Gripping adventure. Political intrigue. Twist endings. Unexpected romance. Loyal friends. Cunning enemies. Realistic characters. Deep worldbuilding. Mindblowing revelations. Endless wit.
My friends, meet the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner.
Book 1: The Thief
Gen is in prison because he stole the king’s signet ring—a task only an expert thief could accomplish. Rather than punish him for his audacious crime, however, the magus (king’s advisor) recruits Gen for a journey across unfriendly lands to a secret location where, if he is to reclaim his freedom, the thief must steal from the gods themselves.
Book 2: The Queen of Attolia
Old and new characters tell their stories as Gen suffers an incapacitating loss, the queen of Eddis declares war, and the queen of Attolia stalls the enemy Medes. In the midst of so many threats and intrigue, two characters find themselves facing a force they never reckoned with, more terrifying than any war: love.
Book 3: The King of Attolia
Costis is just one of the many Attolians reluctant to accept their new king. An unfortunate encounter, however, soon lands Costis in the most unexpected and undesired position possible—personal guard to the king himself. Somehow Costis finds himself fighting beside the king to discover who is friend and who is foe in the king’s own court.
Book 4: A Conspiracy of Kings
After an attack on his family’s villa, Sophos, baron’s son and heir to the throne of Sounis, begins a new life as a slave, invisible and ignored. He wouldn’t mind being invisible and ignored if the baron’s insurrections and threats of Mede invasion didn’t follow him even to his new lifestyle. In order to protect those he loves, Sophos has no choice but to accept the man he’s become—and the man Sounis needs.
Book 5: Thick as Thieves
Kamet is safe and happy in his work as slave to Nahuseresh, brother to the heir of the Mede empire–until Eugenides sends to steal him from his master. Kamet has no choice but to flee the palace with a stranger. His Attolian kidnapper becomes a friend, but Kamet continues to hide a secret that, if revealed, will change everything.
Book 6: Return of the Thief
Heir of the conniving Baron Erondites, young Pheris is a pawn–crippled and despised, but a pawn nonetheless–to his father, to the king, and seemingly to the gods themselves. The Mede armies are closing in on the Little Peninsula, and more and more allies are turning into enemies. But even a pawn may play a major role in the intrigue, fighting, and deception that unravel as, in order to save his countries, the king becomes a thief once more.
My only regret is that I didn’t read these books sooner. The first time I tried The Thief, years ago after my older sister read it, I gave up after the first page or two because my young mind couldn’t figure out if the narrator was a boy or a girl. (Apparently boys can’t have hip bones? If I’d stuck around a few more pages I would have reached those telltale pronouns . . .)
The next time I picked up The Thief was on family vacation in 2015, when I annoyed my older brother by hunching close to the nighttime fire with my phone flashlight to keep reading. Rather than put the book down and enjoy the family time, I stomped into the camper where I could finish the book in decent lighting.
I don’t know how many times I’ve reread The Thief–and the other books of the series–since. They’re some of my favorite books to go back, even if I just read them a month ago. I love the characters, I love the world, I love the stories, and every time–every time–I still notice something new.
This November, one of my best friends and I celebrated the release of the sixth and final installment (😢) of our favorite series by reading Return of the Thief together, touching base at least once a day to see where we were at, exchange thoughts, ask and answer questions, and fangirl over all the mind-blowing moments (and there were many). We read it in less than a week, and it was one of the highlights of my year.
I love these books for so many reasons:
The worldbuilding is incredibly realistic: history, politics, logistics, geography, architecture, resources, everything. You name it, it’s 👌.
The short stories told by various characters throughout the series serve to deepen the culture, teach a moral (to another character), and provide another delicious layer of parallelism and metaphor to the books’ events.
The setting, a Byzantine-era Mediterranean-type land, provides a welcome break from the medieval European setting of most fantasies.
The wit makes me laugh out loud every time. Much sass. All snark. Never gets old.
The characters in every book not only stand out from each other but also experience the full range of emotions known to mankind. They are some of the most human characters I’ve ever read.
The main character is one of my all-time favorite characters of all fiction ever in the whole wide world period. He’s petulant, he’s dramatic, he’s grumpy, and he’s snarky, but he’s also fiercely loyal, clever beyond clever, skilled in a variety of arts (some noble, some less so, I guess), and–somewhere beneath all that–deeply emotional like the rest of us. Just read the books. You’ll see what I mean.
(Confession: I have very few character crushes. Gen is one of them.)
The storytelling sets Megan Whalen Turner’s books on a shelf of their own. In each book she invites readers to put together the pieces she lays out for them, making the reading experience a clever game of interaction between story and reader. You can’t come to these books with your brain turned off.
The surprises. ‘Nough said.
The vagueness of certain details allows readers to bring their own interpretations to the story. I’m not used to reading a story with such blanks, but I enjoy filling them in with my own imagination–and then hearing how other readers filled them in differently. More of that story-reader interaction!
How about it? Have you read any of the Queen’s Thief series? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If not, I can’t recommend these books enough. Go read them and then come back and we can talk about them. 😊
Also, shoutout to the talented Emily B. Martin for letting me spice up this post with her amazing fan art of Gen and the others. Check out her website or her Instagram for her own books, cool author stuff, and more brilliant art.