Title: Thick as Thieves
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (?)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: May 2017
Hardcover: 337 pages
Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.
A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.
Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance.
Stand alone or series: Fifth book in The Queen’s Thief Series. Previous books have been reviewed (spoiler-free) here
How did I get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Print
This review is a spoiler-free look at the latest Queen’s Thief book, Thick as Thieves.
Warning: It contains feelings.
What a pleasure it is to return to the Queen’s Thief world! We have been waiting a long time (more than six years!) for this one – expectations, hopes were high. Would – COULD – this new book live up to them?
What do you think?
Eugenides, everybody’s favourite Thief, is nowhere to be seen until about the 85% mark of the book.
He is also, everywhere. This IS a Megan Whalen Turner book after all.
Taking place right after The King of Attolia, events are set in motion when Eugenides attempts to steal something incredibly important: the right hand of a Mede ambassador.
It just so happens that that right hand is a person. A slave. Kamet.
A less diligent author might have chosen to tell this story differently. But the choice that Megan Whalen Turner made here is important, essential even, for telling not only this story but also the story of this person.
Thus, it doesn’t matter that we have Gen in this world. It doesn’t matter that he sends a beloved character to steal Kamet.
Kamet might not have his freedom – at least not to begin with – but he has his voice.
This book is solely from his viewpoint, in a first person narrative. In fact, this is the first time since the first book that we get a first person narrative.
Kamet is the right hand – or the most important slave – of the previous Mede ambassador to Attolia, Nahuseresh. Kamet’s first appearance was as a secondary character in The Queen of Attolia and in here we see not only those events from his perspective but also learn a few more things about the Mede and their plans for conquering the little kingdoms of Attolia, Sounis and Eddis.
We also learn that in the Mede world (a Fantasy world with comparisons to Ancient Greece), a slave’s fate is tied to that of his master’s. Kamet’s master is a high ranking individual and as such Kamet enjoys untold privileges within this world: he can read and write in multiple languages, he is a learned person who has the control of his master’s finances, who has a degree of freedom within the confines of his position and a deep knowledge on how to handle his master’s moods. The more his master’s fortune improves, the better it is for Kamet, who deeply believes his future is bright.
When the book opens, Kamet is standing outside the door of his master’s rooms, bleeding after being punished over a little infraction, blaming himself for his own idiocy. His mater is capricious, Kamet should have known better. It takes days for him to recover from this recent punishment.
This book is heartbreaking.
Early on, Kamet is walking down the hallways when he bumps into the Attolian, who tells Kamet point blank that he has been sent to take him away to his freedom in Attolia.
When Kamet first learns the King of Attolia wants to steal him, he laughs it off. Why would Kamet ever want to go to that backwater place where people look down at him and when he has his privileged position and so much to look forward to alongside his master? And surely, this is a trap and the Attolians will just kill him. Surely freedom is not in the books for him.
(The reason why he feels that way is of course, manifold. He can’t forget how he was made to feel when in Attolia for reasons better left unspoiled here, the beauty of revelations is one of my favourite things about these books after all. He also doesn’t dare to hope for freedom.)
But then the unthinkable happens – his master is murdered – and Kamet has to flee. He has to flee because slaves are usually killed with his masters. And if he flees, the blame will fall on him and his other fellow slaves will be spared unthinkable tortures.
This book is heartbreaking.
Kamet ends up meeting with the Attolian again and from that moment on, the book is a road trip as the two flee toward Attolia from untold dangers, diseases and pretty much certain death.
Kamet doesn’t dare tell the Attolian that his master is dead for fear he will be killed now that he is no longer useful. That lie weighs on him throughout – especially when he and the Attolian develop an unexpected bond.
We know that for the Attolian, this a Quest, a Mission set by his King. For Kamet it is so much more. It’s his life. His future.
If The Thief and The King of Attolia had a book baby, this would be it.
In terms of tone and setting, Thick as Thieves reminded me of The Thief more than any of the books in the series. It was the road trip, the first person narrative and even, Kamet’s voice that manages to be simultaneously diverting and heartbreaking, self-deprecating AND self-aggrandizing that did it.
But the book is also written from the limited perspective of a person who doesn’t know all the details, who makes a lot of wrong assumptions and who underestimates the most important character in the series, hence why it also reminded me a lot of The King of Attolia.
Once again, Megan Whalen Turner turns the reader into her accomplice: we know that every time Kamet thinks poorly of Eugenides that he will know the truth soon enough. We know that there is trickery at play here. We also know that there will be not only a Moment of Truth coming but also something that will be emotionally rewarding for us and most importantly, for Kamet, eventually.
No one will ever be able to convince me that this isn’t a gay romance. The words, the relationship, the scenes, they are all there. Megan Whalen Turner has built a career on writing subtle romances and this is no different.
As far as I am concerned, Kamet and the Attolian are OTP, and they are now married.
It is incredible to me how Megan Whalen Turner gets away with certain things and STILL MAKES IT ALL WORK:
– Her most beloved character doesn’t make an appearance until very, very late in the book.
– One of the main characters in the book remains unnamed until the end (but fans know who he is)
– There are literal Deus ex machina moments here. MULTIPLE. And they are awesome.
What a talent.
In the six intervening years since the last book, I have grown unaccustomed to reading books that have only male characters. I really missed the ladies here – and seeing Irene just for a small bit and in the specific circumstances in which that small bit happens, was not enough and also… did I say this book was heartbreaking?
It is also: smart, romantic, diverting, thoughtful and incredibly beautiful.
Oh gods, what do I do with myself now?
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect