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SIGNED – Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves #1)


They killed her family. They ripped apart her home. But to repay her debts, she'll have to sacrifice her innocence.

Robbed of everything she loves, Viola mourns the sudden loss of her mother. Now burdened with an impossible debt to the Night Guild, she’s forced to train as a cunning thief. Subjected to cruelty at every turn, the scrawny criminal apprentice vows to survive long enough to become the kingdom’s best.

Thrown together with unlikely allies, her burgeoning skills draw the attention of sadistic bullies and jealous rivals with dark intentions. But fueled by grief-filled rage, Viola won’t let anything distract her from preparing for The Guild’s most treacherous test.

In a cutthroat den of thieves, can Viola rise to power and outrun a brutal death?

Child of the Night Guild is the first book in the gripping Queen of Thieves epic fantasy series that’s not for the faint of heart. If you like grimdark battles, improbable heroines, and graphic scenes, then you’ll love Andy Peloquin’s unflinching coming-of-age tale.


(Each paperback is hand-signed and personalized by me. Swag included!)

Thieves' guild, gritty and dark, amoral characters

SIGNED – Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves #1)

Look Inside

Viola huddled in darkness, shivering. The sobs and whimpers of the other children echoed in the close, stale air. Her back ached from hours—or has it been days?—of sitting on hard stone.

Confusion drowned out her fear. How could Papa abandon me?

She hugged her knees tighter and rocked. "Bright Lady, hear me and protect me in my hour of need." She whispered the prayer over and over, clinging to the litany like a lifeline. She wouldn't succumb to her terror.

The door swung open and she shielded her eyes from the harsh light.

"Up, little 'uns." A man's voice, gruff, impatient. "Time to meet your master."

Viola tried to stand, but her legs refused to cooperate. She couldn't remember the last time she'd eaten. She swallowed. Her tongue felt thick and coarse, her throat filled with grit.

"Up, I said!"

Viola lowered her hands and blinked back tears. A bearded man stared down, the fire in his eyes matching the torch in his hands. She shrank back, for the first time realizing she was alone in the cell.

The man snarled. "Are you deaf, child?"

Viola shook her head.

"Just stupid and useless, are you?"

Again, Viola shook her head. Her parched throat refused to form words.

"Then why in the Watcher's horny elbows are you not on your feet?"

She struggled to stand, but her knees gave way. With a curse, the man seized her and dragged her upright. His fingers dug into her arm and she cried out.

He shoved her forward. "Now, walk!"

Viola stumbled toward the door and caught herself on the frame. Her legs wobbled, but she stood.

The man pushed past. "Keep up or else..."

She shuffled to catch up to the other children. After the rank air of the room, Viola welcomed the musty odor of the passageways. Flickering torchlight set the shadows dancing through the tunnels of earth and stone. The dim light sent an eerie glow over the markings etched into the walls. She shivered.

The sound of sobs and shuffling filled the tunnels. The passageways twisted and turned, rising up a gentle incline. Before she'd taken a dozen steps, Viola's lungs begged for air and her legs burned. She refused to slow. It would make the man angry. He looked meaner than her father, even after Papa had drunk too much.

The stone walls and low roof gave way to a massive open space. Lanterns hung from the walls, casting light on an enormous chamber nearly the size of Old Town Market. The ceiling rose beyond the torchlight and a chill wind gusted through the room.

A man stood in the center. His beard looked like Papa's after a week without shaving. A tall hat flopped at an awkward angle. Silver shone in both his ears and in one of his teeth.

He spread his arms wide. "Come in, my little cherubs, come in. Stand over there. And you, take your place there. Over there, my lad. Yes, good." He rubbed his hands together.

His smile reminded Viola of Master Umlai's cat after he caught a mouse, though with fewer teeth. But it was his waistcoat that drew Viola's eye. Bright as a tomato, it looked out of place against the rest of the man's dun-colored clothing.

The man stared at them, a beatific smile on his face. "Welcome, my sweets. I know some of you are quite uncertain of what is going on, but rest assured, all of your questions will be answered in time."

