Sophos, the young heir to Sounis, is book-smart but not street-smart, a so-so fighter, prone to self-doubt, not particularly ambitious, and with a face that betrays his emotions – the opposite of Gen, as was Costis from the last book. He’s minding his own business when he’s kidnapped and, through a somewhat hand-waved sequence of events, misplaced by his captors and sold into slavery under an assumed identity, causing him to effectively vanish off the face of the earth.

Due to political complications, he decides not to reveal himself just yet… and then, for this is the sort of slavery which involves arduous work but not torture and dehumanization, wonders if he wouldn’t be happier staying right where he is. Like the romance earlier in the series that shouldn’t work but did, this section could easily have been tedious but instead beautifully conveyed the little moments of happiness and pain, self-discovery and human contact, making such a small and constrained life seem infinitely rich to both Sophos and the reader.

Of course, it doesn’t last.

I didn’t like this book as much as the middle two, though I did like it more than The Thief. It had some extremely funny lines, but felt emotionally distant after the intensity of the last two novels. Costis was entirely absent, and I missed him. More importantly, there wasn’t enough Gen, and especially not enough of his brilliance and vulnerability – he seemed like an untouchable mastermind, and yet his schemes weren’t all that clever compared to what he’s done in previous books.

The first third of the novel is very strong, but the second third, while offering some charming vignettes with characters whom I love very much, bogs down in a morass of political and military maneuvering. The final third works better artistically and narratively, but the climax turned on a twist which I disliked – and which makes me wary of the next book.

Spoilers are not as clever as they think )

A Conspiracy of Kings
In a world loosely based on ancient mythic Greece, in which Gods are real but mostly don’t interfere with human affairs, the Queen’s Thief Gen has a mission go very, very wrong. And so begins an epic, twistily plotted, witty, well-characterized, and intense and intimate story of the cost of power and the power of love. I don’t mean the latter in the sappy “love conquers all” sense (there is some of that too, just not sappy) but that this is a book in which love – of people, but also of country and ideals – drives people to do terrifying and horrible, but also wonderful and amazing things.

This is a re-read. I started re-reading the series when the fourth book (which I have not yet read) came out, then stalled out due to a total inability to follow court intrigue, which I have difficulty with at the best of times. But that part of my brain appears to be back online, luckily, or at least as much as it ever is.

This is a difficult book to discuss without massive spoilers. It’s much more sophisticated, emotional, angsty, and, to me, better and more interesting than The Thief; it’s also intended for a significantly older audience. I’m not sure it’s a YA novel in anything other than marketing.

Without spoilers, all I can say is that I highly recommend it to fans of complicated and fraught romance, intricate tales of intrigue, tough women and the clever vulnerable men who love them, and angst, angst, angst. If you like Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond books or Elizabeth Wein’s Telemakos books, you will probably like this (and vice versa.) You could start reading with this book – you’ll pick up what you need to know.

Spoilers are very angsty )

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, Book 2)
This is the third book in a trilogy, or perhaps a series, set in not-really-ancient-Greece-because-it-has-guns-and-pocket-watches. This review is going to be a little lacking in detail, as all three books benefit from knowing as little about them as possible before you read them. So I will merely say that they have adventure and political intrigue and excellent character relationships. The fantasy elements are small but significant; they are closer to alternate history than what we normally think of as fantasy.

The first book, The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1), was fun but not terribly memorable; however, the second book, The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, Book 2), pushed my personal cool bit buttons so hard that it's difficult to be objective about it at all: the characters are recognizably the same ones from the first book, but the tone is far more serious, the stakes are higher, and the emotional content, which was rather lacking in the first book, is intense. Incidentally, The Thief is YA, which led the subsequent books to be marketed the same way even though I don't think they're YA any more. Which is not to say that I don't think teenagers would like them; I think I'd have felt the same way about all three books if I'd read them as a teenager.

I loved The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, Book 3) just as much as I loved Queen, despite being a bit dubious about its central narrative device at first. I loved the pacing. I loved the characters. I loved the story. I loved the way a moment could be hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, like Costis' ten gold cups. I loved the relationships. I loved the martial arts. I loved the Gods, and normally I hate Gods in fiction.

Comments may have spoilers for the entire series; do not read them unless you've read all three books.
This is the third book in a trilogy, or perhaps a series, set in not-really-ancient-Greece-because-it-has-guns-and-pocket-watches. This review is going to be a little lacking in detail, as all three books benefit from knowing as little about them as possible before you read them. So I will merely say that they have adventure and political intrigue and excellent character relationships. The fantasy elements are small but significant; they are closer to alternate history than what we normally think of as fantasy.

The first book, The Thief, was fun but not terribly memorable; however, the second book, The Queen of Attolia, pushed my personal cool bit buttons so hard that it's difficult to be objective about it at all: the characters are recognizably the same ones from the first book, but the tone is far more serious, the stakes are higher, and the emotional content, which was rather lacking in the first book, is intense. Incidentally, The Thief is YA, which led the subsequent books to be marketed the same way even though I don't think they're YA any more. Which is not to say that I don't think teenagers would like them; I think I'd have felt the same way about all three books if I'd read them as a teenager.

I loved The King of Attolia just as much as I loved Queen, despite being a bit dubious about its central narrative device at first. I loved the pacing. I loved the characters. I loved the story. I loved the way a moment could be hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, like Costis' ten gold cups. I loved the relationships. I loved the martial arts. I loved the Gods, and normally I hate Gods in fiction.

Comments may have spoilers for the entire series; do not read them unless you've read all three books.
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