Thieves' World

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Thieves' World #1 (Original Printing)

Thieves' World is a shared world fantasy series created by Robert Lynn Asprin in 1978. The original series comprised twelve anthologies, including stories by such science fiction authors as Poul Anderson, John Brunner, Andrew J. Offutt, C. J. Cherryh, Janet Morris, Chris Morris. The Morrises introduced the Sacred Band of Stepsons[1] in Thieves' World and spun off a series of novels about them and their ancient cavalry commander, Tempus. The first three novels in The Sacred Band of Stepsons saga were authorized Thieves World novels. Marion Zimmer Bradley was an early contributor, but spun off her main character in the novel Lythande (1986) and did not return for later volumes. The series went on hiatus after the twelfth anthology. In addition to the official anthologies, several authors published novels set in the milieu of Thieves World and published short stories in a variety of places.

Thieves' World is set in the city of Sanctuary, located at the edge of the Rankan Empire. The city was depicted as a place where many were downtrodden and where the invading Rankan gods and the Ilsigi gods they had ousted begin a struggle for primacy. As the series continued, additional invasions occurred and the city was taken over by the snake-worshipping Beysib as the Rankan empire collapsed. Over time, a number of the characters in the series are revealed either to be the offspring of or otherwise blessed by various figures in the pantheons of the competing cultures, and discover or develop various powers as the series progresses. A unifying framework for the second half of the series implied that the city of Sanctuary was about to become the kernel of a new empire with a new and syncretic pantheon; however, the series went on hiatus before this came to fruition.

In 2002, Lynn Abbey, who co-edited several of the original anthologies, revitalized the series with the novel Sanctuary. It was followed by the anthologies Turning Points and Enemies of Fortune, which contain some returning authors and several new ones. Abbey also oversaw the republication of the original anthologies in omnibus editions and has plans for future anthologies.

Original anthologies[edit]

  • Thieves' World (1979)

ISBN 0-441-80582-5

Sentences of Death by John Brunner
The Face of Chaos by Lynn Abbey
The Gate of the Flying Knives by Poul Anderson
Shadowspawn by Andrew Offutt
The Price Of Doing Business by Robert Asprin
Blood Brothers by Joe Haldeman
Myrtis by Christine DeWees
The Secret of the Blue Star by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Essay: The Making of Thieves World

  • Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn (1980)

ISBN 0-44179578-1

Spiders of the Purple Mage by Philip José Farmer
Goddess by David Drake
The Fruit of Enlibar by Lynn Abbey
The Dream of the Sorceress by A.E. van Vogt
Vashanka's Minion by Janet Morris
Shadow's Pawn by Andrew J. Offutt
To Guard the Guardians by Robert Lynn Asprin
Essay: The Lighter Side of Sanctuary by Robert Asprin

  • Shadows of Sanctuary (1981)

ISBN 0-441-76028-7

Looking for Satan by Vonda N. McIntyre
Ischade by C.J. Cherryh
A Gift in Parting by Robert Asprin
The Vivisectionist by Andrew J. Offutt
The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn by Diana L. Paxson
Then Azyuna Danced by Lynn Abbey
A Man and His God by Janet Morris
Essay: Things the Editor Never Told Me by Lynn Abbey

  • Storm Season (1982)

ISBN 0-441-78712-6

Exercise in Pain by Robert Lynn Asprin
Downwind by C. J. Cherryh
A Fugitive Art by Diana L. Paxson
Steel by Lynn Abbey
Wizard Weather by Janet Morris
Godson by Andrew J. Offutt

  • The Face of Chaos (1983)

ISBN 0-441-80587-6

High Moon by Janet Morris
Necromant by C. J. Cherryh
The Art of Alliance by Robert Lynn Asprin
The Corners of Memory by Lynn Abbey
Votary by David Drake
Mirror Image by Diana L. Paxson

  • Wings of Omen (1984)

ISBN 0-441-805949

What Women Do Best by Chris and Janet Morris
Daughter of the Sun by Robin W. Bailey
A Breath of Power by Diana L. Paxson
The Hand That Feeds You by Diane Duane
Witching Hour by C. J. Cherryh
Rebels Aren't Born in Palaces by Andrew J. Offutt
Gyskouras by Lynn Abbey
A Fish With Feathers is Out of His Depth by Robert Lynn Asprin

