Tricksters

I have a confession to make. I’m really behind when it comes to movies and TV shows because I spend most of my free time sleeping, reading or blogging. There are times when my friends would ask me to watch a movie and then I’d say that I won’t be able to join them because it’s a sequel for something that I haven’t seen yet. Anyway, I was really curious about Thor: The Dark World since so many people seemed to enjoy it. I watched the first Thor movie on Friday night so I could watch the sequel with my flatmates on Saturday (note that I still haven’t seen the Avengers, Captain America or any of the Iron Man movies). I’m talking about seeing these movies here on my blog tonight because they are the reason why I wasn’t able to read or blog this weekend. Also, I wanted to bring up something that I’m interested in.

Thor 2

I guess it’s not surprising that I thought Loki was such a great character in both Thor movies, I liked him a lot more than Thor. While I’m not really familiar with Norse mythology, I’ve seen Loki mentioned in other books before as the trickster god. I find gods (or even mortal characters) like that intriguing. I was reminded of how much I liked the trickster god Kyprioth in Tamora Pierce’s Daughter of the Lioness duology and I think most of you know that I’m a big fan of Eugenides, the patron god of thieves in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series. Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst also has a trickster god called Korbyn but I kind of felt like he wasn’t as mischievous as the other two.

Loki from Thor

Image from Tumblr.

I Googled tricksters and found that Wikipedia has a definition of it:

The trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously (for example, Loki) but usually with ultimately positive effects (though the trickster’s initial intentions may have been either positive or negative). Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks (e.g. Eris) or thievery. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks. An example of this is the sacred Iktomi, whose role is to play tricks and games and by doing so raises awareness and acts as an equalizer.

I like how cunning tricksters are and how things will never get boring when they’re involved. Sometimes they’re good guys but they can also be villains and more often that not, it’s difficult to decipher what their intentions are. I brought it up here because I would be interested in hearing about other well-written fantasy novels or series that have tricksters in them since I only know of the titles I mentioned above. Have you read any other books that have trickster characters in them? Or maybe TV shows or movies? Are you interested in tricksters like I am or you don’t really care for them? As always, let me know what you guys think. Hope you all had a good weekend, I felt like it went by so fast.

Queen’s Thief Week: The Romance

When I sent out invites for guest posts for Queen’s Thief Week, I told everyone that they can write about whatever they wanted as long as it’s related to the series. I didn’t want the guest posts to be too much of a hassle for them. I was kind of hoping that someone will write about the romance in the novels but since no one did, I get to handle this delicious topic myself. *rubs hands* I don’t think I can do it justice but Eugenides’ love story is one of my favorite aspects of the series and I can’t let the week go by without talking about it. Since I want to encourage more readers to pick up the books, this discussion will be spoiler-free and I won’t even mention who the love interest is (if you’ve read the books, you know how difficult it is to avoid spoilers). The romance doesn’t appear until the second book in the series, The Queen of Attolia. Gen is too much of an arrogant brat in The Thief to fall in love with someone. Also, he needed to do a bit of growing up before he can start thinking about love. I think the character growth and development in the series is amazing, I liked seeing Gen become more mature while still retaining the essence of who he is as a person.

I have to admit that one of the reasons why I love the romance is because I did not see it coming! Let me clarify that, it definitely didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s just that I wasn’t able to predict it. When that declaration of love appeared? I was all “WHAT!” and then “Wait, it makes perfect sense!” It was so subtle that I didn’t see the build-up but once I found out about it, I realized that there were so many hidden clues in the narrative. I didn’t even notice it but MWT was preparing me, the reader, for the romance. I kept going “Oooh so that’s why…” after the big revelation. This is the kind of romance that I love – slow burn romance, layered with complexities and filled with swoon-worthy lines that will slay you. It’s a love story with a lot of depth, not romance that’s based on something flimsy like physical attraction. Definitely none of that instant love nonsense where the hero and heroine take one look at each other and decide they can’t live without the other person. In the Queen’s Thief series, the characters have to work for it. Oh boy, do they have to work for it. So much sacrifice is involved in this particular love story that you ache for the characters.

