[info]duskpeterson wrote
on June 19th, 2017 at 03:17 am

Book review: "Thick as Thieves" (Queen's Thief, Volume 5), by Megan Whalen Turner

This seems to be my year for reading speculative fiction novels on romantic friendship. I ought not to have been surprised to find that topic turning up in Thick as Thieves, the latest volume in Megan Whalen Turner's young adult historical fantasy series, Queen's Thief; much of the series has dealt with close relationships between people. Nonetheless, this particular volume is definitely not your run-of-the-mill YA novel.

Without giving too much away, I can say that the story is about a slave and a soldier who, in the midst of non-stop adventure, find themselves drawn into the roles of the heroes in their universe's equivalent of The Epic of Gilgamesh. (Incidentally, Ms. Turner's version of the epic is so beautifully rendered that I immediately searched out a copy of Gilgamesh.) The initial setting of the novel is that universe's equivalent of Mesopotamia, except that the novel is set in the time of gunpowder. As the author puts it in an interview appearing in another volume of the series:

"I have to say that I am amazed by the power of conventional thinking. Tell people you are writing a fantasy, put in references to windowpanes, printed books, compasses, pocket watches, and they will still be gobsmacked when guns show up. To most people, 'Fantasy' just means twelfth-century technology, only with surprisingly modern plumbing."

So fair warning: This is what the classical world might have become after many centuries, not what it was in ancient times.

If this is your first encounter with the series (which has been conveniently collected into a single e-book, World of the Queen's Thief Collection), I strongly recommend that you start with the first volume, The Thief, because this is the most spoilerish series I've ever encountered: every single novel has major spoilers in it for previous novels. Don't even read the blurbs. Please don't read the blurbs. The blurb-writers are in a conspiracy with one another to give away major plotlines. All that you need to know to get started with the series is that The Thief begins with the words, "I didn't know how long I had been in the king's prison," and that is the last time that you're likely to correctly assess what that novel's protagonist actually has in mind. Don't be offended; nobody else in the series can figure him out either.

For those of you who have already read the previous novels and are trying to figure out whether to read this one (I can't imagine who you would be; Ms. Turner's fans seem to be insatiable for new volumes in this series), this particular novel features characters from the previous volumes, as well as the following, in alphabetical order:

* Assassins.
* Betrayal.
* Bounty hunters.
* Caravans.
* Caves.
* Dungeons.
* Escapes.
* Fire.
* Guards.
* Mazes.
* Mountains.
* Myopia.
* Pits.
* Plague.
* Royals.
* Ships.
* Slavers.
* Starvation.
* Swordplay.
* Thefts.
* Wild beasts.

. . . and, since this is a Queen's Thief novel, an abundance of trickery, much of it aimed at the reader. Darn it, after five novels, I ought not to have been fooled yet again.

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June 2018



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