"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
February 24, 2015
The Queen's Thief Series: Intrigue and Depth
by Erin Cowles

There is no shortage of terrible sequels in modern entertainment (Batman and Robin, anyone?). In the YA world, I've often found myself disappointed when an author creates a fantastic world in the original installment, and then can't find anything worthwhile to do with it as the series progresses.

Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series turns this trend on its head. The first installment, The Thief, was good. Good enough to be declared a Newberry Honor Book in 1997. I thought it dragged badly in the first half, but ended strong. I liked it, but I wasn't dying to get my hands on the sequel.

Eight months later, I picked up The Queen of Attolia and kicked myself for waiting so long.

In The Thief, we meet Gen as he is being released from prison. Sounds promising, right? Unfortunately, Gen is moving out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The King of mythical Sounis has heard of Gen's thieving skills (read: Gen stole his seal and bragged about it in the local pubs), and forces Gen on a quest to steal a divine artifact that will give the wearer the right to rule neighboring Eddis. Should I mention no one has ever come back from the underwater maze that houses it alive?

I enjoyed Gen's smart mouth and good heart, the religious myths, and the complex companions that accompany Gen on his journey.

It is hard to talk about The Queen of Attolia without giving spoilers for The Thief, but I will say this: I am a difficult reader to surprise, but there were several moments in this book where I literally stopped and said to myself, “Did Turner really just do that? I can't believe she really just did that!” And do yourself a favor, and don't read the dust jacket — discerning readers might anticipate some of the twists with it.

Beyond her even more unpredictable twists and turns, Turner deepened and introduced fantastic characters. The Queen of Attolia herself would have been easy to make into a cliched villain, but Turner gives her depth and nuance.

It would have been easy to keep Gen as a sarcastic and successful trickster, but Turner grows him into a man. I care about these characters, and appreciate their humanity and growth.

The intrigues and deceptions of the courts in this installment are complex and satisfying.

The series chronicles several countries at war, so naturally there is some violence and occasional profanity, but nothing graphic.

I devoured The Queen of Attolia, and I'm eager to pick up the next two in the series — The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings. She takes her time writing this series (sixteen years between the first book and the fourth), and has nebulous plans to publish one or two more at some unknown date. At least she crafts her books as self-contained stories with their own action and resolution.

Soldier through this series' dry beginnings — the sequel is worth it.

Read this book if...

  • You love courtly intrigue, twisty plots, and a rascally hero.

  • Not that you aren't fond of your own religion and all, but you enjoy a good religious myth. The myths connected to her pseudo-Greek Pantheon are lyrical and imaginative, and she even delves into the nature of faith, devotion, and the role of the divine in our lives.

  • You enjoyed Jennifer A. Nielsen's The False Prince and Melina Marchetta's Lumatere Chronicles.

Target Audience: Ages 10 and up. 8 would probably work for the first book, but things gets darker as the series progresses.

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About Erin Cowles

Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find good books for her family at her local public library. She teaches part time for a SAT prep company, where she enjoys the challenge of making rather dull subject matter interesting and making college a reality for her students. During women's history month, she profiles Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com.

Erin currently serves as a counselor in her ward's primary presidency.

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