The Identity Thief Will Steal Your Mind

Brianna Krueger's picture

If I could give Alex Bryant’s debut novel, The Identity Thief, the first in The God Machine series, a single identity, it would be: Addictive.

Addictive like you want to stay up late reading. Addictive like you wake up early so you can squeeze in 10 minutes of reading before heading out the door. Addictive like you contemplate skipping lunch to read. Addictive like you’re reading while half-walking, half-running on the treadmill. Addictive like…I think you get the point.

From the start of The Identity Thief, you’re pulled in when the identity thief poses as a man’s daughter and magically kills him after her toy bow and arrow transforms into a real wooden bow. Not that death is cool, but the magic surrounding it is, and the magical world Bryant creates is, well, addictive.

The Identity Thief Will Steal Your Mind

Magic exists as common knowledge in this London town (no worries about being caught by a muggle here!), but sorcery isn’t praised. Magic is simply something that’s part of the world. After all, there is a Sorcerer Investigation Department (which sounds a lot cooler than the FBI) hunting down sorcerers and relentlessly trying to bring malefactors to justice, mainly Cuttlefish.

Who is Cuttlefish, you may ask? He’s nobody, yet he’s everybody, and trying to figure out who he is and where he’ll strike next is–you guessed it–addicting. 

It’s a game of figure out what Cuttlefish wants and why–and how this nobody will do anything to achieve becoming somebody, through pretending to be everyone. 

But he’s not the only one struggling with identity. Cassandra ‘Cass’ Drake, our 12-year-old protagonist and accidental hero, is an endearingly witty girl stuck between wanting to be accepted by her popular friends and doing the right thing–which everyone who’s ever been a kid knows can be pretty difficult.

On top of that balance, with no magical ties outside of her mother’s badass job as a SID, Cass finds her world turned upside down when magic, unknowingly, knocks on her door. Or more literally, trips in a cemetery. And she wants nothing to do with magic…or Hector.

After all, Hector is an awkward 12-year-old boy who desperately reeks of wanting to be Cass’s friend and wants acceptance, but often finds himself at the butt of jokes and bullying from others. (But, as Cass would say, he’s too stupid to realize he’s being made fun of.) (And who wants to be friends with the school plague?!)

Cass’s internal dialogue will make you laugh out loud and charm you (but not magically). Her thoughts and actions will be flawed (hello, 12-year-old!), but she is smart and finding her way that her mother would definitely be proud.

Cleverly told between narration from Cass’s POV, article clippings, and 3rd person POV of Cuttlefish, you’ll find yourself enchanted in the way two threads of story become one mastermind of a story. 

Today, we have with us the mastermind and author behind the God Machine series, Alex Bryant, who has so kindly agreed to an interview about his novel. 

Author Alex Bryant. From The Identity Thief Will Steal Your Mind

I'm sure this is a question you get a lot: what inspired you to write the Identity Thief (and to continue doing so over 10 years)?

I do get asked it a lot, but it’s my policy to give a different answer every time. So here goes: what inspired me was the idea of a completely down-to-earth and believable fantasy world. I like fantasy, but I always get annoyed by parts of the world that don’t completely make sense. And the problem with magic is that, by definition, it doesn’t make sense, or it would really exist, and wouldn’t be magic anymore. 

In The Identity Thief, magic makes total sense, because it’s just an illusion–a souped-up version of what stage magicians do. It can only influence minds, not reality. This makes it very limited in its power, and the world is largely unaffected by its presence. Despite that, people are very afraid, and it’s kept to a sinister criminal underworld. But other than that, the world of The Identity Thief is normal modern-day London.

Since Cuttlefish was originally the star of his own story before joining Cass, how did it come to you to intertwine their stories together?

The first book in the series was supposed to be about Cass coming up against the villainous sorcerers of the Lyceum. But as I wrote that story, I started coming up with side stories to help develop the world. Most of these stories featured a certain charming and manipulative shapeshifter who was so much fun to write about that his story became a full novel before I’d even got a chapter about Cass down. At first, I tried to park this new villain, Cuttlefish, to one side, thinking he’d be great to introduce in a later novel. But he point-blank refused to be ignored, until I was very reluctantly forced to make him the villain of Cass’s first story. This was sad news for the original arch-villain, Prince, who’s now just a minor character in The Identity Thief…though Prince will get to have his turn in the limelight later on.

