First, if you haven’t read The Thief, stay away from this review to avoid spoilers. Second, I like the back cover summary, it reveals very little but hints at so much, so I’m going to be a little lazy and just use it here:
“When his small mountainous country goes to war with the powerful nation of Attolia, Eugenides the thief is faced with his greatest challenge. He must steal a man, he must steal a queen, and he must steal peace.
But his greatest triumph – as well as his greatest loss – can only come if he succeeds in capturing something the Queen of Attolia may have sacrificed long ago.”
Thinking about this book now, I believe I may love it even more than I did when I’d finished it. It just feels so well done, so well put together, that I’m still thinking about it days later, and I read it during the read-a-thon, when I couldn’t really give it as much attention as if I’d been well rested and had no other books on my mind.
The first thing that I noticed was a shift to third person narration, which was a little odd after being in Gen’s head for the entirety of the first book. When the view switched around, though, I realized how important this was, because Eugenides is not entirely the central character here. There is now a war brewing between his country, which is Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis, but Eugenides is out of commission for a while and instead we get the viewpoints of the queens as they manuever in this new war. There are politics involved and lives are at stake. The queens are strong, powerful women in their own rights and it was really wonderful to have a focus on women after the male-centered first book.
The world has expanded; this is no longer a boy’s journey, and Eugenides is definitely no longer a boy. He’s lost that playful thieving edge, but to be honest I loved him even more, for his suffering and the man he became because of it. There are a few gods in this book and they do manipulate events to suit themselves; it’s so fascinating to see the results and how they had a purpose in the way everything turned out. Gen is the clever one, of course, without or without the help of the gods, and his plotting is startling; all the plot threads come together in an astonishing way. It leaves the reader marveling at his strength, self-possession, mind, and remarkable ability to cope with adversity.
Then of course, there is the love story. I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t what I got; what I got was beautiful and almost hard to believe, but somehow credible. An author who can convince you that something you’d never normally believe is possible and downright wonderful is an author to watch, and Megan Whalen Turner is definitely that.
I hope I haven’t spoiled anything in this wonderful book. I’ve done my best. I do hope that I’ve encouraged you to seek it out. Set aside a few hours and spend some time with The Queen of Attolia. You won’t regret it.