I’m not normally precious about spoilers for books that are several years old, but the rules are a bit different for the Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series*. The character work is so rich, the plot so deliberately mapped, the intrigue so delightfully interwoven that I want first time readers to enjoy it to the fullest.
So, fair warning: *****SPOILERS AHEAD*****
Irene was once but a princess of her patriarchal land. When her brother died (read: was assassinated), her hand was given to the son of a Baron. Thrust into a position of potential power and considerable danger, she hid behind a facade of shy disingenuousness, all the while observing. Learning. Honing a keen mind. When her father was killed, she made her move: she married her betrothed, poisoned him with a quickness, and took the name of Attolia, Queen of her country.
“She was the stone-faced queen, then and ever after. She had needed the mask to rule, and she had been glad to have it.”
She inherited a conflict with Sounis, an uneasy peace with Eddis, and tenuous negations with the ambitious, acquisitive Mede Empire. This was thrown onto the shoulders of a teenage girl who never expected to be in a position of rule, who was never trained to this sort of negotiation, but who cared deeply about her country and her people.
“She thought of the hardness and the coldness she had cultivated over those years and wondered if they were the mask she wore or if the mask had become her self. If the longing inside her for kindness, for warmth, for compassion, was the last seed of hope for her, she didn’t know how to nurture it or if it could live.”
Attolia was willing to give over the things that might diminish her power, her capacity to protect. She denied compassion. Pretended she did not care, could not love. Her actions were subtle and often cruel.
“I inherited this country when I was only a child, Nahuseresh. I have held it. I have fought down rebellious barons. I’ve fought Sounis to keep the land on this side of the mountains. I have killed men and watched them hang. I’ve seen them tortured to keep this country safe and mine. How did you think I did this if I was a fool with cow eyes for any handsome man with gold in his purse?”
Her shields were strong, but not without weakness.
“He looked at her and tilted his head very slightly in wonder. He had forgotten, as he always forgot, how beautiful she was. Her hair was held away from her face by the ruby and gold headband that crossed her dark brows. Her skin was flawless and so fair as to be translucent. She dressed as always in an imitation of Hephestia, but it was far easier to imagine the impersonal cruelty of the Great Goddess than to see cruelty in the face in the Queen of Attolia. Looking at her, Eugenides smiled. Attolia saw his smile, without any hint of self-effacement or flattery or opportunism, a smile wholly unlike that of any member of her court, and she hit him across the face with her hand.”
Only the most deft of liars could see through this, and, beyond all reason, love her the more for it.
“Damn him, damn him, damn him.”
If you’ve read and enjoyed the series, you know. If not, give them a go. They hold up to compulsive re-reading (she said, speaking from experience/having to tape the bindings of her paperbacks together) and some serious character swooning. #Costis2016
The Queen of Attolia
The King of Attolia
A Conspiracy of Kings
*note: the titular Queen’s Thief, Gen (Eugenides) was the very reason I wanted to explore Fictional Favorites in this April challenge. Alas, I couldn’t keep my love for him to a reasonable, concise blog entry. Hopefully you’ll find out for yourself if/when you read the books.