But in the end, making Cuttlefish the villain made a lot more sense. Cass begins as a regular high-schooler who doesn’t have anything to do with magic–except for the fact that her mum is a sorcerer-hunting detective. Cuttlefish, meanwhile, is rampaging around London, on the trail of a powerful collection of sorcery books. As Cuttlefish’s strikes get more and more damaging, Cass and her friends become suspicious of a new guy at her school, Hector, and start to investigate. And in doing so, they unwittingly bring Cuttlefish tearing into the heart of their neighborhood.

Identity is obviously a big deal in the Identity Thief. How did you come up with your character's identities and their names (specifically, Cassandra, Cuttlefish, Hector, and Helen)? And how did you handle creating so many identities/characters?

OK, names are easy. Cassandra, Hector, Helen, and several other characters (even a house–Omphalos) all get their names from Greek legends. Ancient Greek culture is crucial to the world of The God Machine, especially the Lyceum, so it was the obvious place to turn. Cuttlefish is an outsider to that world, so he gets his nickname more literally from his ability to shapeshift and outsmart stronger rivals–just like real cuttlefish.

As for identities, I have an insane amount of material–easily more than double the length of the book itself–explaining the backstories and inner lives of all my main characters. The core facts, I keep in a spreadsheet to make sure I don’t contradict myself on things like physical appearance, age, etc. Cuttlefish’s whole extra novel of backstory ended up turning into a spin-off novella, I’m Nobody, which you can get for free on my site.

Cass is a very engaging narrator with a lot of great one-liners. Do you have a favorite from her?

“It was one of those awkward moments when your eyes meet across a deserted cemetery.” Because we’ve all been there. Don’t deny it.

Quite honestly, I had never heard of a cuttlefish before your novel. How did you discover the cuttlefish?

My interest in the humble cuttlefish stems completely from an amazing book called Other Minds, by Peter Godfrey-Smith. He reveals how these bizarrely intelligent creatures have emerged from a totally separate evolutionary tree, making them the closest thing to truly alien intelligence we can experience. They’re also gifted with an extraordinary array of abilities. Not only are they the planet’s masters of disguise, able to change their skin colour and texture to imitate whatever they want (it doesn’t even have to be something they can see), but they’re equipped with venom and ink clouds, too. Human bodies look like a whole lot of squidgy useless compared to them. Go look them up on YouTube. You won’t regret it.

When can we expect to start hearing details of book two?

Oh, boy. I’ve got a rough roadmap of the entire series and a more detailed plan for Book Two. I’m hoping I can get it out by the end of the year, because I’m desperate to start telling the really juicy bits of the overall story. But man, just publicizing Book One can feel like a full-time job that gets in the way of writing. What I can tell you for sure is that Book Two will be told from Hector’s point of view, so we’ll see a very different side of the world as we know it, with heroes becoming villains and villains becoming heroes…

The Identity Thief Will Steal Your Mind

Where can people find your book/work?

My site has links to buy The Identity Thief on Amazon. I’ll keep the site up to date with other places you can buy it, too! The site’s also the only place you can get hold of I’m Nobody

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Have you looked up cuttlefish on YouTube yet? Why not? It’s more fun than reading this interview, trust me.

Oh, and please follow me on social media because I’m sad and lonely. Maybe I’ll post cuttlefish memes, who knows.
FB/insta: @alexbryantauthor
Twitter: @alexbryantauth

Thank you, Alex, for speaking with us! Make sure to get your copy of The Identity Thief starting on the release date, February 28th, and prepared to get addicted. 

This review was provided from an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review. Or maybe this is cuttlefish writing this review…. 

Brianna Krueger is the Chief Editor of Wandering Educators. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, unless this is boss reading this, then she takes herself very seriously. Brianna loves to write, read, collect elephant paraphernalia, eat pizza, and take long walks on the beach. She’d love to read, review, and interview more authors – give her a buzz – or check out her own writing at: Contently, WattPad, Amazon, and, of course, WanderingEducators.