The Queen's Thief

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Queen of Attolia.jpg

"Steal peace, Eugenides. Steal me some time."

A series of Alternate History-cum-Mythopoeia novels by Megan Whalen Turner detailing the adventures of The Hero, Magnificent Bastard, Gentleman Thief, Chessmaster, Impossible Thief, and walking-Crowning Moment of Awesome Gen -- full name Eugenides.

The series is full of thievery, politics, war, royalty, gods, goddesses, legends, love, adventure, clever schemes, and more.

The first book is The Thief. It is followed by The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings. A fifth book and sixth book have been confirmed but not yet given a title.

Tropes used in The Queen's Thief include:
  • Action Girl: Eddis.
  • Afraid of Blood: Played with. The stoic queen of Attolia normally won't even flinch at the sight of blood, but when her husband is bleeding? Cue Fainting.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Poor Eugenides. Can you blame him?
    • Sejanus, too. That's a hard fall.
  • Air Vent Passageway: Variation - they're not quite air ducts, but Attolia's palace is run with hypocausts, a series of small tunnels built to funnel smoke to provide heat in the winter, but Eugenides has better uses for them. To keep up the modern air duct parallel, it's outright mentioned that the only reason he can fit into them is because he's so small.
  • All Myths Are True: With the old gods of Eddis, this certainly seems to be the case.
  • Alternate History: The universe of the books is basically Greece/Turkey if there was no Roman Empire nor Christianity and some form of the Persian Empire still exists.
  • Arranged Marriage: Attolia's first marriage was arranged to a truly slimy jerk who was only interested in her throne. So she poisoned him.
  • Ass in Ambassador: You're setting a really great impression there, Nahuseresh, what with the insulting and executing Attolia's loyal nobles behind her back and all.
    • Anybody Medean ever. The fourth book continues the trend.
  • Author Appeal: Ms. Turner is a self-admitted huge fan of Greek mythology.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Most of the royals can hold their own in a fight in some way, most notably the entire Eddisian royal family.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Averted. With Eugenides, we never actually see the coronation.
    • Played completely straight with Sophos in A Conspiracy of Kings.
  • Badass: It'd be easier to list who isn't badass than to list who is.
  • Badass Army: The Eddisian army. There's a remark in the books along the lines of how "they have nothing better to do all winter but perfect their crafts and train for war."
  • Badass Back: Eugenides when fighting opponents not at his skill level. Very few opponents are at his skill level.
  • Badass Boast: Many. (Often by Eugenides, naturally.)

"I can steal anything."

