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"Steal peace, Eugenides. Steal me some time."

A series of Alternate History-cum-Mythopoeia novels by Megan Whalen Turner detailing the adventures of The Hero, Magnificent Bastard, Gentleman Thief, Chessmaster, and Impossible Thief Gen—full name Eugenides.

The series is full of thievery, politics, war, royalty, gods, goddesses, legends, love, adventure, clever schemes, and more.

The books of the series are, in order:

  • The Thief (1996)
  • The Queen of Attolia (2000)
  • The King of Attolia (2006)
  • A Conspiracy of Kings (2010)
  • Thick As Thieves (2017)
  • Return of the Thief (2020)
  • Moira's Pen (2022), a series of short stories set before, during, and after the events of the main six books, as well as anecdotes by Megan Whalen Turner about places and objects that helped inspire elements of the series.

There are also several short stories in the same universe:

  • “Thief!”, a prequel featuring Eugenides as a young boy, which can be found online at the author’s website.
  • “Eddis”, a prequel featuring the eponymous queen as a young girl, and published in the extras section of the paperback edition of the third book.
  • “Destruction”, set just after the events of The Thief and published in the extras of the paperback edition of the fourth book.
  • "Knife Dance", about an Attolian festival performer, in the 2017 re-issue of The Queen of Attolia.
  • "Wineshop", featuring Teleus the guard captain, in the 2017 re-issue of The King of Attolia.
  • "Envoy", about Melheret the Mede ambassador, included in Thick as Thieves.

Due to the sheer number of spoilers present in this series, spoilers are unmarked except for those from the latest book, Return of the Thief. If you haven't read the full series, we strongly suggest that you do so before proceeding. You will be spoiled. You've been warned.

Contains examples of:

