The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Sequel to The Thief.
The Plot: Eugenides, The Thief of Eddis, returns. In The Thief, he stole Hamiathes's Gift; and the Queen of Attolia was not happy. Gen -- Eugenides -- had outwitted her. Escaped her. Eugenides is well known now; but he cannot stop being the Thief, including spying in Attolia and taunting the Queen by leaving trinkets by her bed. As she sleeps. The message is clear: The Thief of Eddis can enter the palace of the Queen of Attolia and not be caught.
He can be caught. And is caught.
And the Queen of Attolia considers what manner of death... how to set an example... as the Queen of Eddis offers ransom and threatens action, in exchange for the return of her Thief. The Queen of Attolia decides to let Eugenides live; but does inflict a price. The traditional punishment for a thief. Cut off his hand.
Eugenides is returned to Eddis, a broken man. The Queen of Eddis does not take the mutilation of her thief lightly; and now Eddis is at war with not only Attolia, but also neighboring Sounis. And all the while the faraway country of Mede watches, and plots, hoping to take over all three countries.
The Queen of Eddis comes to Eugenides, aware that they may lose the war.
"What do you want a useless one-handed Thief for? . . . I can't steal things without two hands. That's why she cut one off."
"There are a lot of things that a person with two hands couldn't steal. . . . Steal peace, Eugenides. Steal me some time."
The Good: Believe it or not, that contains no significant spoilers; Eugenides loses his hand on page 25.
The politics are amazing and intricate. This is a book of war; but not of the battles. Those take place mostly offpage; rather, it's the plotting of war, and the intelligence gathering, and the planning. Two armies don't just run at each other and wave swords; there is concern about where, and how, and why a battle takes place. This book shows the chess game going on behind the war; but be very clear. This is no game to those involved.
I LOVE how the Queen of Eddis is Eddis and the Queen of Attolia is Attolia. Once they had other names; but now, they are the title.
And there is romance. A slightly warped but rather delightful romance, actually. If you have read even the briefest description of the The King of Attolia, you're aware of it. But I'm not even linking to that book; I don't want to tempt you.
And of course, drum roll -- is Eugenides still my book boyfriend?
Liz & Gen
Mr & Mrs The Thief of Eddis.
Yep, I've been doodling that on my notebooks. So I'd say yes, I'm still rather in love with the boy. (And for some reason, keep picturing him as Gregory Smith, and I have no idea why because Gen isn't anything like Ephraim. And I haven't watched Everwood in a year.)