  • Badass Bookworm: The Magus of Sounis was a soldier before becoming a scholar and is still very good at it. Eugenides can apply, too.
  • Bad Liar: Everyone's onto you, Nahuseresh, you idiot. Same goes for you, Sejanus.
  • Balance of Power: Eddis maintains the balance of power between Sounis and Attolia by acting as a barrier between the two against invasion. Of course, that means either country (particularly Sounis) would like to get control of the other, and Eddis is in the way...
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Gen can do this, though it's a lot easier with wooden swords.
  • Battle in the Rain: In The Queen of Attolia.
  • Bawdy Song: Does a song called "The King's Wedding Night" need any more elaboration?
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: You did want fame and glory, Gen...
    • Also, the gods tend to actually answer his prayers, often in disturbing ways.
  • Berserk Button: Eugenides pressed Costis's.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: In Attolia especially, but also in Sounis and to a lesser degree in Eddis. Attolia has spies who spy on her spies who spy on her spies who spy on her spymaster.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Inverted when the Medes rush to the rescue of Attolia.
  • Black and Grey Morality - The Mede Empire are decidedly the Bad Guys.
  • Blue Blood
  • Break the Cutie: Eugenides is broken viciously. Sophos doesn't get it exactly easy, either.
  • Broken Bird: Irene.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Subverted. After getting his hand cut off early in the second book, Eugenides sinks into a deep depression, believing he's now useless (because what can be stolen with only one hand)? He's not.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Let's play a lot of childish pranks on Eugenides, King of Attolia. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: The king of Attolia is petulant, whiny, slumps in his throne like a printer's apprentice, dresses in colors that would suit a canary, and generally behaves without an ounce of royal dignity. Don't let that fool you.
  • Call Back: So much in the fourth book.
    • In the third book, Eugenides uses a call back to the prayers Attolia heard him making when she had him imprisoned to keep her from executing her captain of the guard for failing in his duties—at protecting Eugenides.
  • Ceiling Cling: "The Conspiracy Room"
  • Changing of the Guard: While Eugenides is a highly prominent character in each book and his character has by no means completed its development, the spotlight shifts to the queen of Attolia in the second book, Costis Ormentiedes of Attolian Queen's Guard in the third book, and Sophos, the heir of Sounis, in the fourth.
  • Chekhov's Gun: These turn up everywhere.
  • The Chessmaster: Eugenides most notably, though the Queen of Attolia, the Queen of Eddis, the Magus of Sounis (the king's advisor) and the Mede ambassador Nahuseresh all have shades of this. Some are more successful than others.
  • The Chew Toy: Costis, thy pain and humiliation are an unceasing source of amusement to thy fans.
  • Comes Great Responsibility
  • Consummate Liar: Eugenides
  • Continuity Nod: Lots, especially in A Conspiracy of Kings where Sophos is (in the early part) regularly thinking back to Eugendides's actions in the very first book and trying to imitate them.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Eugenides gets jerked around by the gods quite a bit, doesn't he?
  • Crazy Prepared: Good god, Eugenides.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Averted with Gen at the very beginning of the series. Several months of jailtime does not do your wrists any favors.
    • The condition of his wrists is made rather worse that at the beginning of his sentence, he would regularly slip the cuffs off and have to jam them back on every time a guard came by.
      • On their first stop, Pol, the guy who basically amounts to Gen's parole officer has a look at his wrists. One of them just needs time and maybe a little salve to heal; the other has little pockets of infection deep enough that Pol needs to lance them with his knife.
  • Dance of Romance: A truly awesome scene in The King of Attolia.
  • Darker and Edgier: One of the few complains about the second book is that it's much, much darker in ways that are not necessarily healthy or child-friendly.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The queen of Attolia.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: A big part of the main plot of The Queen of Attolia, and shows up quite a bit in King, too.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Let a Mede ambassador into your country at your own risk. He'll try to bribe your nobles, sneak soldiers into your country, and make you his puppet, all while being very polite to your face. And you can't do anything because making a bad move against an ambassador is an act of war.
    • Subverted in A Conspiracy of Kings by Sophos. "You shot the ambassador?" "You gave me the gun."
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named - The Mede emperor suffers from something called "tethys lesions." Fans speculate it's a fictional name for syphilis. Or it could be leprosy.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Gen's revival in The Queen of Attolia is this through and through.
  • Dressing as the Enemy
  • Dumb Is Good: Most of the characters, good and bad, are very, very smart. However, there is one notable exception. In the fourth book, Sophos is saved by the Big Bad's idiot daughter, Berrone. She helps Sophos escape from his kidnappers and hides him as a slave. She didn't even recognize him, she just couldn't bear to see anyone that badly treated. Berrone is a total sweetheart and a well-known soft touch, which means that everyone likes her and everyone takes advantage of her.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In The Queen of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings
  • The Empire: The Medes
  • Establishing Character Moment: In-story example with Attolia. We already know the queen, but for her barons, her claiming the throne definitely led them to figure out this was no puppet queen they were dealing with.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Several examples. Eugenides is the name of the god of thieves, and many of the Thieves of Eddis are named after him. Thus it's both a name and a title. In addition, all of the royalty in the three countries take state names derived from the name of their countries (Eddis Helen, Attolia Irene, Attolis Eugenides... Sounis's real name is never mentioned, but in the next book it's like to be Sounis Sophos. If Sounis ever got his way and married Eddis, she would be Sounia.)
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Gen's hair is long enough to braid in The Thief, but gets cut early in The Queen of Attolia and remains short thereafter.
  • Face Heel Turn: Ambiades, in the first book.
  • Fantastic Drug: Quinalums, used by priests and priestesses to induce trances and visions.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The three main kingdoms are some sort of alternate Mediterranean-Byzantium.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted; there are primitive flintlock weapons.
    • Guns are extremely important to the endgame in A Conspiracy of Kings.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: And a very active one, at that. Comes, of course, with such curses as, "Gods damn, gods damn!"
  • Finders, Rulers: The stone giving its possessor claim to the throne of Eddis.
  • First Episode Spoiler: The end of The Thief reveals that Eugenides is the Thief of Eddis, in service to the Queen of Eddis, and part of the Eddisian royal family and has been screwing with EVERYONE (and does it on a regular basis). There are three books that follow. Try explaining to a friend why they should read this series without somehow spoiling them. You can't.
    • In addition, do not buy The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia at the same time; not only does the back cover spoil the fact that Euginides becomes king of Attolia (which can be guessed by the Genre Savvy reader), but it also mentions that he is in love with the queen, who had absolutely zero redeeming qualities in the first book.
  • First-Person Smartass: As if The Thief could be described any other way, when it's narrated from Gen's point of view?
  • Foreshadowing: The books are full of it, as a reread after knowing the Twist Ending shows. For instance, in the first chapter we have "He wanted to know my name. I said, "Gen." He wasn't interested in the rest."

