Jan 23, 2012

Book Review–Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex


Thief of Lives is the third collection in the Twelve Planets Series1 and continues Twelfth Planet Press’ run of quality product. 

In contrast to Sue Isle’s mosaic in Nightsiders, Lucy Sussex offers the reader 4 widely divergent stories.

The Stories

Alchemy – Set in ancient Babylon, a god or demon attempts to manipulate a perfumer.

The Fountain of Justice – A purely crime fiction piece about the legal system and whether or not it delivers.

The Subject of O – College students, the female orgasm, and who creates the narrative of female pleasure.

The Thief of Lives – A researcher sent to Bristol at the behest of a reclusive author.  A tale about writers and their vampiric tendencies. 

A mixed bag

This collection was a bit of a mixed bag for me, which is not to say that it wasn’t all good.  I enjoyed Alchemy and Thief of Lives the most - it’s no surprise then,  that these are speculative fiction shorts in the collection. 

I appreciated The Fountain of Justice but I think I was too familiar with the message or tone of the piece for it to spark more than an agreeable nod of the head.  The Subject of O made me smile and generated a sniff of nostalgia for bygone university days.


Alchemy tapped into my love of Ancient History and I found this story to share some echoes of the Abrahamic myth of the temptation in the Garden of Eden. Only this is temptation is not quite so cut and dried as the biblical story.

Tapputi2 a widow and mother is approached a number of times over the course of her life by the spirit or demon Azubel, who offers to marry her. Azubel’s his bride price is  knowledge of the future and specifically knowledge of what would later become chemistry, knowledge that would benefit her and her station.  To Tapputi’s credit she is confident and intelligent enough not to be swayed.

Azubel while playing the role of the tempter is not evil, selfish perhaps, driven by his own passions but I get the sense that he does really care for her or what she coud do with the knowledge.

A wonderful story with feet in both the fantastical and historic.  Far more believable than a story of an apple and a snake.

Thief of Lives is perhaps one of the most tightly woven short stories I have read all year.  It’s complex and well constructed, so much so that I feel the need to go back and read it again to ensure I haven’t missed anything. 

This story seems on the surface to be quite a well executed and original paranormal fantasy.  But I can’t help but think Sussex is also making a comment on the nature of writing and on writers themselves.  I shall say no more.


A good introduction to the skill which Lucy Sussex can bring to bear in almost any genre. A little something for everyone.

A relevant note

Readers participating in the Australian Women Writers challenge will be heartened to know that Lucy rediscovered and republished the lost works of  nineteenth-century Australian crime writers Mary Fortune and Ellen Davitt.3

1. The brief given to authors was to write 4 short stories of up to 40,000 words in total.  The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.[Return to main article]

2. A real person from ancient history, a perfumer in ancient Mesopotamia, widely regarded as the first recorded chemist[Return to main article]

3. See Lucy’s website here.[Return to main article]

awwc2012This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.



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