What I like about Gen and his love interest is they are both flawed individuals. They’re aware of each other’s faults and imperfections and yet there’s still mutual fascination and grudging respect between them, which eventually develops into something more. They have every reason not to trust each other so their courtship has a rocky start. It takes time and effort for them to understand the other person. They’re such wonderful characters that you can’t help but root for their relationship, as soon as you find out about it. I wanted them to be happy and I wanted them to be happy together. I feel like the obstacles make the love story much more believable and relatable – the characters lead complicated lives, the relationships that they build reflect that. We can expect nothing less from fully fleshed out, intelligent and strong characters. I’ve reread the books several times and the romance doesn’t get old for me. It’s still one of my favorite fictional romances of all time.

I can’t help but quote some spoiler-free bits and pieces that I love from The Queen of Attolia, all of which have a little something to do with the romance:

“She’s like a prisoner inside stone walls, and every day the walls get a little thicker, the doorways a little narrower.”

“She thought of the hardness and the coldness she had cultivated over those years and wondered if they were the mask she wore or if the mask had become her self. If the longing inside her for kindness, for warmth, for compassion, was the last seed of hope for her, she didn’t know how to nurture it or if it could live.”

“He lies to himself. If Eugenides talked in his sleep, he’d lie then, too.”

“He could tell her he loved her. He ached to shout it out loud for the gods and everyone to hear. Little good it would do… He was famous in three countries for his lies.”

He anticipated her blow and leaned back. Her hand only brushed his cheek in an entirely unsatisfying manner. “At least that’s one lie I didn’t tell you.”

Whew, is that vague enough for all of you? I want to go on but I don’t want to reveal too much and ruin the reading experience for those who haven’t read the books. I did what I could without mentioning spoilers but I’m not promising that the comments will be spoiler-free as well. Fellow Queen’s Thief fans, do you love the romance in the series as much as I do? Share your favorite lines and scenes in relation to the romance. Oh and if you have recommendations for books with equally excellent love stories, I would gladly read them.

Queen’s Thief Week roundup:
Charlotte has links of where MWT can be found around the interwebs over at Charlotte’s Library
Maureen discusses the myths in the books – The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings

Queen’s Thief Week: Guest Post by Elizabeth Wein

I first heard about Elizabeth Wein from Sounis. I was thrilled when I discovered that her books are locally available, read The Sunbird and labeled Telemakos, the main character, as Gen-in-Africa. Elizabeth Wein is an under-the-radar author who deserves to get more attention. Seriously, I don’t understand why readers aren’t picking up her books, even Megan Whalen Turner herself recommends them. Code Name Verity, her latest novel about two Women’s Auxiliary Air Force girls set during World War II, has already been released in the UK and will be released in the US this May. Check out what Elizabeth Wein has to say about the similarities and differences between Telemakos and Eugenides.


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Looking Together in the Same Direction

(fairly spoiler free except for the great big obvious ones!)

I first heard of The Thief through a review—a very good one—in The Horn Book Magazine. Since I moved to the UK, The Horn Book has been my number one source of new good reading in the North American children’s book scene, and the summary of The Thief pushed all my buttons. I knew I’d like it.

And I did. What I really loved about it was the way that after you’d finished, you had to go back and read it a second time because now you had a different point of view about everything—you saw how Gen had planned all the things you thought had happened by accident—you noticed how important the little things were, and you watched for them. His bad manners were no longer simply annoying or funny, his long hair was no longer simply a vanity; now you knew it was all part of his arsenal.

This is really my favourite kind of book, where everything looks different on the second reading (most of my own books are constructed this way, in the hope that someone will be tempted to give them a second reading!). You can read a book like this more than once without even feeling self-indulgent, because you are reading a different book the second time around. One of the moments of great genius of The Queen of Attolia is near the beginning, where Moira, the servant of the goddess Hephestia, visits the Queen and advises her. The first time you read it, you don’t realize it is not a human advisor. Yet knowing it is Moira changes the entire significance of the terrible thing that is about to happen to Gen. It isn’t just his destiny: it is the right destiny for him, whether he likes it or not.