"She may be a fiend from hell to make me feel this way."

    • Probably most notably, Gen's entire conversation with the Magus before he steals peace.
  • Four-Star Badass: Eddis's Minister of War.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Gen (choleric), Eddis (sanguine), Attolia (melancholic), Sophos (phlegmatic)
  • Gallows Humor: Eugenides and Attolia's banter sometimes takes this form.

Gen: The day you stop fussing, I'll know to start sleeping with two knives under my pillow.
Attolia: Don't be ridiculous. (Implying that no amount of knives would save him)

    • There are also several jokes throughout the books referring to Attolia's method of disposing of her first husband by poisoning his wine
  • Gambit Index:
    • Eugenides pulls off something in the index every book.
    • Batman Gambit - The main plot in The King of Attolia.
    • Gambit Pileup since he's hardly the only one trying. The trope is so prevalent throughout the series, and the plans so complicated, that is possible to read the books multiple times and make new discoveries of mini "Gambits" acts that seemed innocuous every time you read.
    • Ganbut Roulette: There are many plans, many planners, and all of them complicated.
    • Xanatos Speed Chess: They all change as neccesary.
  • Gentleman Thief: Eugenides, to some extent. He's petulant and whiny, but he's also very regal.
  • God Save Us From the Queen: Played with through the Queen of Attolia who despite a very unpleasant reputation is a competent ruler and she has a Freudian Excuse for some of her behavior. Not to mention that her barons wait like a pack of hounds for the day she slips up. So in fact she's doing whatever needs to be done for the good of her country, no easy task in a sexist government.
  • Government Procedural: Among the main characters, we have the sovereigns of three different nations, the brother to the heir of a fourth, and a number of advisers to said rulers.
  • Graceful Loser: Sejanus loses with style and honor.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Hooooo boy.
  • Guile Hero: Eugenides. Basically everything he ever does shows how terrifyingly brilliant and cunning he is.
    • Also, Attolia and the Magus. Eddis, Gen's father, and even Sophos have their moments.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: The fabulous unified rout of the Medes by the combined Attolian and Eddisian forces at the end of The Queen of Attolia.
  • Hammerspace Hair: One of the reasons Gen likes his hair long. And what enables most of the climactic plot twists of The Thief.
  • Happily Married: There are some rough spots, but The King of Attolia is one long exercise in Squee.
  • Heel Realization:

[Attolia] wondered when she had sunk so low that she had begun torturing boys.

  • Heroic Bastard: Played with in the first book, Gen lampshades and disputes the trope, telling his noble companions that although they might assume otherwise, his parents were married, and his sisters have also made respectable marriages. Since it's later revealed that he's not actually lower class, it's not quite a subversion of the trope.

"My sisters are even married, and honest housewives to boot!" At least they were mostly honest.

