Try a Taste of: Sneaky Orphans

Published Monday, April 19, 2021

One of my favorite tropes, often found in Fantasy novels, is what I call The Sneaky Orphan. In these, the main character is orphaned and a series of chance encounters lead them to be trained as an assassin or a thief. They’re generally the best assassin or thief and go on to have great adventures. I have always been enamored of orphan tales, probably beginning with my love of Anne of Green Gables and Charles Dickens (my very alive parents have never been a fan of this preference). It wasn’t until I was going through my Goodreads tags one day that I realized that the Sneaky Orphan tale is a particular favorite. Since then I’ve been collecting titles and have come to realize how prevalent this trope really is. If you like to play a Rogue in your D&D campaign, this list is probably for you. -Amanda

Plot summaries from publishers.

The Lies of Locke Lamora
by Scott Lynch

An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.

Available Digitally:
Overdrive/Libby (ebook and audiobook)

Request in Catalog
The Way of Shadows
by Brent Weeks

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art. And he is the city’s most accomplished artist, his talents required from alleyway to courtly boudoir. For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned the hard way to judge people quickly — and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint. But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics — and cultivate a flair for death.

Available Digitally:
Cloud Library (ebook and audiobook)
Hoopla (audiobook)
Overdrive/Libby (ebook)

Request in Catalog
Six of Crows
by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Available Digitally:
Cloud Library (ebook)
Overdrive/Libby (ebook)

Request in Catalog
A Darker Shade of Magic
by V. E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

Available Digitally:
Cloud Library (ebook)
Hoopla (audiobook)
Overdrive/Libby (ebook and audiobook)

Request in Catalog
Fingersmith
by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household with tis fussy babies calmed with dosed of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves- fingersmiths- for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home. One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives – Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with a him an enticing proposition for sue: if she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of – passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways… But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

Available Digitally:
Hoopla (audiobook)
Overdrive/Libby (ebook)

Request in Catalog
About the Author

Amanda has been working at EPL for most of her adult life and is currently the Circulation Manager. In her free time she enjoys reading, knitting, and cuddling her cats. She’s basically a walking stereotype.