My admiration for Megan Whalen Turner’s books stems from my own personal preferences in plot structure and setting, and our books have often been compared—Chachic herself promotes my books to MWT fans by trying to package them as ‘Gen-in-Africa’. It’s true that my character Telemakos shares some of Gen’s characteristics—he is a tricky, highly-connected brat raised in a messed-up but loving aristocratic family with royal connections. Telemakos, like Gen, is rather more highly-connected than most people realize. And both characters inhabit a rather exotic fantasy world based on our own ancient civilizations. Having said that, Telemakos is Telemakos and Gen is Gen. Their situations are alike, but I don’t think their characters are much alike. Telemakos lacks Gen’s vanity, for one thing, and probably Gen’s ambition as well. He has his own set of flaws and strengths.

I wrote The Sunbird about 5 years after reading The Thief, and I was very conscious that the two books had similar premises and that readers might be likely to compare them (in The Sunbird, 11-year-old Telemakos is enlisted as a child spy). So I made sure that whatever other sneaky things he did, Telemakos would not be a thief. He even says so, rather coldly, at one point when his emperor suggests he consider sleight-of-hand as a means of proof. This all falls apart at the end of The Empty Kingdom when he does steal something rather important. But there is a cultural precedent which I did not make up that leads him to this action, and a whole lot of backstory set up to make it the obvious thing for him to do. When he comes face to face with the king he has cheated—not the same one as in The Sunbird—he gets instantly accused, ‘You told me once that you are not a thief!’

Megan Whalen Turner was one of the first readers for The Sunbird—Sharyn November, my editor, is a friend of MWT’s and sent her a copy of the manuscript. She made a few small editorial suggestions and I decided against following them because they seemed to me things that were characteristic of Megan Whalen Turner’s writing, but not of Elizabeth Wein’s. So we maintained a cordial but very distant relationship, all our communication brokered by a third party! She was busy with her writing and her young family, and I was busy with mine.

(spoiler warning for The Queen of Attolia and The Lion Hunter)
Halfway through writing The Lion Hunter, I read The Horn Book review of The Queen of Attolia. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Megan Whalen Turner had a new book out, a sequel to The Thief, and in it her hero got his hand cut off.

I’d just spent about six months adjusting to the fact that my own young hero Telemakos had just lost an arm.

It made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It was such a ridiculous coincidence, that we’d both disable our heroes in the same way. (end of spoilers) And of course, since MWT had done it first, it was going to look like I got the idea from her. And also of course, I knew I was going to love this book, too. It took me a while to decide whether or not I’d read it right away—I didn’t want to be influenced by it. But after only a week or two I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait till I’d finished writing my own book before I read the new one by MWT.

So I did. And I was glad I did. Because I knew now that our superficially similar heroes were going in their own directions, following their own terrible destinies, and living their own action-packed and exhausting lives.

I confess that I haven’t read A Conspiracy of Kings, and the reason for that is exactly the same reason I dithered over picking up The Queen of Attolia. I am worried that once again our creative intrigue is going to overlap. Lleu, the legitimate heir to my own quasi-historical kingdom, has been installed as a slave in a hedge-lord’s court since the publication of a short story called ‘Fire’ in 1993 in Writers of the Future Vol. IX. The story of how Telemakos finds him and restores him to his kingdom… Well, I have no doubt it won’t resemble the search for Sophos. But I’d just as soon keep myself in blissful ignorance until my own manuscript is safely in the hands of a reliable editor.

Megan Whalen Turner is my hero and my advocate. She has championed my own books, in print and on line, without ever having met me or spoken to me; our body of written work runs nearly parallel in terms of output. Apparently we both procrastinate with knitting needles. It’s a pleasure to join this celebration of her exquisitely crafted novels!

