Ms. Turner published The Thief (reviewed here) in 1996; in 2000 she published a sequel, pilule this novel. The third one, physician The King of Attolia, mind came out in 2006. Apparently it takes her a while to write novels, but considering how many awards she’s won, they’re worth the wait. The Thief was a Newbery Honor book in 1997, The King of Attolia was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award in 2007 (the YA version of the Nebula Awards); this volume was named to several ‘best of’ lists.
In any case, the books are set in a pseudo-Grecian world; one with clocks and guns, but also olive trees and gods and goddesses in a pantheon. Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia are three smallish countries located next to each other (Sounis, Eddis, then Attolia) on a peninsula. Eugenides (more often Gen in The Thief) is the Queen’s Thief of Eddis; he is also the Queen of Eddis’s cousin. (The rulers of the respective countries are referred to by the names of their countries, rather than their given names.) The three countries are having diplomatic issues; these are made worse when the Queen of Attolia discovers that Eugenides has broken into her residence and catches him. She throws him into a dungeon, which precipitates a near war; he is eventually returned to his family and country, a bit worse for wear. Eddis is quite fond of her cousin, and diplomacy between the countries wears thin. Eugenides falls into a depression regarding the whole situation, but eventually it comes to a point where he must either solve the problem he helped create, or let a major war start.
Given all the covers, and that this is after the, heh, cut, I don’t see that it’s particularly a spoiler to inform any readers that Attolia has Eugenides’s hand cut off while she has him captured. I was not expecting it, and it was definitely startling (although not particularly graphic). It also happens within the first section of the book, so if I have spoiled anything, it’s not that much. A good deal of the rest of the book is him learning to deal with the fact that he’s a one-handed thief. Eddis does not allow him to quit, either his job or his life.
Readers expecting a direct sequel to The Thief, and one in the same style (first-person, somewhat lighthearted, and with a considerable amount of humor), will be disappointed. That book doesn’t exist. The Queen of Attolia is much darker and much more adult than its previous volume. Gen was of no particular age in The Thief, and I’m not sure that there’s much time that passes between the two books, but he is described as more towards twenty in this book. I assigned him the age of twenty in my head, but I have no proof. The politics play a much larger role in the book than they did in the previous.
I would not have been surprised, other than the length, to find this book published as an ‘adult’ novel. None of the characters was particularly YA-aged, and their character arcs were more mature than most YA books expect. Gen is dealing with losing his hand, probably losing his point in life (which he has known for many years, but definitely since The Thief), and possibly love. Attolia is a queen, and has been for many years; she must deal with being a ruler, which mostly means politics. She’s definitely not a teenager, either. That doesn’t mean it’s not suitable for YAs: other than the hand scene, there is very little violence, and no sex. Gen is trying to find what to do with his life; although it’s after a major event, rather than in the first place, the situation is similar. The love in the book has definite overtones of first love, including love from afar and possibly even love at first sight. YAs will identify with the idea of it, even though it’s an unusual situation.
I enjoyed the book quite a bit, once I got over the fact that it was not the book I was expecting it to be. Perhaps a reader who is forewarned about the complete change in style and tone might not put down the book after the first few chapters as I did. Obviously I finished it, but it took a couple weeks longer than expected. I don’t think it is necessary to have read The Thief to enjoy this one, but it will make the background and the history richer. It was really a wonderful and well-done book, and I’ll give it 4.5/5 stars and recommend it highly for those who liked the first one, but with the warning that this book is a little different. It’s especially recommended for older readers, who will perhaps be less shocked by the hand removal, and who will appreciate the depth of the story more.