The Cybils Speculative Fiction Bookmark:
As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of books I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is primarily to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes.
Synopsis: If he can just get past his master's few bad day here and there with life and soul intact, Mede slave Kamet will continue to prosper as he minds his Master's business. His Master is an important man - brother to the emperor - and Kamet knows his ultimate destiny is to be his Master's gift to that great man. And what a life that will be! Kamet has so many plans and ambitions. The appearance of an Attolian soldier offering him his freedom is nothing short of hilarious -- why would a slave who sleeps in luxury want to squat in that cesspit when he has all of Mede at his fingertips by the will of his Master? But all of Kamet's hopes and dreams come crashing to the ground when he is warned by a beloved friend that his Master has been poisoned. Kamet knows he is doomed, for Mede isn't exactly a culture that makes sense. Sure, everyone knows it was probably the emperor or one of his men, but now the slaves will be tortured to confess, and to implicate others... and they will all. be. killed. From the youngest to oldest. If Kamet flees, he can perhaps take the burden of guilt only onto himself - and save the lives of the youngest boys, and his dear friend. Weaker than he ever believed himself to be, Kamet is now desperate for that Attolian's offer of freedom.
Of course, nothing is simple when the world is turned upside down -- the Attolian is immensely stupid and coarse, and it seems that his Master's reach is longer and faster than he could possibly have believed. Kamet ricochets between the frying pan and the fire, a scribe turned fugitive who is in no way prepared for life outside his golden cage, who struggles to be civil to the inferior man to whom he owes his life, who is filthy, guilty, exhausted, grieved, and terrified.
It's the escape of a lifetime - and when it's over, Kamet isn't sure he ran the right direction.
Observations: When an author creates memorable worldbuilding and highly complex characterizations, it's often difficult to resist, at the end of a series, to add epilogues and promising notes to readers that they "all lived happily ever after," and everything was fine. Turner offered no "PS" and instead left readers at the end of A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS with a six year gap, and for some, a belief that the series was over. Resurrecting the same characters in the same world after that length of time in this fifth book of the Attolia series was thus highly anticipated. Readers will find that though not all the familiar characters appear, that the worldbuilding and writig style remain solidly excellent and consistent. The choice to elevate a minor character to a main character allows readers to reenter the world from a new door, giving them deeper insights and probably a need to reread the entire series to discover what other nuances they may see revisited as the series reboots.
Conclusion: Readers who have not yet read other Attolia books will be able to read this book for its adventure and the narrative arc introducing Kamet and his world. They will not, however, fully understand the subtext and won't be able to appreciate the genius of the Attolian-Medean history, nor the history of the Thief. It is advised that readers begin the series with THE THIEF, and carry on from there.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the public library. You can find THICK AS THIEVES by Megan Whalen Turner at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!