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  • Abdicate the Throne: Eugenides claims to be about to do this in order to get the barons off his back.
  • Abduction Is Love: Essentially how Eugenides becomes engaged to Attolia. Granted, it's a bit more complicated than that.
  • Afraid of Blood: Played with. The stoic queen of Attolia normally won't even flinch at the sight of blood, but when her husband is bleeding? Cue Fainting.
  • Agent Peacock: Ah, Eugenides. You enormously vain fool.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Poor Eugenides. Can you blame him?
    • Sejanus, too. That's a hard fall.
    • Relius in The King of Attolia.
    "Do you want me to beg? I will. I have. You know the words. Please, please don't hurt me anymore."
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Variation - they're not quite air ducts, but Attolia's palace is run with hypocausts, a series of small tunnels built to funnel smoke to provide heat in the winter, but Eugenides has better uses for them. To keep up the modern air duct parallel, it's outright mentioned that the only reason he can fit into them is because he's so small.
  • The Alcoholic: How Eugenides copes with most of his problems during Queen and King.
    • Terve, the soldier/tutor who made Sophos work out how to defend the villa on Letnos.
  • All Myths Are True: With the old gods of Eddis, this certainly seems to be the case.
  • Altar Diplomacy: What Sounis wants with Eddis, so he can unite their countries and invade Attolia. Also, ultimately how Eddis and Attolia end their conflicts - by marrying Eugenides to Attolia's queen.
  • Alternate History: The universe of the books is basically Greece/Turkey if there were no Roman Empire nor Christianity and some form of the Persian Empire still exists.
  • Animal Motif: Sophos is associated with lions throughout A Conspiracy of Kings. Basrus habitually addresses him as "lion", his father's signet-ring is a lion's head, lions (and rabbits, his other alias) appear in the decor of his dream library, and his barons finally acclaim him as "the Lion of Sounis". The association of lions with Sounis goes back to the city gate at the beginning of The Thief, itself a reference to the Lion Gate at Mycenae.
  • Anti-Villain: Attolia, up until her marriage to Eugenides.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Attolia cuts off Eugenides’ right hand at the beginning of The Queen of Attolia when he tries to steal from her. Thing is that Gen is royalty in the nearby country that has a fairly formidable army. As he's recovering, a war breaks out over assaulting royalty and Gen realizes that he has to stop it to prevent a bloodbath.
  • Arc Words: "Do not offend the gods."
  • Artistic License – Biology: Coleus is occasionally mentioned as a poison. The plants which are classified under Coleus in the modern day are not particularly toxic, apart from some species producing a mild rash with skin exposure.
  • Arranged Marriage: Attolia's first marriage was arranged to a truly slimy jerk who was only interested in her throne. So she poisoned him.
  • Ascended Extra: Attolia goes from being a minor character with a last-minute appearance in the first book, to being one of the primary protagonists of the second and third.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador:
    • You're setting a really great impression there, Nahuseresh, what with the insulting and executing Attolia's loyal nobles behind her back and all.
    • Akretenesh, ambassador to Sounis, is possibly even more patronizing, while Nahuseresh's successor Melheret is more perceptive but equally unsuccessful.
    • Pent's ambassador to Attolia in the final book is completely taken with himself and assumes Attolia will be too. To the point where he forces a kiss on her in a hamhanded attempt to seduce her. Eugenides subsequently chases him out of the room and hurls a knife at him, which misses, but still causes a diplomatic rift when the Pents demand an apology.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Eugenides takes out three assassins single-handedly, armed only with his hook hand and a knife that he took from the assassin who was trying to kill him.
    Three men dead and he wasn't even breathing hard, Costis noted.
  • Author Appeal: Ms. Turner is a self-admitted huge fan of Greek mythology.
  • Authority Equals Ass Kicking: Most of the royals can hold their own in a fight in some way, most notably the entire Eddisian royal family.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: To become Sounis, the prospective king must be confirmed by the council of barons at the sacred town of Ta-Elisa. When Sophos fails to win them over with a speech that appeals to their reason and the greater good of the peninsula, he deploys his second argument—a bullet into the heart of the rebel barons' leader. The second vote unanimously confirms him Sounis.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: In-Universe example in The King of Attolia. The readers are aware that Eugenides and Attolia are in love (thanks to the final scene in the previous book), but literally everyone in Attolia is under the impression that they can't tolerate one another until the moment when Gen kisses her in public after he was almost assassinated. It still takes a while for everyone to truly get it, but that's when they all start to realize that they have been very, very wrong about their king and queen's relationship.
  • Babies Ever After: Return of the Thief has Eugenides and Irene’s twins, a boy and a girl, and Helen visibly pregnant.
  • Badass Army: The Eddisian army. There's a remark in the books along the lines of how "they have nothing better to do all winter but perfect their crafts and train for war."
  • Badass Back: Eugenides when fighting opponents not at his skill level. Very few opponents are at his skill level.
  • Badass Boast: Many. (Often by Eugenides, naturally.)
    "I can steal anything."
  • Badass Bookworm: The Magus of Sounis was a soldier before becoming a scholar and is still very good at it. Eugenides can apply, too.
  • Bad Liar: Everyone's onto you, Nahuseresh, you idiot. Same goes for you, Sejanus.
  • Balance of Power: Eddis maintains the balance of power between Sounis and Attolia by acting as a barrier between the two against invasion. Of course, that means either country (particularly Sounis) would like to get control of the other, and Eddis is in the way...
  • Bare-Handed Blade Block: Gen pulls this off in a fight against a man who intended to kill him, though they were using wooden practice swords in what was supposed to be a sparring session. When called out for having "cheated" in the spar by using a move impossible to perform with a live blade, though, Gen notes that he can, and shows the man the scar he picked up doing exactly that with the knife a previous assassin had used.
  • Battle in the Rain: In The Queen of Attolia.
  • Bawdy Song: Does a song called "The King's Wedding Night" need any more elaboration?
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: You did want fame and glory, Gen...
    • Gen actually has to watch out for this trope for more than simply narrative reasons: the various gods keep a close eye on him and careless invocations can often receive an answer.
    • Sophos lampshades the fact that he prayed to spend no more time stuck in the family villa on Letnos.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Inverted, and then averted. The queen of Attolia is ethereally beautiful but a notoriously hard ruler known for exacting brutal punishments for sedition, while the queen of Eddis is, as her biggest supporter describes her "ugly and mannish", but quite kind. Ultimately averted via Character Development, as Gen's influence slowly softens Attolia.
  • Becoming the Mask: Attolia was forced to mold herself into a cold, passionless queen, and by the time the books start, she's begun to feel like that's all she is.
  • Berserk Button: Eugenides deliberately pressed Costis's and got punched in the face for it.
