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Glory Shall Be Your Reward

Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series offers political intrigue, memorable characters, and moments so hot you'll need a church fan.

Glory Shall Be Your Reward

BOOK REPORT for The Queen's Thief series (Books 1-4) by Megan Whalen Turner

Cover Story: No Shame
BFF Charm: Be Mine
Swoonworthy Scale: 10
Talky Talk: Every Word Counts
Bonus Factor: Machiavellian Madness
Relationship Status: 2gether 4ever

Cover Story: No Shame

Whereas some YA books have covers that make them look deceptively fluffy or “young,” all four of the most recent covers in this series (so far) are simple, subtle, pretty, and best of all, I wouldn’t hesitate to read them on the train. They're a little "generic fantasy," but not so much that I think it would put a reader off. I appreciate that the characters’ faces are never really shown, just suggested – I prefer to imagine characters based on the author’s descriptions.

The Deal:

Where do I even begin with these books? After hearing a good friend wax poetic about them, I decided to pick up the first book in the series, The Thief.  It was good. I picked up the second book because it was handy, and I had heard it was better -- thus began my intense love affair with Megan Whalen Turner and her amazing series.  Anything I could say about these books will sound hollow, but here goes: The Queen of Attolia and the rest of these books are so, so, so well done.  These are the Gateway Books that could make a YA reader out of anyone.  I would erect a shrine to them in my home if I had more than six square inches of space left.

The stories are set in another era (they have glass and guns, but also gods and goddesses), and the small, rival kingdoms in question are loosely based on the Byzantine Empire.  Eugenides (Gen) is a thief – but not just any thief, as he’ll be quick to tell you. He can steal anything.  When the king’s magus comes to get him out of prison (Gen’s skills are great, but his talent for keeping his mouth shut about them is not), he finds that his talents are needed to steal a rare stone called Hamiathes’ Gift, which the magus needs to take over a neighboring country.  So begins an epic road trip that sets the stage for the rest of the series.

The first book is an outlier in at least two ways.  First, it’s first person, from Eugenides’ perspective.  Second, it is entertaining, but it is in no way as complex and swoonworthy as the next books. 

Still, I think you’ll be strangely amused by Eugenides, who is so insolently charming that he ought to be a cat.  He’s the original unreliable narrator, smart as a whip, and doesn’t make his captors’ lives easy.  You will also love Megan Whalen Turner’s writing style, which is vivid and well-considered.  When she writes, there are no extraneous words, which makes discovering the twists and turns of this series a true pleasure.  Within the first thirty pages of the second book, the series drastically changes from a swashbuckling quest to a brutally intense tale of political intrigue and the depths of the characters’ psyches.

BFF Charm: Be Mine

I love Eugenides. Love. In real life, he would be an utter pain in the ass, but you wouldn’t be able to help but adore him.  He can be morose at times, and often is purposefully obnoxious, but he is also smarter than everyone else around him and capable of great devotion.  I would also happily extend my BFF charm to Queen Eddis, who is stoic, wise, and firm.

Swoonworthy Scale: 10

Yes, I am giving this a ten.  Again, you’ll have to read past The Thief for the swoonworthiest bits, but never have I read another book that implies so much in just a few lines.   By the time I got to The King of Attolia, I was squeeing all over my Goodreads status updates (perfect strangers in real life don’t take kindly to you shaking them and yelling, “HOLY CRAP THAT WAS HOT,” EVEN IF IT’S TRUE).  I can’t say more, for fear of spoiling the plots, but rest assured that you will require a church fan.

Talky Talk: Every Word Counts

Megan Whalen Turner is a BRILLIANT writer, one in which every single word is on the page for a reason.  I don’t usually read fantasy because the typical lengthy world-building bores me, but this is not the case with The Queen’s Thief series.  The world-building is woven in with the plot, so it never feels too expository.  The dialogue, in turn, is sharp and witty; Eugenides is eminently quotable.

“No 'Glory shall be your reward' for me. Oh, no, for me, it is, 'Stop whining' and 'Go to bed'.”

“You learn something new everyday."
"What are you learning?" Sophos asked.
"To keep my mouth shut, I hope.”

“... I wanted Ambiades to understand that I considered myself a hierarchy of one.”

“I would very much like to strangle someone. Why don't you go away until I decide it isn't you?”

Bonus Factor: Machiavellian Madness

One thing I absolutely love about these books is that the leaders aren’t hapless, tenderhearted ideologues on the throne. They are kings and queens, they make difficult choices, and they aren’t afraid to appear stern or cruel – in fact, since their rival kingdoms are constantly trying to capture one another, they have to be positively Machiavellian.  The political intrigue is as sophisticated as anything you’d read in a history book, but the characters are the heart of the story. Piece by piece, you learn about their motivations and understand why their actions are often so well-considered.  Balancing ethics with preserving power is a theme that runs throughout the entire series.

Casting Call:

Bill Skarsgard as Eugenides

I already had this casting picked out long before I wrote the book report.  Bill, one of the many gorgeous Skarsgard siblings (all of whom are evidence that there is a Supreme Being and it is benevolent), has the youth and slightly wicked yet wholly innocent features that are an absolute necessity for Eugenides.  The fact that he is insanely pretty is a bonus.

Natalie Dormer as Attolia

I feel like this might be a bit of a cop-out, but no one quite fits my image of Attolia.  Obviously, Natalie is beautiful and looks great as a raven-haired ruler.  We know Natalie can play an ice queen from her stints on The Tudors as Anne Boleyn and Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones.  Better, she is an excellent actress who can definitely play complex and cruel with a well-hidden softer side.  I think she pulls off youthful-but-mature well.

Elisabeth Moss as Eddis

This one was hard, too, because again, no one quite fits my vision of Eddis. Elisabeth Moss is not only talented, but can play plain when the role calls for it.  She still looks like she’s in her early-to-mid-20s, and would be suited for the role of the stoic and wise Eddis.  How’s her vaguely "Byzantine" accent?

Relationship Status: 2gether 4ever

Never has a series given me such intense TEABS. Sure, there are more books to be written, but Megan Whalen Turner takes five to six years to write each one.  YEARS!  The King of Attolia is in my top three books that I read in 2013 (which includes The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, so you know I’m serious).

I can’t say I want to live in this world, since staying on top of the political intrigue would be exhausting, but there are definitely a few moments that I have read and re-read and re-read again.  As for Eugenides, if he were a real person (particularly in Bill Skarsgard’s form), I would be actively campaigning to legalize polygamy, with all apologies to my actual spouse.

As it is, I feel that this series and I will live happily together, forever.

FTC Full Disclosure: I checked out these books from the library/bought them with my own money. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn (nor Eugenides in real live human form) for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. The Queen's Thief series, books 1-4, are available now.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. She is also a literary agent. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, and thrifts for vintage everything.