Toggle the synopsis. But, beware, if you haven't read Books 1-4, this may reveal more about the plot than you care to know.
Kamet is a slave poised to become one of the most powerful men in the Mede Empire thanks to his master’s close relationship with the Emperor. While he knows the limitations of his life as a secretary and slave, Kamet is ambitious and eager for the chance to help shape the Empire and wield his influence until one whispered conversation changes everything. No longer safe, Kamet embarks on a journey that will take him farther than he once thought possible. Traveling away from the seat of the Mede Empire, Kamet finds an unlikely ally in an Attolian soldier far from home and realizes that sometimes choice and freedom can be much more important than power or influence. Turner returns to the “Queen’s Thief” series in this fifth installment, which moves beyond the familiar borders of the countries of Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis. This novel is filled with characters readers will learn to love, including several from earlier volumes. Kamet’s transformation from a circumspect and scholarly secretary to a man in control of his own fate is immensely satisfying, as is the way his story intertwines with other threads from the series. His pragmatic first-person narration brings a fresh perspective to familiar places and people while expanding the world. This clever book is both a stand-alone introduction for those just discovering Turner’s characters and a way to move the series forward to what promises to be a stirring conclusion for longtime fans. VERDICT Now is a great time to purchase the entire series for your library. A must for fantasy readers seeking titles rich with intrigue and politics. Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library
Even minor characters in Turner’s Queen’s Thief saga have fascinating stories to tell, as she proves in this fifth installment, seven years in the making. This volume centers on Kamet, head slave and secretary to the Emperor of Medes’s out-of-favor nephew, who left Attolia when his scheme to seize power failed. Kamet is relieved to be home until he gets word that his master has been poisoned. Before he can process what that means for him (probably death), he is kidnapped by a beefy Attolian guard. (The author’s stock-in-trade includes the suspenseful reveal, so the guard’s name is withheld until the end.) The journey back to Attolia poses challenges, including bounty hunters, slave catchers, bandits, near starvation, rugged terrain, and miserable weather. Kidnapper and victim come to know each other, overturning many of Kamet’s assumptions. As with the previous books, Turner writes with complete authority about her richly imagined landscape. Although this immersive treat is billed as a standalone, those who have read the previous books in the series will get the most from it, as Turner fills out and enriches the expansive canvas on which she stitches her epic tale. Ages 13–up. (May). Reviewed on 3/6/2017
Turner’s eagerly awaited fifth Queen’s Thief novel (beginning with The Thief, rev. 11/96) displays in full her many fortes: ingenious plotting, nuanced characterization, and a subtle sleight of hand in the telling that promises to surprise even very astute readers. Kamet, slave and secretary to the Mede emperor’s nephew (a former ambassador to Attolia), has every reason to think his master, and thus he himself, will achieve great power in the Mede empire. But when he’s given a whispered warning that his master has been poisoned, Kamet must ee to save his life; fortuitously, an Attolian soldier o ers to escort him to freedom in Attolia, and Kamet reluctantly agrees. Their journey is tense, dangerous, and eventful; by the end, it has shaken Kamet’s self-regard along with all his certainties and assumptions. Turner deepens and broadens the quasi-classical world of her Queen’s Thief stories here, developing familiar characters even as she introduces a new landscape and culture, with its own gods and epics, poetic forms and tastes. The characteristically multilayered deviousness of the author’s plotting engages not just political machinations but also fundamental quandaries about destiny, volition, and identity. “I wanted to believe I steered the course of my future,” Kamet says ruefully, reflecting on the ways of men and gods. Thoroughly tricky, insightful, and satisfying. Deirdre F. Baker
Kamet, the high-ranking slave of a politically important master, is nothing if not pragmatic about his circumstances. “When a man is murdered, his slaves are tortured,” he explains dispassionately. “If any confess, then all are executed whether they share in the guilt or not. No one will buy them and they can hardly be freed—what a temptation that would put before the enslaved population. In the case of a poisoning, where the administration of the poison is unclear, the slaves are put to death on principle.”
It’s a horrifying, if not altogether unsurprising, perspective; of course, slave owners wouldn’t view their slaves as people. It’s the conclusion Kamet comes to at the end of this speech that is startling. “The Medes,” he says of the people who own him, “fear little in quite the way they fear their own slaves.”
For Kamet, slavery has been his life since he was stolen by the Medes from his homeland, Setra, as a child. But he has little desire for a different life; as a secretary and house slave, he is educated and well cared for, and he is being groomed to become the personal slave for the emperor himself. Kamet has authority in his master’s household, and ambition enough to seize what power he can. When a man comes from the nearby kingdom of Attolia and, claiming to be sent by the Attolian king, offers Kamet his freedom, Kamet finds the idea laughable; Attolia, he believes, is a backward country, and freedom there is worth very little to him. “There is freedom in this life and there is power,” he thinks, “and I was ambitious for the latter.”
But Kamet loses all choice in the matter when his master is poisoned. Forced to flee, he joins the Attolian, escaping the city and embarking on a treacherous journey with a companion whose friendship he resists, heading toward a country he hates and a life he does not want. In Attolia, a man who is both a king and a thief waits for Kamet’s arrival, and he has more invested than Kamet knows.
Kamet’s story stands alone, though existing fans of the Queen’s Thief novels will certainly recognize some familiar places and people. Though he barely appears on the page, Turner’s original hero and titular thief, the clever and charismatic Eugenides, is very much a presence, and his machinations, as they often do, shape the course of Kamet’s story. But even more than plot twists and political intrigue, what is so welcomingly familiar and so wholly real here is the depth of the characters and the tenuous, frightening instability of the world around them. In his element, Kamet is arrogant and vain; in the clutches of a larger world, he becomes frightened, thoughtful, often kind, and, at times, incredibly strong.
There is fantasy that is an escape and fantasy that is a mirror, and this, astonishingly, is both. Kamet’s flight into the unknown is hair-raising and filled with danger, but his world is seething, poised on the brink of war. Relations between countries are strained, loyalties are tested, and ordinary people brace for a period of darkness. Still, though, all is
not hopeless. Despite his ambition, Kamet, like his captors, knows that oppression is not sustainable, that tyranny is ephemeral, and that in times of change, one slave—one man—can make all the difference. This world, its people, and its gods remain as fiercely alive as they were when The Thief first stole hearts as a 1997 Newbery Honor Book. For newcomers, this is a worthy introduction; for loyal readers, it will be like coming home.