Review of Return of the Thief

Return of the Thief [Queen’s Thief]
by Megan Whalen Turner
Middle School, High School    Greenwillow    480 pp.    g
10/20    978-0-06287-447-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06287-448-1    $12.99

Pheris, the heretofore-unknown heir of the traitorous Baron Erondites, is sent to be raised in the Attolian court. Possessing a keen intellect, Pheris has nevertheless had to play the fool in order to survive; his cerebral palsy–like physical disabilities have led others to underestimate him, so it’s easy to continue the charade. An astute judge of character, Eugenides sees past his appearance, treating him with kindness, respect, and trust. The high king will need all the help he can get, human and divine, as he quells an insurrection in Attolia; preserves the fragile alliance between the peninsular kingdoms; deals with an overwhelming invasion by the Mede empire; and bears the strain it all places on his personal relationships. Turner, true to form, tantalizingly pulls readers in by forcing them to draw their own inferences about character and motivation from dialogue and exposition. The tightly crafted plot produces a series of dramatic climaxes, followed by a slow and satisfying denouement that has an elegiac quality. “I stared into the faces of the dead as I passed. Their skin as pale and as hard as stone, their blood black, and the dew gathered on their hair and eyelashes anointed them like sacred oil.” As readers bid farewell to this acclaimed series (beginning with 1996’s The Thief, rev. 11/96) and its beloved cast of characters, it’s clear that this concluding volume serves as the keystone, inextricably linking the preceding entries together in surprising yet inevitable ways; it’s a bravura performance by one of our finest writers.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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