books

Megan Whalen Turner

Books

The Thief (1996), The Queen of Attolia (2000), The King of Attolia (2006), A Conspiracy of Kings (2010)

Instead of Three Wishes (2006)

Anthologies: Firebirds (2003), The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection (2004)

 

The Thief (1996)

My friend Natalie has been pushing me for quite awhile to read this book. However, I haven’t been in the mood to read much in the way of fantasy, so although I bought the books months ago, it sat unread on my shelf, until last time I saw her she pushed one more time and I promised I’d read it.

This is a Newbury Honor book. I think if I’d noticed that initially, I’d have been less reluctant to pick it up, since that pretty much guaranteed it wasn’t going to be one of those books that starts a series and then goes on and on endlessly without resolution. And really, I should have trusted that Natalie wouldn’t lead me in that direction, yet I resisted, foolishly.

Mind you, this is the first book in a series, however, it is completely self-contained, and you could read this book and be perfectly content with never knowing there was another book in the series.

Except, of course, for wanting to spend more time with the characters. But that takes a bit.

Gen is a thief in the lowest of the king’s dungeon. A superb thief, Gen’s skills are matched only by his stupidity in bragging about stealing the King’s seal on a bet and flashing the seal around as proof. But before Gen can rot away in prison, the king’s magus decides Gen has uses and with the king’s reluctant agreement takes Gen out to steal…something.

Interestingly, the only character who is likable from the very start is Sophos, a very young man who is brought along on the adventure as an apprentice to the magus. But slowly, Gen (despite his arrogance and seeming foolishness) grows on you, and you want him to succeed, and you really want to know how he’s going to get himself out of the mess he’s gotten himself into.

Natalie was right, this is a fabulous book, and one I highly recommend.
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: October 2013

I’ve been feeling out of sorts, and every book I start to read I put right back down, because it’s not what I’m in the mood for.

Which is how I ended up re-reading The Thief, because it sucks me in and doesn’t let go.

I keep trying to write a synopsis for this, and failing miserably, because any description sounds stupid and trite and nothing like the story.

Gen is a thief. The best thief around, according to him. He can steal anything. Except, apparently, himself out of prison. Luckily, the King’s magus is in need of a thief, to recover an object that has been lost of centuries, and should give the his king the right to rule neighboring lands.

It’s strange, re-reading this story. I see so many things I missed the first time, or ignore the first time as unimportant. But of course nothing is important, and Gen gives hints as to who he is–especially as he can’t control his temper.

There are just so many marvelous lines in this tale, it’s hard to pick a couple to convince you why I love this book so much.

For instance, they tell tales of the gods and men as they travel.

It is one thing to meet the Goddess in the forest and another thing to convince your wife that you have done so.

It is one thing to humor your husband, who has suddenly gone crazy, but it is somethign else to let all the neighbors know that he is crazy…

And there’s this bit Gen says of himself.

I am a master of foolhardy plans, I thought. I have so much practice I consider them professional risks.

That’s quite possible the best quick synopsis of Gen you can get.

Perhaps those two quotes haven’t enticed you, but I beg you to read this story anyway. It is really one of the best books around.
Rating: 10/10

Published by Greenwillow Books

The Queen of Attolia (2000)

I really loved The Thief, so when I realized The Queen of Attolia was a sequel, I wanted to read it, in the hopes that Eugenides would be one of the main characters.

He was.

And as with the previous book, I could hardly stop reading.

Attolia is in a difficult position. Its ruler is a queen where women tend not to hold powers of position, and she has had to play various lords off one another to retain her position. She is also playing a dangerous game with the ambassador of Medea, trying to balance her ability to retain power within her state, with the need for Attolia to remain an independent nation.

As with The Thief, this is an incredibly good book. All the characters are complex, and the contrast between Eddis and Attolia is done extremely well. We see Eddis and why her people love her, yet we come to develop sympathy for Attolia, for the way she must manipulate those around her, to maintain power and the sovereignty of her country.

And of course there’s Eugenides, who I loved in the first book, and loved even more in this book.

As a word of warning, since this is a young adult book, Bad Things happen to Eugenides. Upsetting horrible things that are hard to understand and deal with. Yet Eugenides does eventually deal with these things, in a way that is both commendable and understandable.

Although in theory you could read The Queen of Attolia without having read The Thief. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Rating: 9/10

The King of Attolia (2006)

The sequel to The Queen of Attolia and The Thief, we see Gen this time from the outside–from the view of a guard who doesn’t like–but yet must work with–Gen.

As with previous books, there is a great deal of intrigue, and we’re a step removed from it, seeing only what a guard would see. We also see Gen from the eyes of someone who doesn’t know him, like him, or respect him.

The result is lovely. And fabulous. And wonderful.

If you have not read The Thief, you must start there.

Immediately.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Greenwillow Books

 

A Conspiracy of Kings (2010)

Although Eugenides makes many appearances in this story, it is about Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis.

