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Jenny is the outstanding and gracious co-host of the Reading the End bookcast. She blogs about books and other sundries at the very entertaining Reading the End, where you can go for even more book reviews, lists, and interviews! She is also a responsible global citizen and loves Black Sails (which you should definitely watch).


The Return of the Thief did not come out last month. For a few emotionally complicated months, I believed that it would, but its author, Megan Whalen Turner, ended up kicking the can down the road to Summer 2020. I knew I was supposed to be sad about this news, and I am, but I’m also—kind of relieved? I have been in love with this series for most of my adult life, and I am disinclined to accept the end of its era.

The Thief came out in 1996, at which point my mother bought it for my older sister at a Scholastic Book Fair, and I refused to read it. It’s the story of a thief called Gen who gets conscripted into the service of a Magus to steal a precious stone from the neighboring country of Attolia. Since I can’t talk about the rest of the series without spoiling something from The Thief, I urge non-fans of this series to stop reading my column right now and dash out at once to buy all five existing books and put them directly into your face. You will not be sorry.

For good and ill, the Queen’s Thief series feels like a relic of a different YA era, even though the most recent installment only dropped two years ago and the final installment is, as I’ve said, not out yet. The books are smart and emotional—sometimes devastating—but they sit outside of the Great Age-Up that YA seems to have undergone since The Thief came out, in which the target audience are adults and all the characters are having sex and going off to college. On the flip side, Thick as Thieves gives us an obvious queer relationship without ever admitting that’s what it’s doing. I screamed "this is so slashy!" when I got to the end of it, and then felt miffed that in this era of Adam Silvera and Patrick Ness, Thick as Thieves couldn’t just divulge that those two boys are involved. (I’m hoping someone mentions they’re married in The Return of the Thief, because they are obviously married.)

If The Thief is a quality Scholastic Book Fair title, The Queen of Attolia resets the scale for what the stakes can look like within this series. Fans of S3 The Magicians or Tony losing his armor in Iron Man 3 will be extra into this book, in which Gen has to reevaluate the kind of thief, and diplomat, and person he’s going to be. Machinations abound, and perhaps most crucially, Gen gives himself away in service of a political alliance that will require a shift away from his point of view in subsequent stories.

The King of Attolia is my personal favorite, not only because it introduces Genuine Actual Cinnamon Roll Costis as Gen’s personal bodyguard in Attolia, but because it accomplishes a satisfying feat of trickery in which the characters are all fooled but the reader knows better. Not in an annoying way. It’s just that we’ve watched Gen play people and countries like fiddles in the past, and we know he’s playing the long game when it comes to Fucking Up the Shit of the Attolian Aristocracy. (Eat the rich.) As we readers have had two books in which to experience the transition from "this kid’s a smartass" to "I would die for Eugenides", it’s immensely satisfying to watch Costis undergo the same journey.

Maybe it’s a function of the long lag time between releases (The Thief came out in 1996, as I’ve said, and the three-year gap between Thick as Thieves and Return of the Thief will be the shortest gap between books in this series), but Megan Whalen Turner has weirdly made me care a lot about the fate of three small, ancient-Greece-ish fictional countries and their ability to fight off Xerxes’s Persia the Mede. A Conspiracy of Kings sees Gen’s friend Sophos lose his throne and fight to regain it, an issue of less import if you oppose monarchy as a form of government but of much, much more if you know that a Sounis without Sophos on the throne is a Sounis that will fall to the Mede. In this house we oppose monarchy, for sure, but also, like, the Mede’s a real asshole, and we oppose empire even more.

Thick as Thieves is so gay. I could say more about how it continues the series’s wondrous tradition of Eugenides stealing people and ideas in magnificent, unpredictable long cons—but basically, this is a gay road trip romance about a spiky, selfish court spy and a cinnamon roll Attolian soldier. I didn’t know I needed that until it was in my hands. It ends with a bit of a gut-punch about Gen’s personal life, but I’m trying not to think too much about that.