I’ll finish off with a reading recommendation that I haven’t seen here yet, and which anyone who is a committed fan of MWT ought to consider must-reads: the books of Mary Renault. Specifically, to begin with, I’d recommend The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea, which are about the Greek hero Theseus, his defeat of the Minotaur and his doomed marriage to Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons (or King, as her courtiers call her). Seriously, you guys WILL LOVE these books. The King Must Die in particular is a gripping tale of not-quite-doomed youth fighting against a corrupt older generation and winning. The writing is beautiful and if Telemakos is Gen-in-Africa, then Theseus is, well, Gen-in-Ancient-Greece.

Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy—about the life of Alexander the Great—would probably also appeal. These titles are Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, and Funeral Games. Fire from Heaven, about Alexander’s childhood, is probably my favourite. It has the bonus appeal of featuring Hephaestion, Alexander’s lifelong friend and soulmate.

Happy reading!
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Thank you for the guest post and the recommendations, EWein! I am mighty curious about this Gen-in-Ancient-Greece character that you speak of. I suspect several Sounisians have already read Elizabeth Wein’s novels. If you haven’t picked them up, what are you waiting for? Are there any other characters out there that remind you of our favorite Thief? I know Tiegirl from Sounis calls Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan as Gen-in-Space.

Queen’s Thief Week: Guest Post by Holly of Book Harbinger

My good friend Holly is the blogger behind Book Harbinger. I love Holly’s blog because her reviews are consistently well-written and we share similar tastes in books. Whenever she recommends a book, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up liking it. We both read the Queen’s Thief books before we started our respective blogs but that doesn’t stop us from gushing about the series from time to time (read her reviews of MWT’s books here). Today is all about Eugenides so let’s see what Holly has to say about our favorite Thief.
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Happy Queen’s Thief Week! I’m thrilled to be here. Like Chachic, Megan Whelan Turner’s series is one of my favorites of all time and I’m more than happy to sing its praises anytime, anywhere. As I thought of what I’d like to post about, my first thought went to the characters. There’s not a one-dimensional one among them, and while you may not love all the secondary characters (especially the Mede), you’ll be hard-pressed to find any reader who dislikes Eugenides, the thief and MC himself. So in honor of Gen and my geeky interest in words and dictionaries, I’ve used an acrostic to describe his character. Hard-core fans and newcomers alike are bound to fall in love with him in part and in spite of these qualities. Gen is…

E – Enigmatic
U – Unlikely, unreliable, unexpected, and an underdog.
G – Genius, greasy (at first), and guise-ful.
E – Ever-surprising
N – Nonchalant (in truth and in deceit)
I – Ingenuous, indefinable, irrepressible, inestimable, and immense.
D – Daring, disobedient, despairing (with reason), defying, and mockingly debonair.
E – An Everyman
S – Short, self-deprecating, snarky, stealthy, (beyond) smart, subtle, and a survivor.

He sounds amazing, right? If you haven’t read the series yet, maybe this is a push in the right direction, and if not, well, we Gen fangirls are always looking for another excuse to gush. 😉

Are there any I missed? The three Es were tricky as you can see and I’m sure there are a lot more words starting with the prefix non- for the letter N. As Gen is one of my most beloved characters (really, I’m not biased at all), there are infinite adjectives to describe him.

Thanks for having me, Chachic! I look forward to the rest of the week.
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Thank you, Holly! Such a clever post. What about the rest of you, what other adjectives can you think of that describes Gen? Can you come up with an acrostic for the other characters in the series? Share them in the comments! Also, drop by and check the other posts included in the roundup below. There’s also an international giveaway that you can join if you’re interested in winning a book.

