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March 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Titles similar to Thick as Thieves
Kamet, the high-ranking slave of a politically important master, is nothing if not pragmatic about his circumstances. “When a man is murdered, his slaves are tortured,” he explains dispassionately. “If any confess, then all are executed whether they share in the guilt or not. No one will buy them and they can hardly be freed—what a temptation that would put before the enslaved population. In the case of a poisoning, where the administration of the poison is unclear, the slaves are put to death on principle.”
It’s a horrifying, if not altogether unsurprising, perspective; of course, slave owners wouldn’t view their slaves as people. It’s the conclusion Kamet comes to at the end of this speech that is startling. “The Medes,” he says of the people who own him, “fear little in quite the way they fear their own slaves.”
For Kamet, slavery has been his life since he was stolen by the Medes from his homeland, Setra, as a child. But he has little desire for a different life; as a secretary and house slave, he is educated and well cared for, and he is being groomed to become the personal slave for the emperor himself. Kamet has authority in his master’s household, and ambition enough to seize what power he can. When a man comes from the nearby kingdom of Attolia and, claiming to be sent by the Attolian king, offers Kamet his freedom, Kamet finds the idea laughable; Attolia, he believes, is a backward country, and freedom there is worth very little to him. “There is freedom in this life and there is power,” he thinks, “and I was ambitious for the latter.”
But Kamet loses all choice in the matter when his master is poisoned. Forced to flee, he joins the Attolian, escaping the city and embarking on a treacherous journey with a companion whose friendship he resists, heading toward a country he hates and a life he does not want. In Attolia, a man who is both a king and a thief waits for Kamet’s arrival, and he has more invested than Kamet knows.
Kamet’s story stands alone, though existing fans of the Queen’s Thief novels will certainly recognize some familiar places and people. Though he barely appears on the page, Turner’s original hero and titular thief, the clever and charismatic Eugenides, is very much a presence, and his machinations, as they often do, shape the course of Kamet’s story. But even more than plot twists and political intrigue, what is so welcomingly familiar and so wholly real here is the depth of the characters and the tenuous, frightening instability of the world around them. In his element, Kamet is arrogant and vain; in the clutches of a larger world, he becomes frightened, thoughtful, often kind, and, at times, incredibly strong.
There is fantasy that is an escape and fantasy that is a mirror, and this, astonishingly, is both. Kamet’s flight into the unknown is hair-raising and filled with danger, but his world is seething, poised on the brink of war. Relations between countries are strained, loyalties are tested, and ordinary people brace for a period of darkness. Still, though, all is not hopeless. Despite his ambition, Kamet, like his captors, knows that oppression is not sustainable, that tyranny is ephemeral, and that in times of change, one slave—one man—can make all the difference.
This world, its people, and its gods remain as fiercely alive as they were when The Thief first stole hearts as a 1997 Newbery Honor Book. For newcomers, this is a worthy introduction; for loyal readers, it will be like coming home.
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