Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Queen's Thief Week

My friend Chachic over at Chachic's Book Nook is hosting a week on her blog dedicated to the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. If you go and peruse the My Favorite Things posts I have you will see these books come up quite a bit. It is my favorite series which contains my favorite book which contains my favorite character of all time. I have never written "reviews" for these books because I just don't know how. It is almost impossible to discuss all the whys and wherefores of loving something so much. Which is why Chachic is a genius for coming up with this awesome event where all of us who love these books can share little pieces of their brilliance and what they mean to us individually and this is my small contribution to that. Plot elements in the second book are hinted at here, there was no other way I could write it, but I managed to (mostly) avoid outright spoilers.
The picture used in the poster there for this event comes from the Japanese edition of The Queen of Attolia. I love this cover for oh so many reasons, but mostly because I think it captures the spirit of the book and its titular character the best of all the covers for this, my favorite book.

Much of the love for this series you will see poured out on its main character Gen, the sarcastic lazy vain arrogant brilliant hero we all fell for in the first book, The Thief. I fell for him just as hard as anyone and my love for him knows no bounds to be sure, but he is not my favorite character. Irene Attolia is. And let me say, for those familiar with the series and story, it was not something I had to grown into. It started from when she made her first appearance almost at the end of The Thief. The one and only scene she has in that book is fascinating. The way her presence hovers over the action in the rest of the book despite her physical absence only served to make me more curious about her. Then I read The Queen of Attolia and whoa. When I hit chapter three I literally cringed and not just because I was horrified on Gen's behalf. Even on a first read through I was concerned for her too. About what that action had cost her as a person. This is a credit to the immense talent of the author. Ms. Turner managed to create two characters who are in opposition to each other, yet both are sympathetic.

Why do I like this character so much?  I wrote about it more than a year ago in my favorite female character's post. Here is what I said: I LOVE her.  She is something rare, a female anti-hero. She is not evil.  She is not the antagonist.  She is a woman who has done some truly terrible things for some very good reasons.  And she has done some terrible things for less acceptable reasons.  Nothing about her character is comfortable.  Irene made some hard choices at a young age.  These choices were the best she could make for her people and the security of her throne but they were not good for her personally.  They isolated her and pushed her further and further behind a mask of power, ruthlessness and inaccessibility until that persona gradually started to become all she was.  Irene is brilliant.  She is a master strategist, a fantastic manager, has amazing patience, and a fierce control on her temper (mostly-one person tends to set it off).  She has a wry sense of humor.  She doesn’t enjoy her loneliness.  However, her inability to trust and rely on anyone slowly begins to erode her humanity away.  And she knows this and sees it happening.  This is the one area she is powerless to control though.  She can’t let down her guard while directing a war, managing her fractious barons, manipulating her enemies, and maintaining her country’s independence.  Someone else knows all that and recognizes that she, Irene the person, is worth saving from herself and offers her a lifeline.  The choice to take it is entirely in her hands but it costs her pride.  She makes the sacrifice of that pride with much reservation.  But this doesn’t change the essence of who Irene is.  She is still powerful, brilliant and ironic.  She can still freeze the blood in a man’s veins with a single glance.  She just has someone to help take the edges off her ruthlessness and allow her to be a woman as well as a queen.  ,


The part in bold is why I love the story in The Queen of Attolia so much. For me it is a book largely about the inexplicable nature of forgiveness and the power it has to release and transform. Some might (and do) question how forgiveness can be given to someone who has committed the wrong she has. I love that through her character we see how difficult it is to accept that forgiveness. It isn't simply about admitting you have done wrong. That's the first (and easiest) step. What comes next is so much harder, and Irene's struggles through the last third of Queen demonstrate this beautifully. 

While these are my favorite elements of the series there are so many other reasons why I keep coming for rereads. There is adventure, mystery, myth, complicated relationships of every type, intrigue, politics, war, some amazing fight scenes, and heart stopping moments (of  more than one variety). 