Queen’s Thief Week roundup of posts:
Fan fiction over at booksrgood4u’s blog
Fan fiction over at genndme’s blog
Maureen has a post about the myths in the series over at By Singing Light
April reviews The Queen of Attolia over at Good Books and Good Wine
Heidi reviews the Thief! short story over at Bunbury in the Stacks
Tina reviews A Conspiracy of Kings over at One More Page

Queen’s Thief Week: Guest Post by Melina Marchetta

Melina Marchetta is one of my absolute favorite authors. I fell in love with Jellicoe Road back in 2010 and it convinced me to read more contemporary novels. Before that, I mostly read and enjoyed fantasy books. It’s not surprising that The Piper’s Son was included in my best of 2011 list. I love how Melina writes books that can make you feel so much for the characters that you want to go inside the novels to spend time with them. I saw her mention in an interview that she’s a fan of the Queen’s Thief series so I thought I’d ask her to do a guest post. I just about FAINTED when she said YES. She’s currently traveling for research for the next installment in her fantasy trilogy (first two books are Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles) so thank you, Melina, for squeezing in a guest post.


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What I love about Eugenides…

For me, good characterization begins and ends with Eugenides.

As a protagonist he’s taught me a lot. That heroes don’t have to be brave and fearless all the time. That love stories aren’t just between two people who have total trust in each other. That not all fantasy heroes have to spend the whole story in physical battle. Of course, this gives the reader more time to enjoy his verbal sparring with every single person he encounters. He’s one of the smartest fantasy heroes I’ve come across.

I love that Eugenides is a bit of a winger at times and more than anything, I love his relationships, whether with his Queen, his cousin, his father, his enemies, his mentors, his guards. I love that what is kept off the page speaks louder than words. I love that I can read The King of Attolia for the fifth time and find something I’ve never seen before. It’s my comfort read.
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Thanks again, Melina! Gen is one of my favorite characters in the series (surprise, surprise) and I have to agree with the reasons that Melina enumerated. Can you give other reasons why Gen is amazing? Who are some of your favorite characters in the series and what makes them stand out for you?

YA Fantasy Showdown

What’s the latest buzz around the interwebs lately? Well for YA fantasy fans, it’s the YA Fantasy Showdown! I mentioned it briefly here a couple of days ago but I haven’t had a chance to talk about it again. I’ve been checking it out every day though! It’s so fun to read the battles and try to decide who to vote for. Some are easy because I’m not familiar with all of the characters but when two favorites are battling it out, it can be a difficult choice.

For the final round, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and Eugenides from the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner were the last two standing. Read the final battle here. I loved the battle that they wrote, it was so hilarious! Very fitting for both characters, you can really see them go drinking instead of dueling and I love the bit about the wives. The winner line in that one is “What a lie that was!” If you’ve read both books, you can appreciate how awesome that final battle is. If you don’t know who these characters are, you better go read these books! I love Howl but I love Gen more so I’m doing a little happy dance because Gen won (by a small margin) although I wouldn’t have minded a tie. I don’t have a review of Howl’s Moving Castle but here’s my review of the first three books in the Queen’s Thief series.

So, so, so. Did you guys enjoy the battles? Who were you rooting for? 🙂

Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series

I thought I’d start this recommending thing with the awesomeness that is Megan Whalen Turner (MWT). MWT’s Queen’s Thief series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia) is one of my favorite series of all time. If I was stuck in one of the tropical islands of the Philippines with no hope of rescue for a considerable amount of time, I’d want to have these books with me.

Here’s a summary of The Thief from MWT’s website:

The most powerful advisor to the King of Sounis is the magus. He’s not a wizard, he’s a scholar, an aging solider, not a thief. When he needs something stolen, he pulls a young thief from the King’s prison to do the job for him. Gen is a thief and proud of it. When his bragging lands him behind bars he has one chance to win his freedom – journey to a neighboring kingdom with the magus, find a legendary stone called Hamiathes’s Gift and steal it.

Simple really, except for the mountains in between, the temple under water, and the fact that no one has ever gone hunting Hamiathes’s Gift and returned alive.

The magus has plans for his King and his country. Gen has plans of his own.

I first read The Thief when I was 12-years old or so, back when I was collecting all the Newbery books that I could get my hands on. For some reason, the story didn’t stick with me. My favorites back then were The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I became re-acquianted with MWT’s books when I read her interview with Shannon Hale. This was in 2007, when I started to realize that I’m more into fantasy than any other genre (although the Queen’s Thief series is more historical fiction than fantasy, more on that later). I checked out the bookstore and was delighted to find out that the books are available here and they have such beautiful covers too.

