home in the Cheapsgate slum, in a ramshackle warehouse called “the Warren”, Kila lets the cat out of the bag so Wen can see. It’s a dirty cream-colored male. Wen is fascinated with the animal and feeds him. Kila feels some sympathy for the cat, but reasons that they need the money. Upon waking the next morning, she discovers that Wen and the cat are gone.
Kila goes to the medicine woman’s shop to buy Wen’s tincture, only to find Wen and the cat already there. The old woman, Finta Sahng, seems perfectly fine with a forbidden animal in her house. Wen has even named the thing – Oly. Then he tells her something amazing: the cat has been talking to him, straight into his mind. This is the true reason the Donse Masters want to kill cats, to keep them from bonding to humans. Wen is now mentally and emotionally attached to the animal, and Oly to him. When a cat chooses someone to bond with, they can telepathically share all they see, hear, feel, smell, or taste. This is known as the catsight.
Just as Kila reluctantly accepts this, Wen learns from Oly that the cat’s littermates are being sacked up to be taken for the bounty. The three of them rush to aid the others, ending up in a dank trezz den. Wen is beaten and injured by the sailors who have captured the feline siblings, and Oly has been taken again. Quickly hiring a man outside to get Wen home safely, and taking the weapon Cayne with her, Kila follows the sailors in the rain to the Harridan Gate.
The cats are in two soaking wet bags, slung over the shoulder of the sailors. In a desperate move of distraction, Kila slashes the reins of a Radiant’s atlen carriage, freeing the huge birds and creating chaos. The sailors, as hoped, stop to watch, allowing Kila to get close enough to slit open one bag. The cats jump out but stay close. As Kila defends herself against the furious sailors, a little gray cat begins to speak to her telepathically.
In the confusion of the brawl, the two boys from the night before appear, grabbing the felines and running off with them. The little gray cat leads Kila away from the oncoming men of the city Watch after the sailors are incapacitated. Kila knows the boys are going for the cat bounty, and once away from the Watchmen, scoops up the gray cat and runs the roofway to cut them off.
Upon reaching the boys, she scares them enough to make them give up the sack of cats. Oly is freed, along with another, but the third in the bag is dead. The little gray cat is persistently transmitting her feelings to Kila: fear, grief, anger, urgency. The boys still have two of the animals in their possession as they make their escape.
As they race to save the others, Kila is hit with a wave of icy cold, coming from a sedan chair down the street-someone inside was watching her. Even the cats can feel it. However, the feeling dissipates, and Kila and the freed cats resume their rescue, albeit after some hesitation about how badly the Sigh siblings need the money the bounty on the cats could bring them. In these few moments, it becomes clear that she no longer has that choice. The little gray female has chosen Kila to bond with and Kila knows that she would never do anything to hurt her new friend.
The two boys and the stolen cats are tracked to an atlen barn in lower Terriside. It sits very close to the Divide, an enormous wall erected in a forgotten age. The mysterious dead city of Moonside lies on the other side, but nobody has ever seen it. Moonside is even walled off to the sea, so it cannot be approached from the water.
Kila hears the boys talking about the cats when suddenly, they know she’s found them. As soon as she enters the room, she discovers that the cats have bonded with the boys and no longer consider them a threat. Fallo, the first young thief from the night before, has bonded with the long-haired black female, named Lop. The second boy, Henley, is bonded to Huff, a stripy orange tabby. One more cat, a fat black and white fuzzball, remains unbonded but is named Startle. When asked what Kila’s cat’s name is, rather than “choosing” a name, she finds that one simply comes to her: Nax.
It’s decided-via the cats-that everyone will go to the Warren to meet up with Wen, who indeed got safely home. The boys won’t have trouble finding it because of the mental connection between the animals. Every cat knows roughly where the others are. Kila goes off first with Oly and Nax. On her way, she begins to feel the cold wind from before. Someone is watching her. Suddenly a new voice slithers its way into her mind, taking control of her body, forcing her to walk toward the window where the watcher sits. She is only released when Nax and Oly bite her ankles hard enough to make her snap out of it.
Finally back at the Warren, the topic moves to what the nine of them could do with this many beings – such as forming a proper thievery net with good communication via the animals. Kila and Wen have always wanted to fulfill their father’s dream of becoming recovery agents, legal thieves hired to recover stolen property. Plans are half-formed, ambitions are raised, and everyone goes to sleep feeling like something big has finally come. Everyone except Kila. She feels the cold being, looking for her somehow. Nax comforts her as only a cat can.
The story continues in A Raven’s Dream.
Thief of Sparks is Copyright 2017 by Eric Kent Edstrom