Viola's knees trembled. Something about the grinning man in his bright red vest sent a chill down her spine.

He rubbed his stomach with a filthy hand. "You may call me Master Velvet. For the next ten years, the Night Guild will be as mother and father to you. For a short time, you, my dears, will be as my children. It's my duty to work the useless out of you. By the time you leave these walls, you'll be ready to join the ranks of productive Guild members."

Ten years? A tear squeezed from Viola's eye and a sob burst from her throat. A boy on her left snuffled and wiped snot on his shirt.

"You, my pet. Yes, you! Come up here." He pointed at her with a crooked finger.

She didn't want to go, but what would he do if she refused? Hands trembling, her stomach in knots, she shuffled forward.

Master Velvet wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "What's your name, child?" Up close, he looked even more like a grinning cat. Viola expected him to pounce and gobble her up.

She broke into shaking sobs. "I want to go home to my papa!"

"Well, that sounds like a silly name for such a pretty little thing." Master Velvet smiled his gap-toothed grin. "Tell me your name, my sweet."


"Look at me, Viola." He gripped her chin and tilted her face up. Viola flinched and tried to push his hands away, but he held her fast. "Your name was Viola. No longer. You have no name."

He turned to the rest of the children. "All of you. Forget the name your mother screamed when she birthed you. Forget the name your father spat as he beat you. The names you once knew are gone. You are all nameless. And nameless you will remain until you have proven yourselves worthy." He glared down at Viola. "Do you understand?"

She wiped her tears and nodded. "Yes."

"Yes, what?"

The chill in his voice made Viola shudder. "Yes, Master V-Velvet." She swallowed the lump in her throat.

"Good." Master Velvet released her face and shoved her toward the huddled children. He clasped his hands behind his back and paced up the line. "Now, pay attention, my pretties. Forget your homes. Forget your families. You will never see them again. You belong to the Night Guild now."

Master Velvet stopped and stared at each child in turn. The smile on his face failed to reach his cold, dark eyes.
"You represent a significant investment on the part of the Night Guild." He stabbed a finger at the huddled mass. "Each of you has been paid for with Guild coin. Your eighth nameday has come and gone and now you belong to us. We do not take investments lightly. You will be given the skills needed to repay our investment. Those who do not..." The feline smile widened his face. "Suffice it to say, my darlings, you do not want to find out what happens to those who fail to provide a return."

Master Velvet reached into the breast pocket of his waistcoat. "Look at this coin. A silver drake, as ordinary as each of you. But watch!"

Master Velvet waved his hands and a silk cloth replaced the coin. The children gasped in surprise and delight.

"It has become a handkerchief, fit for any gentleman in the King's Court. Or has it?" Fire blazed, and the cloth burned away to reveal a dagger. "A steel blade, perfect for all manner of useful tasks." The dagger danced in his fingers, reflecting the torchlight.

Viola gaped, her eyes transfixed by the flashing steel. Suddenly, the dagger vanished and the silver drake reappeared in Master Velvet's fingers. He rolled the coin from knuckle to knuckle, flipped it in the air, and held it up for them to see.

"It must be magic!" His snaggletooth grin turned into a sneer and he drew the scarf and dagger from within his sleeves. "Wrong. There is no magic here. The magic is in your fingers, in your minds, and in your tongues. You will learn to harness this magic. You will learn the skills that will keep you alive as you serve the Night Guild."

He stopped beside Viola and placed a hand on her shoulder. The gesture reminded her of Mama, but his eyes held the chill she'd seen in Papa's before he handed her to Iltair.

"Get this through your head. We are not your family. We are your masters, and you will serve without hesitation. Obey, and the rewards will be great. Disobey, and the consequences will be severe. Do you understand?"

"Y-yes." Viola's parched throat made it difficult to croak out the words.