  • Heroic BSOD / Heroic RROD: After suffering firsthand the cruelty of the woman he's in love with, Gen is very thoroughly broken.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • He's Back: And blowing up Sounis's navy!
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Teleus and Relius.
  • Hidden Depths: Most notably, Attolia Irene.
  • The High Queen: Eddis.
    • YMMV on that one; she is universally well-loved and respected, but neither beautiful nor extremely distant.
  • Honor Before Reason: Costis Ormentiedes is the poster boy of this trope.
  • Hyper Awareness: Eugenides, of course.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Attolia's cruelties were all to keep her country stable and in the hands of someone who wanted the country to prosper.
  • Impossible Thief: Among the things Eugenides steals: peace, a queen, and three entire countries.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Ambiades
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite the very different path of history, the books seem to be set around 1500, and a lot of technology from that period or even later are present: printed books, wristwatches, guns, stained glass windows, etc. There's also a mention of a plague a few centuries ago which would appear to be the Black Death.
  • Ironic Echo: "Diplomacy, in my emperor's name." Later followed by, "Diplomacy, in my own name."
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The Thief, at Eddis's encouragement.
    • Also, later, Sophis narrating his adventures in A Conspiracy Of Kings.
  • The Ishmael: Costis in The King of Attolia. He's a good Ishmael, with an almost cute personality and character developement of his own, but Eugenides is unquestionably the hero of the story.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sejanus, of all people.
    • And Eugenides himself, for that matter. Famous in three countries for being a Consummate Liar, a chronic snarker who always has something acidic to say, and a constant complainer, but really a good guy underneath.
  • Jerkass Gods: "Stop whining?" Really?
  • Jumped At the Call: Gen. It's his dreams of greatness that set the whole first book rolling.
  • Karma Houdini: Nahuseresh stirs up an ugly three-way war, buys Attolia's barons against her, kills the barons he can't corrupt, incites Attolia into cutting off Gen's hand, and does pretty much everything he can to take Attolia's country from her. And then gets away scot free in the end.
  • Kick the Dog: Attolia cutting off Gen's hand, although the ramifications the act has on her conscience deconstruct the trope and make her more sympathetic. Played completely straight with Nahuseresh, though, who is a giant bastard.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Gen's cousins held his head in a water cache and wouldn't let him out until he agreed to spit insults about his family.
  • The Kingdom: Three kingdoms: Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis.
  • Kissing Cousins: Subverted. Half the world thinks Gen and Eddis are lovers. They think it's funny.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Costis.
  • Kuudere: Attolia.
  • Leap of Faith: Thieves traditionally fall to their deaths. Every time Eugenides jumps, no matter how small the distance, he puts himself in his god's hands.
  • Let's Get Dangerous - Eugenides any time after The King of Attolia is bound to have these moments now that he's revealed himself.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Eugenides and Helen.
  • Little Miss Badass: Sophos' sister Ina.
  • Love At First Sight: Eugenides, towards the Queen of Attolia.
    • Viciously deconstructed, as well. Gen may have been entranced with Attolia when he first met/saw her, but he didn't really love her until he got to know her (and not "Attolia") whether it's through information obtained from the magus or just out-and-out spying on her.

Calf love doesn't usually survive amputation, your majesty.

  • Low Fantasy: Although it's in the Sci Fi Ghetto in terms of where it's shelved in libraries and bookstores, there's really no fantasy at all besides the fact it's set in a different universe. And the highly active pantheon.
  • MacGuffin - Hamiathes's Gift in the first book. Only then it saved Gen's life, so...
  • Made a Slave - Sophos in A Conspiracy of Kings. Unusually, he describes himself as much happier in the simple life as a slave than he had been before.
  • Meaningful Name - Eugenides is the name of the Eddisian god of thieves.
    • Eugenides also means "well-born"
    • The Queen of Attolia is named Irene, meaning peace. Especially when Eugenides steals her away after Eddis asked him to steal peace.
  • Modest Royalty
  • Mr. Exposition: A few of the characters take turns standing in for this role in The Thief when narrating the myths and legends of Eddis's old gods.
  • Mugging the Monster - Uh, Sejanus? You might want to quit while you still can.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong
  • My Master, Right or Wrong
  • Mythopoeia
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Used in the books to filter out the harsher language (although some swearing is left uncensored). One line from a preview of the upcoming A Conspiracy of Kings justifies the use of the trope by adding in characterization of the main narrator:

I screamed at them every curse I ever practiced when I was alone, trying to imitate the Thief of Eddis, but I doubt I sounded anything but hysterical.

