Hi Benaduca, and thanks so much for such a detailed response. It's really useful, in that it speaks to one of the main concerns I've had about the book, and one of the main dilemmas I'm facing as write it.
Membra is a difficult protagonist to write, as her situation is so unusual. The key thing for me has always been that she should have full agency.
I'm fortunate that I have an 'expert advisor' and role-model for such ability in a friend who has a similar disability to Membra's and generously provides feedback on the feasibility of her activities and valuable insight into at least some of the aspects of Membra's emotional life that I cannot ever experience.
Having said all that, there is, of course a MASSIVE chasm of initial disbelief to bridge for the reader. I'm horribly aware of that, and it's up to me to build that bridge, of course. Membra's situation inevitably requires more explanation of how she's doing things than would a more conventional protagonist. And there's the rub. Too much description and the book becomes about 'how Membra does things' rather than about 'what Membra does', which isn't the point at all. Too little explanation and the reader is jarred out of their immersion by unanswered questions (as you were here). It's such a fine line to tread, and I'm still very much working it out.
So I do know how Membra climbs. It's a technique that was arrived at through many back and forth interchanges between me, my friend and a mutual acquaintance who's an expert rock climber. There's no real world example(!) but in theory we think it could work - especially if we allow Membra, as a fictional lead character, a small element of 'heroic exceptionalism'! To fully explain her technique would take two or three paragraphs at least and the use of technical terms that perhaps only climbers would be familiar with.
I'm still working on how much of the technique needs to be explained, and in how much detail, to enable the suspension of disbelief without impeding the flow of the narrative. Obviously, I haven't yet got it quite right yet, so that's really useful to know. Thank you! :)
There's a good reason for Membra being chosen for this particular job, which will become apparent as the plot unfolds. I'd hoped I'd set that up with the references to how strange the job was - with the hugely inflated fee and the secrecy - but that obviously needs more emphasis. It's also mentioned that commissions which require her actual, physical thieving skills are a rarity; normally (for obvious reasons) she's hired for her more bookish skills - research and 'information-mining'. And she rather resents that. Part of Membra's character is that she refuses to let her disability stand in the way of what she is (what she's 'born to'!). She was, and still is, a brilliant thief. And she'll do anything and everything she can to prove that to the world; it's part of her coping mechanism. Again, perhaps I need to make that clearer.
Excellent expert feedback on the lock-picking. Thank you! I'll address that technical aspect in the re-write as well as clarify why the lock is as it is (the whole job is really a precursor to the main plot device, of which which the reader, and Membra herself, is currently unaware).
Also, good to know the different meanings for 'philology' between the UK and the US. Thank you!
The over-heating is a physical phenomenon that many amputees (acquired or congenital) experience, for precisely the reason that Membra postulates. It's there as a detail of verisimilitude and also to introduce the reader to Membra's 'need to know' - a key aspect of her character. I shall clarify that further, perhaps, if I retain the moment.
Good point about the 'born to' - it's meant in the sense that thieving is seen as a vocation rather than a profession (hence Membra's need to prove herself to still 'be a thief' even after her amputations make that profession more difficult for her). I shall see if there's a better wording that makes that clear and removes the suggestion of 'force'.
I'm certainly going to look at your last observation about description and back-story, which has been mentioned by others and confirms my own worry on that!
Thanks so much again for the critique. It's really useful and suggests lots of areas for improvement. It's much appreciated!