This is only one snap shot of what is a far more complex and engrossing tale which begins in the first book and continues to the fourth. (And will be continued further in the final two volumes of the series that are in the works.) For more of these snap shots check out the posts on Chachic's site: 
Post One:  How I Discovered the Series by Chachic of Chachic's Book Nook 
Post Two: The Thief and Secrets by Sherwood Smith (author of the wonderful Crown Duel and other books)
Post Three: On Sounis (meeting place for the seriously devoted fan) by Checkers (our fearless moderator)
Post Four: Gen as Hero by Melina Marchetta (another favorite author of several books including The Piper's Son)
Post Five: A Gen Acrostic by Holly of Book Harbinger
Post Six: Not Telling by Megan Whalen Turner (the amazing author herself)
Post Seven: Bibliovangelizing the Books by Angie of Angieville
Post Eight: The Queen's Thief, Sarah, and Book Pushing by Sarah Rees Brennan (author of The Demon's Lexicon trilogy and the wonderful lj sarahtales
Post Nine: Why I Adore The Queen's Thief Series by Ana of The Book Smugglers
Post Ten: How I Fell in Love with The Queen's Thief Series (and Why) by R.J. Anderson (another of my favorite authors-seriously this week is killing me-of The Faerie Rebels series and Ultraviolet)
Post Eleven: Looking Together in the Same Direction by Elizabeth Wein (an author whose books I need to read yesterday including The Sunbird)
Post Twelve: The Romance by Chachic of Chachic's Book Nook, the brilliant and awesome hostess of the festivities

10 comments:

  1. That's a great summation of Irene! And I can see why you like her so much, I do, on paper at least. But I think she would scare me in real life...

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    1. Yes, she would most definitely be scary in real life. Is it crazy that is part of the reason I like her so much?

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  2. It's a love letter to Irene! I love it. I've told you that Gen is my favorite character in the series but that doesn't stop me from loving all the other characters as well. Irene is probably my second favorite, for all the reasons that you mentioned here. She's such a complex character. As much as I love sword-wielding heroines in fantasy, I love that in the Queen's Thief series, women are portrayed as strong characters without warrior-like skills (well, Eddis is probably competent but she's not amazing).

    Thank you for putting up this post for Queen's Thief Week! I was trying to think of a way of promoting the series and realized that I could organize a week-long event for it and here we are.

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    1. See I prefer heroines like Irene to the sword-wielding ones. If sword-wielding is their only claim to being a "strong female character" that is. Strength of character has nothing to do with butt kicking. That is a physical strength. I like that Irene's strengths are inner strengths. (Probably because so are mine and I could never do any actual butt kicking or sword wielding. And don't really want to.)

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    2. Also Chachic, you are awesome and this was the best idea EVER.

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    3. I love the sword-wielding heroine trope if it's done well, so many of my other favorites have characters like those. But I'm a big fan of strength of character as well. LOL one of the reasons why I like heroines who can kick butt is because I can't do it myself.

      I know, such an awesome idea, right? I never expected that the authors I invited would say yes to guest posts. Let alone reply in the comments section.

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  3. Great post, friend! I love that Irene and Gen are so completely feminine and masculine, respectively, and it just makes them stronger--neither is having to be "more gender neutral" nor is Irene having to be sword-wielding (as you mentioned above). And their strengths marvelously complement each other, even thought it's not an easy pairing.

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    1. I love that they are not an easy pairing-what pairing in real life is? It makes it so much more realistic.

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  4. see Brandy and THIS is why we are friends.

    Oh and this comment:
    See I prefer heroines like Irene to the sword-wielding ones. If sword-wielding is their only claim to being a "strong female character" that is. Strength of character has nothing to do with butt kicking. That is a physical strength. I like that Irene's strengths are inner strengths. (Probably because so are mine and I could never do any actual butt kicking or sword wielding. And don't really want to.)

    I just. I mean, I love Gen, and I am fond of him, but Attolia just--she's SO complex and SO vulnerable and SO strong at the same time and she just--everything you said. She just *grabs* me and holds my attention and my sympathy and I love her for all of her faults and her strengths.

    basically if I ever publish any book ever you will probably just find me trying to create my own Attolia. Even if it's not intentional! She's just...ingrained in me. Gah. LOVE.

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    1. "but Attolia just--she's SO complex and SO vulnerable and SO strong at the same"

      YES! And in a world where many of the heroines in books aren't considered interesting unless they a)have supernatural powers b)can't walk down a hallway without tripping over their own feet or c)emotional basket cases, she is a wonderful breath of fresh air.

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