  • No Hero to His Valet - While no one who knows him doubts he's one of the most capable people in the universe, Eugenides's cousins, father, wife, gods, and even his Lawful Stupid bodyguard all put up with his royal petulance only for so long before threatening to sit on him.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught - Gen lives off of this.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Gen loves to live by this.
  • Odd Couple - Costis and Aristogiton
  • Oh My Gods - Characters frequently swear by an assortment of gods, with or without specific names. And then sometimes they just invoke their patron god, leading to conversations like this:

Costis: Oh, my god.
Gen: O my god. You want to call on the god appropriate to the occasion. After all, your god would probably be Miras, light and arrows and all that sort of thing, whereas my god is a god of balance and, of course, preservation of Thieves...

(Another character discusses the above statement) "And a certain accompanying responsibility." And he can't, in fact.

  • Second Hand Storytelling - The bulk of A Conspiracy of Kings is Sophos narrating the events to the queen of Eddis.
  • Sherlock Scan - Eugenides, Attolia
  • Shout-Out - To Rosemary Sutcliff and Diana Wynne Jones in the first book.
  • The Spymaster
  • Stalker with a Crush - Eugenides. Attolia was understandably put out.
  • The Strategist - Attolia
  • Street Urchin: Gen in the first book is disguised as one, but he's actually closer to being a prince.
  • Stupid Evil - Completely ignoring Attolia's competency on the grounds that she's a woman was an incredibly idiotic thing to do, Nahuseresh.
    • And then his Sounisian counterpart made the same mistake in A Conspiracy of Kings, regarding Eddis.
  • Succession Crisis - Attolia seems to go through one once every couple of generations.
    • One of the central conflicts of A Conspiracy of Kings.
  • Theme Naming - Amusingly subverted: the beautiful, ruthless queen of Attolia is named Irene (meaning peace), while the kind, ugly (or at least unattractive) queen of Eddis is named Helen (after "the woman who launched a thousand ships").
    • But Helen is as beloved by her people as any queen, no matter how beautiful can wish for. If Eddis had any ships they would gladly be launched for her.
  • Tomato Surprise - Once in The Thief, once in The Queen of Attolia, and if you hadn't read the other books before The King of Attolia, there's one then, too.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl - Eddis and Attolia, respectively.
  • Took a Level in Badass - Eugenides comes back from his brutal torture and amputation colder, harder, more ruthless, and way more badass than before.
    • In the fourth book, Sophos doesn't take a level in badass, he takes several. Then he rips them to pieces with his bare hands, gnaws on them, and uses them as fuel with which to fire even more badass.
  • Tranquil Fury - The queen of Attolia
  • Trickster Mentor: Eugenides serves this role for Costis in the third book.
  • Turn Out Like His Father

"Like many men, I have two grandfathers. One of them was Eddis."

  • Underestimating Badassery: All of Attolia, including the people who should know better (I'm looking at you, Teleus), underestimate Gen. He shows them.
  • Unexpected Successor - The princess Irene was a minor member of the royal household until her brother unexpectedly died falling from his horse. A year later her father followed and she was crowned queen of Attolia.
    • Also, the princess Helen. Having two older brothers and one younger one, she wasn't likely to inherit until all of three of them died of plague. When her father died months later, she became the crowned queen of Eddis.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Gen pretty much never says anything untrue in The Thief, but still manages to give other characters and the reader a completely false impression of himself. As a case in point, he defends the respectability of his family, noting that his father was a professional soldier and his sisters made good marriages However, he doesn't mention that his father is a general and his sisters are princesses. Just a small detail. Despite the later books being third-person, they're still unreliable. Hmm, mysterious narrator, no need to mention how Gen really feels about Attolia, is there? Even though it changes how all of it looks?
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Attolia.
  • The X of Y - All the titles after the first book. Well, and A X of Y.