Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!The above is pretty much how I read Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, , The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia* (up-to-page-260-of-which-more-in-the-footnotes) this weekend. I have now managed to finish the third book so whilst I wait for my library to get hold of a copy of the final book in the series, A Conspiracy of Kings, I figure now is about a good a time as any to post about the experience.
This was going to be my first Once Upon a Time read but I don’t fell that these books are fantasy enough to count as they are set in a sort-of Greek alternative past but there’s no magic or elves or dragons, etc. Plus I am pretty sure I don’t need to scrabble for enough qualifying reads before the deadline!
Eugenides (Gen) is the titular thief and, after some wine shop bragging where he boasts that he can steal anything, he purloins the King of Sounis’ seal. In an unexpected opener, The Thief starts with him suffering in a dungeon cell having been caught and imprisoned for that crime. In return for his freedom, the King’s Magus offers him a deal – he has to steal the fabled “Hamiathes's Gift” without which the Queen of Eddis, another country will not marry the King of Sounis. Only one problem. Nobody is quite sure that it actually exists.
Humorously narrated in the first person, this is the story of an expedition into the neighbouring Kingdom of Attolia to locate the jewel and the attempt to pull off the ultimate theft that will cement Gen’s reputation as the greatest thief and win him his freedom.
What makes this book (and indeed series) for me is the character of Gen. At the start, he is cocky, lying, feckless, lazy, irresponsible and untrustworthy with questionable personal hygiene. However, as the story unfolds, we gradually realise (along with the rest of the party) that we might just have seriously underestimated his intelligence and that there is much more to him than meets the eye. I have to admit that I am not entirely unbiased as whilst reading these books, part of me fell a little bit in love with him…
Taken by itself, The Thief is a quick, easy and enjoyable adventure story but when read back to back with the next two books it becomes part of a larger and rather delightful experience. As the stakes start to rise, we are introduced to other central characters and in particular the Queens of Eddis and Attolia are all you could wish for as strong, intelligent and capable females.
There is understated but wonderful romance (swoon! swoon!), adventure, daring thefts, unexpected plot twists, some tough decisions and plenty of political intrigue. Nothing is ever quite as it seems and (you may have already guessed) I really, really enjoyed myself on this journey. For pure fun and a spot of escapism these books are be hard to beat.
It is worth mentioning, however, that these books are aimed at young adult audience. Harper Collins have samples available online but to avoid spoilers I would suggest starting with the first few chapters of The Thief and not even reading the blurbs for the later books!
* So - what happened to my race through The King of Attolia? Picture the scene. I'm snuggled in bed and I'm reading page 260. All very exciting and Stuff is Kicking Off. I move my eyes to the top of the next page. What? That can't be right. I've already read this. Oh. Instead of pages 261-292, I have pages 117-148. Again. Bah. Amazon tell me they are very sorry and send out a replacement on the same day. But it meant I had to WAIT! Arghhhhhh...