Reviews

Portrait Of A Thief by Grace Li

*Spoiler free*

Thank you so much to Tiny Reparations Books and Edelweiss for the e-ARC!

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now. Will Chen plans to steal them back. A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son that has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a shadowy Chinese corporation reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago. His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A conman: Irene Chen, Will’s sister and a public policy major at Duke, who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering student who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down. Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

I’ve been excited for this book since the deal announcement. A book about five twenty somethings stealing art back that resides in Western museums even though it doesn’t rightfully belong to them. It sounded amazing, art, heists, found family. I couldn’t wait to read it.

Grace Li is a TALENTED writer. Every single line felt like it was crafted with such care, and every single line packed such a punch. Just, all the amazing things about the writing.

This book was also a lot different than I expected. I expected something high in intensity all the way throughout, a book where catching your breath doesn’t happen. But, this book was more of the sway of a inhale, rather than a large swell. And that’s completely fine! There is so much packed into it, and the emotional journey it takes is monumental. It just wasn’t as fast as I was expecting.

I also wasn’t expecting to fall in love with all of the characters like I did. All of them feel like an open wound and an exposed nerve. They’re all fighting for different things, but they’re all searching for themselves, for a connection. I want to hug them all. And seeing them grapple with identity, what they want out of the world, and each other, it was incredible. They’re also all very hot (all heist partakers are hot honestly).

And the relationships between them all were top notch. A lot of angst and grudges and grudging respect. There’s budding friendships and romances that made me want to scream.

The only qualm, and its honestly just a personal thing, was that this book leaned a bit too literary for me. It’s an Adult book, so I should’ve expected it and for the pace to be a bit slower. So really, this is just personal preference and nothing about the book at all!

It’s a heist book. Of course it’s amazing. It feels like the crest right before the wave crashes, a catch of breath before it’s exhaled. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it’s amazing. The writing is spectacular, and the characters just want a place in the world. I love them all, and I really liked this book.

Portrait Of A Thief comes out April 5th, 2022! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!

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