Books Review: Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief Series

I previously reviewed the first book in the series for this site. And as I sat down to read The Queen of Attolia, I had every intention of savoring the story, taking things slow, writing a review, and then waiting a bit before picking up the next book in the series.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Because I couldn’t put down each of the next three books. And now I have to tell you: Guys, this series is so good. These books look juvenile – and they are young adult! – but they are right at the top of my list for books I’d recommend to friends who tend to read only adult fiction, occasionally straying into young adult for the likes of Harry Potter or the Hunger Games. I thought they were that enjoyable.

Instead of doing my usual review format, I’m just going to list out my favorite things about the series. Sorry for the deviation, I am concerned any other approach would give away too much. My chief objective here is to spread The Gospel of Euginedes and convince everyone I know to read this series! So here goes:

1. GEN! Gen is one of my favorite fictional characters of all-time. He changes over the course of the books, but Gen’s changeableness is exactly what makes him Gen. He is constant in his mutability, and more particularly in his adaptability. Sometimes you want to shake him, sometimes you want to hug him… after the first book, I felt like always could I trust him. Just like I could trust Megan Whalen Turner. Which brings me to…

2. The storytelling. Megan Whalen Turner is a wonderful storyteller. But even better, she includes stories within the stories, concocting an entire mythology but also an entire oral (here written) tradition. It’s incredibly well-done and adds excellent depth to the world and the characters telling the stories. Gen is of course a master, but other characters have memorable storytelling moments. In this respect it reminded me of Juliet Maurillier’s Sevenwaters books – although here the stories are rooted in mythology rather than folklore.

3. Politics! Much of the plot in each of the books is driven in a larger sense by the politics between three countries, Attolia, Sounis, and Eddis, and their vulnerability to greater powers on the continent. The geography draws much from the Eastern Meditteranean, so it’s no wonder that international relations provide a driving force for many of the characters’ actions. I loved the politics. Somewhere along the way you become familiar with the players and their relationships such that you can follow the maneuvering, and the next thing you know it has drawn you in just like the characters involved!

I am struggling so much here because of the next thing I want to add…

4. The twists! Often in writing my reviews I don’t worry too much about spoilers because certain developments are so obvious. These books aren’t like that. At all. I was constantly surprised and constantly delighted by the plot twists as well as by Gen, who is quite surprising himself as I previously noted. That’s why I decided I had better avoid separately reviewing the books because the serial narration builds so beautifully over the course of the series. So read them in order!

5. The writing! I already mentioned the storytelling, but the writing is fantastic on its own. That is not something that should be taken for granted, especially in today’s world where fancy plot devices sometimes take the place of authorial skill (I’m looking at you, The Selection! And a lot of other books I’ve read in the past year!)

6. The lack of condescension! Turner expects more from readers, in the best way possible. This is a young adult book, but it never refers to men as “guys” or uses any of the language that sometimes drives me nuts in non-contemporary (and contemporary for that matter) YA. She relies on the strength of her story. And she doesn’t rehash old plot points. She expects you to keep up! Since I raced through these without pausing, that was not a problem for me! I appreciated it.

7. Adults! One reason I would recommend this series to adult readers is that it is actually about adult characters. I love a nice coming of age as much as the next reader, but this was refreshing. There is still character growth, but when these characters make mistakes, they make mature mistakes. They have a sense of responsibility that is often lacking, even in save-the-world dystopians. And that being said, I would have loved these books as a young reader too. Such is their strength.

8. Romance! Between mature adults. (see #6). It’s not there in the beginning, somewhere along the way it creeps up on you. And not too much is revealed – a romance that is private! It’s amazing how lovely that concept is – and how beautifully Turner conveys it. Also more than just the romance, many of the relationships between the characters were by turns surprising (I know! There’s that word again! But it’s true!) and sweet. Without giving anything away, I will just say that I liked how there was much more of a focus on two people being together rather than the getting together.

I could make up a 9 and 10 but I think Ive gotten my point across, I hope! Checkbthis series out. It’s really very good. :)