Master Velvet turned his gaze on the other children. "All of you, heed my warning. Look around you." His gesture encompassed the massive room. "Take it in, for this will be your new home. You will not see the sun until you have earned the right to breathe clean air. Know this: you belong to the Night Guild, body and soul."

The growl of Viola's stomach sounded loud in the large room.

Master Velvet's feline grin returned. "My poor little angels, you must all be hungry and thirsty. It is a good thing we have prepared a feast in your honor." He released Viola's shoulder and beckoned for the children to follow. "Come this way, my pretties. See how we reward those who heed."

Viola followed Master Velvet to the table at the far end of the room. The smell of fresh bread wafted from cloth-covered baskets. Bowls filled with nuts and dried fruits sat next to trays heaped high with sweetmeats. Viola joined the others in a mad rush to the table. She bit into a pastry, heedless of the grime staining her hands. The sweet taste of heavy cream filled her mouth. The pastry disappeared in two bites and she reached for another.

Master Velvet stood on the other side of the table, the catlike grin on his unkempt face. "Yes, my dearies. Eat up. Plenty of sweets for the sweet." He held out a cup. "You must be thirsty, little one."

Viola drained the honeyed water in a single draught. A fistful of raisins and a third cream-filled pastry followed. Her stomach soon protested, yet she ate until the table stood bare.

"Come, come, my darlings." Master Velvet wiped traces of food from the corner of one young boy's mouth. "You must be sleepy. We have cozy beds where you can sleep the night through."

Seizing a torch, he led them down a short hall. He opened the door and stepped into a darkened chamber. The torchlight revealed a windowless room filled with rows of bunks lining the walls.

"This, my cherubs, is where you will make your home for the immediate future. Choose your beds wisely."

The children rushed into the room, knocking Viola to the floor. Someone stepped on her arm and she cried out.

Master Velvet didn't bother to help her up. "Hurry, child, or all the good cots will be taken."

Viola climbed to her feet and shuffled toward the nearest available bed, cradling her throbbing arm against her chest. Tears carved streaks through the dust on her cheeks.

Master Velvet murmured in her ear. "Before you allow those tears to stain your new blanket, my pretty, give thanks to the gods that you were sent here." He leered at her and her stomach recoiled from his breath. He smelled like Master Umlai's slaughterhouse on a hot day. "There are worse fates than this. That, I can promise you."

Viola nodded and wiped her cheeks. "Y-Yes, Master Velvet."

Master Velvet patted her head and placed a kiss on her forehead. "There's a good girl."

Viola suppressed a shudder. She wanted to pull away, but that would make him angry. He had the same wild look she'd seen in Papa's eyes when he found his bottle empty.

"Now, off with you."

Stomach twisting, Viola hurried to her bunk. A ratty, moth-eaten blanket lay in a heap at one end of the bed. The straw-tick mattress was lumpy and uneven, and the wooden frame dug into her back.

Maybe Papa will come for me in the morning and take me home. He had to. She didn't want to spend another day in this dark place. She hated the way Master Velvet touched her and looked. I just want to go back to my sewing, mending, and gardening.

Master Velvet's voice brought her hopes crashing to the ground. "Sleep well, my cherubs. Tomorrow, you begin a new life."

The door shut with a clang, plunging them into darkness. The room filled with hushed sobs and whimpers. Viola shivered and pulled the ragged blanket up around her shoulders. She longed for her own bed, with her comforter that smelled like Mama. She wanted to smell the violas, lilies, and roses in her garden, feel the soft earth beneath her toes.

Mama's words came to her. "Stand tall, my flower, no matter what. Always keep your head up."

Tears flowed anew and she didn't stop them. I'm trying to stand tall, Mama, but I'm scared.

When she closed her eyes, Master Velvet and his leering grin filled her world.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 13 reviews
Trina Terry
Child of the Night Guild

Fantastic beginning to a story that takes you on a fantastic, breathtaking adventure. This only gets better further on in the series. Heartbreak, determination and treason that will have you cheering or cursing every other page when you think you know what is happening. I love this series!

