Thick as Thieves, the fifth book in Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series (sometimes called the Attolia series by fans), came out earlier this week. I haven't plunged into it yet because I promised myself I would finish rereading the series (or at least the first three, which are my favorites) first. But, in the spirit of the series, I thought I'd take a quick look back at the second book, The Queen of Attolia. (I did a mini review of the first book, The Thief, a couple weeks ago.)
The Queen of Attolia is a gripping sequel to The Thief and it lets you know right away that the stakes are higher than before. The opening sequence reintroduces Gen, his skills as a thief, and the rivalry between him and the titular queen. Their encounter breaks a common trope of fiction that says a main character cannot be killed or seriously injured. My first time reading this book, I remember thinking that Gen was clever and resourceful. He'd managed to survive everything in the previous book relatively unscathed. Surely he'd escape Attolia's clutches and get home.
And then she cut off his hand.*
And the book was better for it. Not because we need to go about lopping of body parts, but because this is how we as readers knew the stakes were higher. Gen spends much of the book recovering from this encounter and adjusting to life as a thief with one hand. Turner does a fine job of showing his depression without making it unbearable on the reader. We're treated to another couple of myths from the world (one of my favorite aspects of the first book). And then Gen gets to pull off a heist even better than the first book's: he steal peace, in the form of the Queen of Attolia.
This book expands on the world, story, and characters of The Thief while maturing as a narrative. If you read The Thief, you must read Queen of Attolia to see how things go from okay to bad to worse to not so bad (in roughly that order).
* Megan Whalen Turner has actually commented on how Rosemary Sutcliff's subversion of this trope inspired her. Read all about that here.