Hell to Pay by Janet Morris
The Veiled Lady, or A Look at the Normal Folk by Andrew Offutt
The God-Chosen by Lynn Abbey
Keeping Promises by Robin W. Bailey
Armies of the Night by C. J. Cherryh
Down by the Riverside by Diane Duane
When the Spirit Moves You by Robert Lynn Asprin
The Color of Magic by Diana L. Paxson

  • Soul of the City (1986)

ISBN 0-441-77581-0

Power Play by Janet Morris
Dagger in the Mind by C. J. Cherryh
Children of All Ages by Lynn Abbey
Death in the Meadow by C. J. Cherryh
The Small Powers that Endure by Lynn Abbey
Pillar of Fire by Janet Morris

  • Blood Ties (1986)

ISBN 0-441-80595-7

Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin
Lady of Fire by Diana L. Paxson
Sanctuary Is for Lovers by Janet and Chris Morris
Lovers Who Slay Together by Robin Wayne Bailey
In the Still of the Night by C. J. Cherryh
No Glad in Gladiator by Robert Lynn Asprin
The Tie That Binds by Diane Duane
Sanctuary Nocturne by Lynn Abbey
Spellmaster by Andrew Offutt and Jodie Offutt
Afterword by C. J. Cherryh

  • Aftermath (1987)

ISBN 0-441-80597-3

Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin
Cade by Mark C. Perry
Wake of the Riddler by Janet Morris
Inheritor by David Drake
Mercy Worse Than None by John Brunner
Seeing is Believing (But Love Is Blind) by Lynn Abbey
Homecoming by Andrew Offutt

  • Uneasy Alliances (1988)

ISBN 0-441-80610-4

Introduction by Lynn Abbey
Slave Trade by Robert Lynn Asprin
The Best of Friends by C. J. Cherryh
The Power of Kings by Jon DeCles
Red Light, Love Light by Chris Morris
A Sticky Business by C. S. Williams
The Promise of Heaven by Robin Wayne Bailey
The Vision of Lalo by Diana L. Paxson

  • Stealers' Sky (1989)

ISBN 0-441-80612-0

Introduction by Robert Lynn Asprin
Night Work by Andrew Offutt
The Incompetent Audience by John DeCles
Our Vintage Years by Duane McGowen
Quicksilver Dreams by Diana L. Paxson
Winds of Fortune by C. J. Cherryh
The Fire in a God's Eye by Robin Wayne Bailey
Web Weavers by Lynn Abbey
To Begin Again by Robert Lynn Asprin

New anthologies[edit]

  • Turning Points (2002)
  • Enemies of Fortune (2004)

Novels and collections[edit]

There are seven official novels, several unofficial novels and various collections and short stories outside the official anthologies.

The official novels are:

The first three novels by Janet Morris were published in hardcover by Baen Books and as Science Fiction Book Club Selections. The first six Morris novels were published in mass market paperback by Ace Books and subsequently expanded in Author's Cut trade paper editions by Perseid Press. The first novel, Janet Morris's Beyond Sanctuary combines two stories from the anthologies with additional stories, weaving the whole into novel form. The first part of the novel Dagger appeared in the anthology Aftermath.

Other novels/collections include:

  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lythande (1986) - collection - includes two stories from the anthologies
  • Janet Morris, Tempus (1987) - novel collecting the Tempus stories from the anthologies
  • Janet Morris, Chris Morris, City at the Edge of Time (1988) - novel
  • Janet Morris, Chris Morris,Tempus Unbound (1989) - novel
  • Janet Morris, Chris Morris, Storm Seed (1990) - novel
  • Janet Morris, Chris Morris, The Sacred Band (2010) - novel
  • Janet Morris, Chris Morris, Tempus With His Right Side Companion Niko (2011) - novelization and edit of previously released material
  • Janet Morris, Chris Morris, The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (2012) - novelization and edit of previously released material
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Beyond the Dar Al-Harb (1985) - novella - collected in the Tor Books collection of the same name is similar to, but not really part of the Thieves World universe

