The short: 4/5 ✦. An excellent sophomore novel in this series dealing with mystery, loyalty, and royalty.
I read The Thief forever ago, back in the deep dark days of high school. I’m actually just guessing, but the copy I have is from 2005, so it couldn’t’ve been earlier than that. This copy also has an excerpt to the next book (Queen of Attolia), and yet somehow I never knew it was part of a series?? Or at least, it wasn’t a series I wasn’t interested in continuing. I’m not sure why, since I know I did like it, especially the “twist” at the end. That blew my tiny teenage mind! We’d been tricked this whole time! And it was so . . . subtle! Of course, I’m usually terrible at figuring out plot twists and trickery, but still, Turner is very good at weaving character development and plot structure together, which is why Queen of Attolia also works so well.
I admit that I was less enthused as I went through this book than I had been with the first (which I reread beforehand), only because the change from limited first person perspective to omniscient third person was a bit of a jarring narrative change, and I missed Gen’s personal ruminations. But we dip in and out of character’s heads as is appropriate for the moment, and it keeps up a light air of mystery as you read. I didn’t think there would be another twist at the end, and strictly speaking, it’s not really one, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it, and I wasn’t expecting to actually like it. What happens is usually one of my most despised YA tropes, but Turner, again employing that ingenious subtlety, makes it work. I almost (and sadly) hesitate to even categorize this series as YA, because virtually none of the usual stereotypes or cliches exist. Whatever you think might happen or how a character might react because you’ve seen it so many times probably won’t in this book. For example, there are two queens in this book, and they are proper queens with a lot of political duties they have to attend to, and they won’t let matters of the heart interfere with ruling their respective countries. Personal issues of course affect their ruling (starting with Gen’s horrific punishment at the beginning of the story, to declaration of war that persists to the end), but they are queens first and foremost. Neither even has a proper name, only called Attolia and Eddis, as they are basically personifications of their countries. That, of course, is not to say that the two women don’t have personalities; they are just as much main characters as Gen is and have just as much importance. My point is that though they are young, they bear their responsibility with strength and power and grace, just like any adult characters would in an adult fantasy book. They are real and realistic, and so is the rest of the characters and the world itself. There was barely anything that made me cringe or roll my eyes. Even Gen’s injury is treated with the respect and realism it deserves. Overall, it’s a good story that’s incredibly well-written and plotted and realized to its full potential.
Header image: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, published January 24th 2006 by Greenwillow Books