I'm so glad you're loving it! Cheering and cursing is EXACTLY what I intended when writing it. :D

Beautiful edition!

Beautiful edition of a well written book. Looking forward to the next one!

Jay Downey
Can’t wait to read the next installment in the series


Dark, but amazing


CW: violence, gore, abuse, psychological torture, references to assault, rape, some others

A separate series set within the same world as the Darkblade books, “Child of the Night Guild” starts the Queen of Thieves series off with a bang. It gives “Throne of Glass” vibes, but darker. I loved every moment of it.

Sold by her father to repay a debt, 8 year old Viola is abandoned to the unforgiving clutches of the Night Guild, a shadowy organization of thieves, assassins, and others in the city of Praamis. Stripped of her identity, she finds a family of sorts within the guild and fights for her place within. But enemies and secrets lurk within the shadowy halls of the guild, and death waits for her to fall at every turn.

I was told (warned?) in advance that I would like this book even more than the Darkblade books I’ve read so far, but I was skeptical. I really should have known by this point that Andy Peloquin is absolutely lethal with a pen. Pun fully intended. Significantly shorter than those of the Darkblade series (just shy of 400 pgs compared to almost 900), its length was no obstacle to the quality of the story. The plot, the characters, the setting, all of it combined to deliver an incredible story.

We follow our MC from age 8 to 18 as she is tossed to the Night Guild and given a sink or swim ultimatum—either she survives the training, or she risks a fate worse than death. She finds friends, she finds enemies, and she finds a lot of trouble in between. The journey to get there is anything but easy, and readers with triggers set in violence against women are going to want to skip the book. It’s an amazing read, but definitely not a good fit for everyone.

An absolute badass of an FMC and a pace that can keep even shorter attention spans made this one of the most enjoyable dark fantasies I’ve read in a while. As per usual, Peloquin has delivered an incredibly gripping read, and I can’t wait to jump into the next one.

W. Lance Hunt
Grim, Dark, but I had a good time

The plot and tropes are recognizable but avoid the cliché and remain fresh: Peloquin presents a young girl forced into a cut-throat thief community along with other young ones. Much like the premise of The Lies of Locke Lamora, another book of young thieves, I had a blast reading.
Quickly, one feels at home in the storyline. The lone person, without a friend or any help in a ruthless situation, a new world in which she must figure out a way to survive. She runs afoul of a villainous fellow called 12 and later named Sabat, but she can build up friendships. Yet, as in anything described as Grim or Dark, these friendships don’t usually turn out well. Some friends fail despite how hard they try. The rest are scattered throughout the Night Guild—an association one can liken to an elaborate Mafia with various specialties built on individual skills.
The Heroine, Ilana, is a Hawk, a second-story woman.
As she negotiates this vicious world, she overcomes minor as well as serious adversity to be accepted as one of only a few girls in the whole of the Night Guild.
The world of her and the other apprentices’ education, the many trials and tests of skills all work well. She struggles. Nothing is given to her, making her a character one roots for. It makes her losses deeper, including seeing old friends she’d known only as numbers and how far they have fallen.
Sabat constantly harasses her, hating that she’s a girl in this testosterone-driven world.
Her few new friends, including an older Hawk, Denber, help her as she plots an impossible task to prove her worth in the Night Guild.
Despite this world's many trials and ordeals, young love unexpectedly blossoms with Ethen and is handled quite well—subtly, believably, and raising stakes as the story develops.
Near the end of this first volume of three, she must complete that impossible task for her to prove she belongs in the Night Guild. Her young beau makes a poor decision. And she must finally face Sabat, the boy, now a young man, who has harassed her for years.
Though I might have left him a eunuch too embarrassed to return, plotting revenge at this ultimate humiliation—she still gives us something we relish, and the moment is satisfying. (Am I Grimdark? Hmmm.)
Even so, there is plenty more danger to move the story into the next volume: Thief of the Night Guild.
Bottom line: I had a damned good time and am looking forward to Ilana’s continuing adventures.