skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
[personal profile] skygiants
I have spent the last five days rereading through Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief books at the rate of one a day, and doing very little else!

If you've missed them, the long arc of the Queen's Thief series features the three warring alt!Grecian kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia getting their act together to avoid being absorbed by an alt!Babylonian empire. The books are heavy on well-researched worldbuilding, political complexity, and third-act twists; they are light on divine influence, though the gods do have a plan and they would rather like the protagonists to stop whining about it. Books include:

The Thief: A magus, his two apprentices, a soldier and a thief go on a life-changing field trip to steal a divine king-making relic, and Megan Whalen Turner shows off her unreliable first-person narration.

The Queen of Attolia: All three kingdoms start a slapfight with each other while the series protagonist sulks in his room, except when he's stealing important political figures from other kingdoms. Megan Whalen Turner would like you to know she can dance deftly around significant information just as easily in omniscient third as she can in first.

The King of Attolia: A sweet, honest guardsman punches his king in the face, and proceeds to regret every single one of his life choices. Megan Whalen Turner's like "look, this time I'm using limited third and telling you EXACTLY what my protagonist thinks and believes at any given time, it's not MY fault he only knows like 20% of what's actually going on."

A Conspiracy of Kings: The heir to the kingdom of Sounis is like "I COULD sort out this civil war by becoming king OR I could do hard labor for the rest of my life and honestly the latter sounds more appealing?" Megan Whalen Turner returns to first person but is too busy examining questions of ethics around violence in the political sphere to put all that much effort into setting up twists.


On a reread: dang, Conspiracy of Kings is dark! Queen of Attolia is also, admittedly, fairly dark -- not even much for Gen losing a hand as for Eddis grimly and soberly choosing war, despite knowing the costs -- but it honestly does not compare. And King of Attolia is in some ways almost the most idealistic of the books; it's a book-long exercise in proving that you don't always have to choose the darkest path in order to retain power. "Okay, Becca, but in that book Irene does torture her father figure and nearly executes almost everyone she cares about -" YEAH, BUT THE POINT OF ALL THAT IS THAT EVERYONE LEARNS A VALUABLE LESSON NOT JUST ABOUT KINGSHIP BUT ALSO ABOUT FRIENDSHIP, OKAY. The important lesson that Sophos learns in Conspiracy of King is that no matter how hard you try to escape from it, sometimes violence is the only answer and even if you consider the costs unacceptable, there's no way to avoid them. There's a passage early in Conspiracy where Sophos/Sounis thinks about poor Berrone's habitual acts of kindliness, such as freeing caged birds and saving kittens, and how nobody has the heart to tell her that nothing she does changes anything for the better -- to me, that's about the bleakest passage in the whole series. I do like lots of things about Conspiracy, but it will probably remain my least favorite for that reason.

Anyway, yesterday I finally got to the point where I could read the just-published new book, Thick as Thieves. I am happy to report that Thick of Thieves is way less bleak! We're back in life-changing field trip territory and it's GREAT.

I do love all the books but it was sort of refreshing to have a couple of protagonists who are not royalty, and, while significant in the grand scheme of things, are not wrestling with the Great Burdens of Power. Instead they're just going on a relatively straightforward journey to learn the nature and value of personal freedom, and also love, as expressed through the medium of Gilgamesh fanfic! Two great tastes that go great together.

([personal profile] shati: does eugenides get annoyed gods and kamet get his OTP shipping him back?
me: yes, that's exactly what's happening here. also, i'm adding that to my booklog.
[personal profile] shati: anyway that is exactly what eugenides and kamet respectively deserve)

The only thing about the plot that particularly surprised me was that the guy(/god) who leads Kamet to the docks at the very beginning wasn't sent by Eugenides as part of Operation: Steal Kamet's Entire Life Through Ingenious Lies, as I had initially assumed. That said, at this point in the series, the twists aren't really the point anymore; "yes, Eugenides chessmastered it" should not be a surprise, the point is what we all learn about ourselves while counting down until the point where Eugenides reveals that he chessmastered it!

I vastly enjoyed Kamet and Kamet's POV, and also the difference between Costis in Costis-POV and Costis in Kamet-POV. Costis: "I'm just your average guy, nothing special about me!" Kamet: "did I mention this Attolian is SIX FEET TALL and SUPER JACKED, also EXTREMELY PRETTY." I'm very glad that Costis got a nice vacation after his very stressful time in King of Attolia. Sure, there were some bumps in the road, and it was all very stressful for Kamet, but Costis is an outdoorsy type! He likes hiking and fighting lions! Anyway what I'm saying is I'm pretty sure that Costis would rather have been kicked in the balls by his bosom companion Kamet A HUNDRED TIMES than face one more agonizing Attolian royal makeout session. I hope the fact that Costis and Kamet have gone off to spy blissfully for Attolia together in another country doesn't mean we'll never see them again in the series!
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skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)
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