In short, the reason I’m kind of glad that The Return of the Thief isn’t out for another year is that I absolutely cannot bear for any of the six principals in the series to die. Not any of the four monarchs, despite my firm anti-monarchy stance. Not Costis or Kamet. Nobody. The Magus can die, I guess. Everyone else has to live happily ever after; but I am unfortunately too well acquainted with Megan Whalen Turner’s knack for flicking off a single word that irrevocably changes everything to believe that’s what’s going to happen.

March YA Releases I’m Anticipating



   


The most consistent thing I’ve heard about Lilliam Rivera’s Dealing in Dreams (5 March, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) is that you have to power past a certain amount of worldbuilding right at the start, but that it’s worth it. Mega City is matriarchal (yay!) and very militant (boo!) and our protagonist, Nalah, leads the toughest girl crew in town. But then she’s tasked with tracking down another gang, and things get weird(er).

Opposite of Always, by Justin Reynolds (5 March, Katherine Tegen Books), follows a Black teenage boy who falls in love at a party. The relationship blossoms—and then Kate dies. And then Jack wakes up at the moment when he first met Kate, and their whole story begins again. Look, I love time loops so much that I almost watched Happy Death Day, a horror movie. It’s my hope that Opposite of Always will end happily, but I’m even okay if it doesn’t, because that’s how much I love time loops.

   


The Weight of the Stars (19 March, Imprint) contains lesbians and space, which means that I was anticipating it like crazy even before I knew that author K. Ancrum wrote her college thesis on fanfic. But she did, and now I am anticipating it even more. It’s a slow burn romance about two girls dreaming of the stars and building their found families in a world that’s not always welcoming to them. I have heard that it is going to break my heart in wonderful ways, and I can’t wait to be broken.

I dearly wish that Samira Ahmed’s book Internment (19 March, Atom) felt less topical; instead, the Christchurch shooting happened a few days before this book came out, and some politicians suggested that the victims got what they deserved, just for being Muslim. Internment tells the story of a near-future America where Muslim Americans are sent to internment camps, and a girl called Layla leads a revolution. It will be a reminder to all its readers, I hope, that our ability to fight matters, and that we must always stand on the sight of justice.

FRONDS: How are you all feeling about the Summer 2020 release date for The Return of the Thief? Don’t we agree it might be better if the last book didn’t come out for another few years so we can keep living in a world where everyone is basically okay?

Date: 2019-04-04 12:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] necromancyneverpays.wordpress.com
Why did you refuse to read The Thief when it first came out?
There is so much not okay about the world right now that I want all the escapist literature as soon as possible, please.

Date: 2019-04-08 11:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.com
I can't even remember! Maybe I didn't like the cover???? I have no idea.

Thick as Thieves

Date: 2019-04-04 07:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theillustratedpage.wordpress.com
I'm still annoyed with Thick as Thieves. I think it's honestly at the point (or at least close) to where it could be called queer baiting? But also, does the author even know it's gay? The entire series fails my "does it acknowledge queer people exist" thing... except possibly for when it suggests that male-on-male sexual assault is a danger, and I really don't want that to count.

Re: Thick as Thieves

Date: 2019-04-08 11:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.com
That is FAIR. I am curious to see how the last book treats Costis and Kamet, given that MWT tends to be fairly allusive about indirect about any kind of relationships in her books. Basically I would like to not be mad at Thick as Thieves, and I'm hoping Megan Whalen Turner will make it possible for me not to be mad at it. :p

Date: 2019-04-06 06:59 am (UTC)
ladyherenya: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ladyherenya
I was also kind of relieved about Return of the Thief being pushed back! I'm sure it will be excellent but there's something a bit ominous about the words "last book", especially with an author is isn't at all afraid of hurting her characters. And because each previous book feels like a complete and satisfying story, I'm not desperate to find out what happens next.

Date: 2019-04-08 11:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.com
I'm trying to cling to the fact that as far as I can recall there haven't been any shock deaths in her books so far. You know? So I'm hoping that the six main people will survive. I NEED THEM TO.

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