Short stories[edit]

  • Poul Anderson, "The Valor of Cappen Varra" (1957) - short story - first published in Fantastic Universe Science Fiction magazine
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, "Bitch" (1987) - short story - F&SF Feb 1987
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, "The Walker Behind" (1987) - short story - F&SF Jul 1987
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, "The Malice of the Demon" (1988) - short story - F&SF Sep 1988
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, "Here There Be Dragons?" (1995) - short story
  • Robin Wayne Bailey, "The Stars Are Tears" (1996) - short story
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, "The Gratitude of Kings" (1998) - short story
  • Poul Anderson, "The Lady of the Winds" (2001) - short story - later collected in Tor Books anthology First Blood
  • Lynn Abbey, "A Tale of Two Cities" (2005) - short story included in the Thieves' World Player's Manual


  • Sanctuary 1982. Book Club hardcover omnibus collecting Thieves’ World, Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, and Shadows of Sanctuary.
  • Cross-Currents 1984. Book Club Hardcover omnibus collecting: "Storm Season", “The Face of Chaos”, and "Wings of Omen".
  • The Shattered Sphere 1986. Book Club Hardcover omnibus collecting: “The Dead of Winter”, “Soul of the City”, and “Blood Ties”.
  • The Price of Victory 1989. Book Club Hardcover omnibus collecting: "Aftermath", "Uneasy Alliances", and "Stealers’ Sky".
  • First Blood 2003. Tor Paperback omnibus collecting Thieves’ World, Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, and The Lady of the Winds.


Starblaze Graphics 1985. Illustrated by Tim Sale. The original series was all black and white except for the covers.

  • Thieves World 1. Containing: 1) Introduction; 2) Someone is always awake in Sanctuary... (original); 3) Sentences of Death; 4) Myrtis; 5) The Price of Doing Business.
  • Thieves World 2. Containing: 1) Blood Brothers; 2) The Face of Chaos; 3) Gaeta (original); 4) Shadowspawn.
  • Thieves World 3. Containing: 1) The Dream of the Sorceress; The Blue Camel (original); 3) Vashanka's Minion.
  • Thieves World 4. Containing: 1) Shadow's Pawn; 2) Runcigor and Alminda (original); 3) To Guard the Guardians.
  • Thieves World 5. Containing: 1) Looking for Satan; 2) Ischade; 3) A Gift in Parting.
  • Thieves World 6. Containing: 1) The Vivisectionist; 2) The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn; 3) Arvo the Nose (original).

Thieves World Graphics collects volumes 1 to 3 above, colorised and with a new cover by David A. Cherry

Role playing games[edit]

  • Thieves' World Complete Sanctuary Adventure Pack (Chaosium Box Set, 1981). Containing: 1) The Player's Guide to Sanctuary; 2) The Gamemaster's Guide to Sanctuary; 3) Personalities of Sanctuary; 4) Map of Sanctuary; 5) Map of the Maze; 6) Map of the Maze Underground.[2]
  • The Blue Camel (mini-adventure; FASA, 1982)
  • T1 - Traitor (FASA, 1982)
  • T2 - Spirit Stones (FASA, 1982)
  • T3 - Dark Assassin (FASA, 1982)
  • T4 - Vengeance (FASA, 198?)
  • Sanctuary Under the Beysibs (Chaosium Companion, 1986)
  • Thieves' World Player's Manual (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Thieves' World Gazetteer (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Murder at the Vulgar Unicorn (Green Ronin, 2005)
  • Black Snake Dawn (Green Ronin, 2007)
  • Thieves' World MUD - Online Text-Based Game based on the Thieves' World novels, and approved by Lynn Abbey (

Board Game[edit]

  • Sanctuary: Thieves World (Mayfair Games, 1982).



  1. ^ the Sacred Band of Stepsons
  2. ^ Dickinson, Oliver (April–May 1982). "Open Box: Thieves' World". White Dwarf (review) (Games Workshop) (30): 15. ISSN 0265-8712. 

External links[edit]