If you stopped over at Amazon.com to order a copy of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, you may have noticed it received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. But chances are you didn’t notice who wrote the starred review.
So let’s fix that.
Even before her review of The Hunger Games was published, author Megan Whalen Turner made waves in children’s literature, accomplishing something unheard of for most novice authors. In 1997 her debut novel, The Thief, won the two highest awards a juvenile novel can win: the Newbery Honor (only four books are selected per year) and the ALA Notable Book designation. Since then, she has expanded The Thief into four book fantasy series unofficially dubbed “The Attolia Books” or “The Queen’s Thief Series.
A Conspiracy of Kings, won the LA Times Book Prize for Young Adults and elbowed its way onto the New York Times Best Sellers List, joining the ranks of Suzanne Collins, Lauren Kate and Mike Lupica. She has been featured on NPR and drawn starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Horn Book and Publisher’s Weekly. And – oh yeah, by the way – she lives in Cleveland.
“So what are the Attolia Books?” you say. “What’s the big deal?” I asked myself that same question, upon opening The Thief. Admittedly, the first ten pages of the book were slow – our protagonist has received a beating in his prison cell and every one of his aches and pains has been documented – so I was skeptical The Thief would be a worthwhile read. But once the plot took off, I was completely absorbed.
The title character, Gen, gets himself into trouble when he brags he can steal anything. And he wasn’t kidding. He pilfered the royal seal out from under the King’s nose and got thrown into prison for his crime. But the King, unable to let Gen’s expertise go to waste, strikes a bargain with Gen: if he can steal a precious stone coveted by neighboring rival rulers, he’ll regain his freedom. If he fails, he will be killed.
So begins Gen’s trek across Turner’s masterfully-imagined Sounis with cast of colorful characters in tow: the King’s presumptuous chief advisor (known as the Magus), two of the Magus’ adolescent students, and a body guard called Pol. Turner peppers their evenly-paced journey with deliciously witty dialogue, a swordfight or two, and campfire legends told by characters throughout their trip. The book builds steadily in anticipation of one of the most well-executed plot twists I’ve ever seen. Readers will say things like, “Clever!” and “Impressive!” and “How the heck did she pull that off?”
The second, third and fourth books in the series pick up where their predecessors left off – but, unfortunately, this is one of those circumstances where handing out information about those books will reduce your enjoyment of the series (which I unfortunately know from experience). Steadfast fans of the Attolia Books insist that readers avoid spoilers in order to enjoy The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings. Fans of Megan Whalen Turner can be on the lookout for book 5 in the series coming … whenever the self-described notoriously slow-writing Mrs. Turner gets around to it.
Discussion guide here.
Goodreads reviews here.