So I bought the books then I read The Thief, I liked it but didn’t fall in love with it. To go back to what I said earlier about this series being more historical fiction than fantasy, I think it is fantasy because it is set in a made-up world reminiscent of ancient Greece. This world doesn’t have a lot of magic and the magic that does exist comes from the gods, similar to the gods in Greek mythology.

The first book is narrated by Eugenides (Gen for short), the main character of the story who gets drafted by the magus of Sounis to steal a legendary stone that no one has ever seen. Gen is a whiny brat but extremely clever and funny. He narrates their adventure as they travel across three neighboring kingdoms – Sounis, Eddis and Attolia. I liked the character development in this book because you get to know the minor characters even though you only see glimpses of them. As said earlier, I had already read the book when I was younger but for the life of me, couldn’t remember the story. Even though I wasn’t enamored of The Thief, it was still a good read.

Then I read The Queen of Attolia and was blown away. There were so many unexpected developments in that book. And it had more political intrigue and a more mature tone than The Thief.

Here’s an excerpt of the summary of The Queen of Attolia from MWT’s website:

The strong-willed queens of Attolia and Eddis maneuver for power and to protect their lands in this fast-paced sequel to the stellar Newbery Honor Book The Thief. Scheming, spying, thieving, and fighting fill the pages of this cleverly plotted, enjoyable tale.

I didn’t put in the whole summary to avoid spoilers (don’t click the link if you haven’t read The Thief). I also couldn’t say more about the plot because I’m trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible. Anyway, in this book we see Gen grow as a person and develop his skills, not just as a thief but also as a spy. But this book is not just about Gen, it’s also about the three countries – Sounis, Eddis and Attolia (although more of the latter two) and how the gods affect these nations. One of my favorite quotes from the series is this:

“If I am the pawn of the gods, it is because they know me so well, not because they make up my mind for me.” – Queen of Eddis

Suffice it to say that I was really amazed with The Queen of Attolia and I didn’t want to read the next book because I wanted the story to sink in first. And I thought the next book will probably not live up to this one. But I was wrong! The King of Attolia is as good as, if not better than, The Queen of Attolia. Again, I can’t say much about this book but it starts where The Queen of Attolia left off. Note that I didn’t put a summary. I’d advise others not to read blurbs found in other sites or other reviews because they may contain spoilers.

This series also has romance (I’m a sucker for those!) but a very subtle kind of love story. One that is unexpected and will take you by surprise. I think one of the reasons why I love this series is because of that romance.

I cannot say it enough – THIS SERIES IS BRILLIANT! Absolutely brilliant. After reading the series, I had a book hangover. You know that feeling that you get when you get hooked to a book and you feel like you left your mind behind in that world? It’s like that. I remember the time when I just finished reading the series, I had that hangover and I wanted to talk to someone about this awesome series but couldn’t find anyone else who’ve read the books. So I searched online and found an LJ community as crazy in love with the series as I am: Sounis. I love this community! People have so much fun just discussing the books down to the smallest details. And I’ve gotten a lot of great book recommendations from this community as well. I was lucky enough to meet up a couple of Sounis in SoCal when I was there last year. If there are any other QT fans in Manila, let me know! Maybe we can do a Manila meet up.

So that’s it, one of my favorite series of all time – Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen Thief series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. The fourth book, A Conspiracy of Kings is coming out this March 23, 2010. I can’t wait!

Here’s a nifty book trailer created by Greenwillow (the publisher of the series) for The Thief:

Other book details:
Availability – these books used to be available in some National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Fully Booked branches. Nowadays, only Fully Booked has copies of all three and some Powerbooks branches have copies of The Thief.

Price – P252 each for both The Thief and The Queen of Attolia in Fully Booked and P360 for The King of Attolia

You can get signed copies of the books from Mysterious Galaxy.