Discussion Post: The Queen of Attolia (Queen’s Thief #2) by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

When his small mountainous country goes to war with the powerful nation of Attolia, Eugenides the thief is faced with his greatest challenge. He must steal a man, he must steal a queen, and he must steal peace.

But with his greatest triumph — as well as his greatest loss — can only come if he succeeds in capturing something the Queen of Attolia may have sacrificed long ago.

Please remember to give warning before spoilers.

Week 1: chapter 1-6

Week 2: chapters 7-12

Week 3: chapters 13-18

Week 4: chapters 19-21

This is going to be fun.

  • Woohoo! Can’t wait to get started!

    • Janet

      Me neither 🙂

  • I practically inhaled this book in about three hours. I’m still recovering.

    • Janet

      Isn’t it amazing?!
      … I don’t have my copy with me, so I can’t start any discussion for real until next week [silly Janet, leaving the book in the wrong city] but. Doesn’t it just reduce you to incoherent gah-ing?

  • I can’t discuss chapters 1-6. I just … can’t. *returns to her corner wiping tears from her face* (I actually skip them almost every time I reread: seriously!)

    • Janet

      I get you. I read ch 1-6 every time, but I reread The Queen of Attolia less frequently than I reread all the others. It’s a brilliant book, it’s just so hard to face those beginning chapters.
      (I LOVE the humour by the end of the book, though. Or maybe humour isn’t the right word – all the twists and turns and connivance and the steel determination of all our favourites.)

  • The Queen of Attolia is actually my favorite of the four books (so far!). These first few chapters actually really confused me, because I read this book first (though I actually read it because of spoilers for the end, so I already knew some things when reading). But I mixed up Eddis and Attolia – and Turner’s habit of not naming her characters (like the minister of war for Eddis) tended to throw me for a loop – as I think is somewhat intentional. The disappearance of people into their roles is a big theme of the book, after all.

    I found the mystery of “Do not offend the gods” really striking – that kind of repeated catchphrase that isn’t explained till much later is really cool.

    • Janet

      Super striking! Is it ever fully explained? The phrase crops up in The Thief, too, when Moira appears to Gen in his dreams (“Do not offend the gods/You have not yet offended the gods”), and I always found it something of a mystery, almost like a behavioural code/norm that we as readers aren’t entirely privileged to know fully.
      I mean, sorry, it is explained, but I also feel like we never really know how fully the gods take the mortal characters into their confidence, or if the gods just give them key pieces of info and expect the humans to figure out what they need to/should do.

  • What week are we on now? Can I talk about my favourite scene, one of my favourite moments in literature: when Gen sees the earrings Attolia is wearing? It’s one of those moments you’re likely to miss on a first reading (I can’t actually remember my first reading, but knowing me I’m sure I missed it), and then you go back and go, “oh. OH!” It’s what MWT is best at. I absolutely love rereading that whole scene, realizing what’s really going on. “‘Yes,’ the queen repeated after him, enunciating the word clearly.”

    Also, a question from that same chapter: (Spoiler if we’re not at chapter 17 yet!) Does Gen’s father really try to strangle him? As a way of saving him from his fate? I was always a little puzzled by that.

    • It looks like we’re on week 3 indeed! I’m curious – what do you think of all the switchbacks in attitudes and circumstances between Gen and Attolia? I love their relationship, and how hard it is, but sometimes, when I think about the book (not usually when I’m reading, but when I’m trying to remember all of the things that happen), I feel like there are so many reversals of fortune and feeling that it sometimes makes you question the motives of Gen and Irene.

      But that’s possibly just me complaining about things being complicated in these books, which is, after all, one of the things I rave about to people who haven’t read them.

      I do think that Gen’s father was trying to save him from more torture at Irene’s hands. He saw his son go into deep depression after she slashed off his hand, and he was fairly convinced that she was a monster. So it would make sense, if he’s going to die anyway, to make it quick and as painless as possible, and to let his son know he loved him in the end.

      • Janet

        Sorry, Ian, I wrote my essay of a reply to Kim before I saw your comment in the “to be approved” list. I wasn’t deliberately ignoring you.

        Speaking of reversals, if Gen’s father really was trying to kill Gen, doesn’t that make it all the more marvelous and shocking when Attolia sends him back to Eddis with her acceptance? Just imagine his thoughts! And his immense relief.

        • There’s a real sense of eucatastrophe in the Queen’s Thief series – all hope being lost, and then, without any expectation of good, the best thing happens.

          • Janet

            Reaction 1: ooh, excellent word. Thanks for the beautiful vocab and academic/grammatical perspective.
            Reaction 2: a EUcatastrophe for EUgenides? Bwahahaha!

            • I stole it from Tolkien :).

              Nice wordplay!

    • Janet

      We’re starting week 4, so go ahead and talk about anything at all.

      I LOVE THAT SCENE! It is one of the few sneaky things MWT puts in that I caught the first time reading. I also love the whole scene when Attolia is talking with the Minister of War and everything she says has two meanings and Nahauseresh that snot only catches the one she means him to, and the Minister may or may not catch the other, and Gen… Gen is just dazed, poor brilliant scheming boy. <3

      I can never decide about the strangulation, either. We don't know how much Gen wants to die quickly or whether he resists. It feels a little out of character for his father to me, partly because strangulation is slow. Compared, say, to breaking his neck, or restricting blood flow to his head. (The former would be swift and final; the latter would knock him out and, if continued, cause brain damage and death.)
      On a similar theme, I love that when the two soldiers offer to jump off the cliff with him, he refuses for their sake and the sake of their families. (I don't like it that he implicitly considers it for himself, though.) (That is just too sad.) (Like the first 6 chapters.)

  • So, I will assume people are coming to the conclusion of this amazing book. I actually read this book first (as I said before), and I did so because people spoiled that Gen was in love with Irene the whole time – so my first reading I was actually looking for clues and revelling in all the incredibly painful but beautiful transformation of Irene’s character and Gen’s struggle back to health. There’s still something about this particular book, in which Irene has as many moments of intelligence and planning as Gen, that I don’t find quite as strongly as in any of the other books – a level of parity between them that makes me love them together so much.

    • Janet

      You said it! I love that we get to see Irene as her own person in this book – opaquely, at times, but with her own history and character development. The ending has me looking back for clues in the first book about Gen’s feelings toward her, and looking forward (spoilers!) to the third for more of Irene and Gen’s sparring-scheming-love and her sense of humour. (And the fourth book, also, but she’s harder to read in that one again, because of the perspective.)

  • I never made it back to this discussion: good comments, Ian and Janet. Love the word eucatastrophe! Yes, we do get tantalizing glimpses into Irene’s character. I love her conversation with Eddis (“naming me Helen.”) I’m also always struck by Gen’s insistence on speaking with the gods, and their shocking and interesting reply.

    • Janet

      The gods in this series are amazing, I think the only pantheon I’ve ever read that feels real, not just some rip-off, cozied-up Greko-Roman-Norse collection. Isn’t that scene fascinating? Job-like, even.
      Love the scenes when Helen and Irene talk. I wish there was more of that. *crosses fingers for fifth book*