Sophos had disappeared, and this story is told, in large part, as his retelling of what happened to him.

As with every other book in this series so far, and as with every other book I’ve read by Megan Whalen Turner, the story is excellent. The characters are excellent. There are no punches pulled, despite the fact this is a young adult book, and the tale is complex enough to satisfy any adult.

If you have not read this series, you really need to do so. Go pick up The Thief. I promise. You’ll thank me.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Greenwillow Books

 

Instead of Three Wishes (2006)

This is an absolutely wonderful collection of fantasy short stories for the pre-teen set. Although some of the stories are dark, they are still fabulous, and far less dark than real life.

The story “A Plague of Leprechaun” had a feel reminiscent of Charles de Lint. Someone sights a leprechaun, and as soon as the news his the press, the town is inundated with people searching for the leprechaun and his pot of gold. A poor painter who comes into town to paint the countryside finds himself unable to paint because of this plague.

“Leroy Roachbane” was an absolutely wonderful story about a boy who’s “job” at home is to wake up and kill all the roaches so his mother can make breakfast. I wasn’t initially sure where this was going, but loved it.

“The Factory” is a very dark and somewhat depressing story, not necessarily for what happens in the story, but for the world in which the characters live.

“The Nightmare” was my least favorite story–I never got to like the main character, and felt like he never really learned his lesson.

“Aunt Charlotte and the NGA Portraits” was my second favorite story. It’s about a selkie and magic and art, but you don’t have to know anything about any of those to enjoy the story. (That is the advantage of having young characters–world building is easy as you discover the world together.)

“Instead of Three Wishes” is the title story, and my favorite story in the collection. A young woman unknowingly helps an elf, but when he tries to repay her, she doesn’t want repayment, so he has to figure out how to repay her.

The final story, “The Baker King” was just a fun tale.

If you have not read anything by Megan Whalen Turner, this collection is a fun introduction, although I have to admit it has almost nothing of the same feel as her story “The Thief.”
Rating: 8/10

Published by HarperCollins e-books

 

Anthologies

 

Firebirds (2003) edited by Sharyn November

Cotillion - Delia Sherman
The Baby In The Night Deposit Box - Megan Whalen Turner
Beauty - Sherwood Smith
Mariposa - Nancy Springer
Max Mondrosch - Lloyd Alexander
The Fall Of Ys - Meredith Ann Pierce
Medusa - Michael Cadnum
The Black Fox - Emma Bull ; Illustrations By Charles Vess
Byndley - Patricia A. Mckillip
The Lady Of The Ice Garden - Kara Dalkey
Hope Chest - Garth Nix
Chasing The Wind - Elizabeth E. Wein
Little Dot - Diana Wynne Jones
Remember Me - Nancy Farmer
Flotsam - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Flying Woman - Laurel Winter

Published by Firebird

 

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection (2004) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Kij Johnson  - At the Mouth of the River of Bees
Sara Maitland  - Why I Became a Plumber
M. Rickert  - Bread and Bombs
George Saunders  - The Red Bow
Vandana Singh  - The Wife
Lucius Shepard  - Only Partly Here
Steve Rasnic Tem  - Bone
Laird Barron  - Old Virginia
Neil Gaiman  - A Study in Emerald
Nathan Ballingrud  - You Go Where It Takes You
Dean Francis Alfar  - L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)
Stephen King  - Harvey's Dream
Ursula K. Le Guin  - Woeful Tales from Mahigul
Karen Joy Fowler  - King Rat
Kelly Link  - The Hortlak
Brian Hodge  - With Acknowledgments to Sun Tzu
Richard Butner  - Ash City Stomp
Michael Swanwick  - King Dragon
Patrick O'Leary  - Invisible Geese: A Theory
Patrick O'Leary  - The Perfect City
Peter Crowther  - Bedfordshire
Adam Corbin Fusco  - N007-JK1
Marc Laidlaw  - Cell Call
Philip Raines and Harvey Wells  - The Fishie
Dale Bailey  - Hunger: A Confession
Scott Emerson Bull  - Mr. Sly Stops for a Cup of Joe
Megan Whalen Turner  - The Baby in the Night Deposit Box
Paul LaFarge  - Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur
Mike O'Driscoll  - The Silence of the Falling Stars
Jon Woodward  - At the Mythical Beast
Paolo Bacigalupi  - The Fluted Girl
Kevin Brockmeier  - The Brief History of the Dead
Nina Kiriki Hoffman  - Flotsam
Dan Chaon  - The Bees
Glen Hirshberg  - Dancing Men
Theodora Goss  - Lily, with Clouds
Karen Traviss  - The Man Who Did Nothing
Shelley Jackson  - Husband
Michael Marshall Smith  - Open Doors
Benjamin Rosenbaum  - The Valley of the Giants
Thomas Ligotti  - Purity
Maureen F. McHugh  - Ancestor Money
Terry Bisson  - Almost Home
Daphne Gottlieb  - Final Girl II: The Frame

Published by St. Martin's Griffin