There’s a lot of buzz circulating about the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Although I enjoyed the first book, The Thief, it very much seemed a simple opening act to a far larger, grander story, so I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Many YA fantasy series tend to take off from Greek and Roman culture and mythology, so I can’t say this series is very unique in that aspect, but the narration is done well to the point that once one finishes the story, one wants to go back and analyze it from the beginning. As a whole, the world of the series is well defined, which helps aid the slow pace of the story. The pacing is probably the most troubling aspect. Nothing “happens” for long periods of time, but, again, in going back, one would realize a lot happened, or, at least, a lot of information was given. The problem is that many readers may give up far before the ending, but as the series as a whole is getting a lot of good buzz and recommendations, I think that was a risk the author was willing to take.
This book reminds me of a similar tale regarding the narration called The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. That book also has some trouble with keeping the energy up, but is well plotted.
Both series involve unreliable narrators and both use that element well. It’s annoying when such narration is used, but there’s no “twist in the tale,” as they say (see my review of Here Lies Daniel Tate). Both stories are also smaller openings in a much wider story. Starting out simple and building is a great way to build an audience at the same time. I tend to like jump starting the deeper plot aspects right away, but there is nothing so satisfying as a slow burn of a tale and The Thief is that.
Awhile ago I wrote three posts entitled “The Next Harry Potter” with suggestions of possible book series that could fit the bill, so to squawk – I mean speak. For volunteering at the Minneapolis Book Festival this past October, I received a number of free books, many signed by the author. One of those was Gabriel Finley & the Raven’s Riddle, the first book in (I hope) a series, that like Harry Potter has the titular figure trying to make his way in a new and strange magical world.
Gabriel Finley is an orphaned boy much like other boys in children’s stories. He lives with an eccentric aunt and doesn’t really know what happened to his parents. That all changes when one day he discovers he can talk to ravens, and that he and ravens share a common love of riddles. The book takes readers to a magical world involving ravens, riddles, puns, and a powerful, elusive necklace called a torc. It may be a bit gruesome in parts for younger readers, but on the whole is a fun story in which kids learn to work together to solve the case and to understand one another. It’s also a great Halloween tale with several riddles for readers to solve throughout the book. It reminds me a little of Harry Potter, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Lord of the Rings, and Narnia. It also has a few odes to Alice in Wonderland. My favorite element in the tale was a raven-clawed writing desk that likes to dance and disguise itself in people clothes.
The story is unique in its affection for word puzzles as well as birds. I do hope there will be a sequel of some kind, as there are many hints that birds aren’t the only magical creatures around in this world. It’s authored by George Hagen and you can find more information about the story at gabrielfinley.com.
How Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? I’ll let you be the judge of that after you’ve read the book. 🙂