  • Beta Couple: Sophos and Helen.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: In Attolia especially, but also in Sounis and to a lesser degree in Eddis. Attolia has spies who spy on her spies who spy on her spies who spy on her spymaster.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Inverted when the Medes rush to the rescue of Attolia.
  • The Big Guy: Aulus, the queen of Eddis's cousin and heir.
  • Black Comedy: At the end of Thick as Thieves, the court of Attolia appreciatively comments on the success of Attolis Eugenides' subtle plan to have the Continent scuttle the Medes' fleet... by saying that you could not find the hand of the king anywhere in it.
  • Black Sheep: Eugenides is easily one of the least popular members of the royal family and Eddisian court, at least until he steals Hamiathes's Gift. It's remarked in-series that the training for the Thieves of Eddis deliberately breeds a degree of isolation and that any powerful Eddisian is always a little worried that a Thief might decide to "dispose" of them. Eugenides being personlly infuriating only adds to this.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The Mede Empire are decidedly the Bad Guys, and only ever offer assistance because getting troops on land in support of a local "ally" gives them enough pretext to invade without violating their other treaties.
  • Blue Blood: Most of the main characters are royalty or nobility to some degree. The primary exceptions are Costis, who is from a landowning but not ennobled family, and Kamet, a royal slave.
  • Body Motifs: Hands, starting in The Queen of Attolia when Eugenides loses his right one.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: The Queen's Guard in The King of Attolia have no idea they're guarding arguably the greatest swordsman the Peninsula has seen in recent years. Costis in particular is downright ashamed that he sparred for weeks with the man, was directly warned about flaws in his swordsmanship, and still failed to improve or learn from the experience.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Frequently alluded to as a consequence of oathbreaking and offending the gods. It actually happens to Baron Erondites after his treachery is revealed.
  • Born in the Saddle: Averted with Gen. He notes that it should have been one of the signs to his father that he was not meant to be a soldier.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him:
    • Platonic example; in King of Attolia, Eugenides briefly drops Costis like a hot potato, in the hopes that if he gives the impression that Costis was a whim he's now bored of, none of his enemies will think Costis is important enough to go after anymore. This does not work.
    • Again in Conspiracy of Kings. Gen acts very cold and standoffish to Sophos, presenting only his Attolis persona, because he's afraid that their friendship will unduly influence Sophos during negotations and cause him to make concessions to Attolia that he otherwise wouldn't, which Gen couldn't bear. Eventually Sophos cottons on and snaps him out of it.
  • Break the Cutie: Eugenides is broken viciously. Sophos doesn't get it exactly easy, either.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Eugenides starts out thinking he can do and steal anything. Then he loses a hand, and has to learn to cope with that.
    • Kamet spends much of Thick as Thieves trying in vain to hold onto his pride.
  • Breather Episode: Thick As Thieves is this for the series as a whole. The three previous books featured, respectively, the darkest example of physical trauma in the series followed by depression and a three-way war (QoA), political intrigue and attempted assassinations (KoA), and slavery and a political coup (CoK). Thick As Thieves is set almost entirely outside the royal courts and returns to the comparatively more light-hearted road trip elements of the first book, with Costis helping/stealing Kamet from Nahuseresh and the bond the two develop during their trip back to Attolia. There are a few moments of peril and danger, but the overall mood and stakes of the book are much lighter.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Subverted. After getting his hand cut off early in the second book, Eugenides sinks into a deep depression, believing he's now useless (because what can be stolen with only one hand)? He's not.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Let's play a lot of childish pranks on Eugenides, the King of Attolia. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The king of Attolia is petulant, whiny, slumps in his throne like a printer's apprentice, dresses in colors that would suit a canary, and generally behaves without an ounce of royal dignity. Don't let that fool you.
  • Butt-Monkey: Costis Ormentiedes, o how the universe doth love to make you suffer.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the third book, Eugenides uses a call back to the prayers Attolia heard him making when she had him imprisoned to keep her from executing her captain of the guard for failing in his duties — which was protecting Eugenides.
    • Thick as Thieves has several for King of Attolia, including when Costis is injured and tries to be stoic, before remembering how Eugenides’s over-the-top complaints in the third book actually made people less concerned than stoicism would have. This is notable as it is exclusively a call-back for the reader, not Kamet (the POV character), who is confused by Costis's abrupt change in attitude.
  • Cavalry Refusal: In the end, the Greater Powers of the Continent get freaked out at how successfully the little Peninsula's countries, united under Annux Attolis Eugenides, can hold off the sheer might of the Mede Empire. Deciding that Eugenides is equal in threat, they withold their reinforcements from the Medes' final attempt to invade Attolia and betray Eugenides, leading to his capture and torture by the Medes. This backfires on them.
  • Ceiling Cling: "The Conspiracy Room" in Attolia's palace, a small, odd room that's almost always empty because it's poorly suited to most purposes and so tends to be used by people who don't want to be overheard. It also has high ceilings that are really great for, say, a former Thief to lurk in the shadows.
  • Changing of the Guard: Eugenides is a third-person viewpoint character in the second book, but the spotlight there also focuses on Attolia Irene. After that, Eugenides is viewed entirely in the third person by other characters as they go through their own journies—Costis Ormentiedes of the Attolian Queen's Guard in the third book; Sophos, the heir of Sounis, in the fourth; Kamet, slave secretary to the Mede, in the fifth; and Pheris, Erondites' grandson, in the sixth.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Objects that are mentioned in detail, if they aren't symbolic, can be counted on to come into play later on. Eugenides forcing Costis to participate in Mede language lessons allows Costis to navigate the Mede empire in Thick as Thieves, for example.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: In the not-too-distant future, the Sacred Mountain is going to erupt again and devastate Eddis. The need to evacuate her citizens (say, to the plague-depopulated parts of Attolia) is a significant political consideration in Eddis's decisions to marry Sounis and effectively become, like him, a vassal of the king of Attolia.
  • The Chessmaster: Eugenides most notably, though the Queen of Attolia, the Queen of Eddis, the Magus of Sounis (the king's advisor) and the Mede ambassador Nahuseresh all have shades of this. Some are more successful than others.
  • The Chew Toy: Costis, thy pain and humiliation are an unceasing source of amusement to thy fans. Eugenides spends almost the entirety of book three screwing around with Costis as part of a Xanatos Gambit.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The queen of Attolia subjects many of her political prisoners to this.
    • In Return of the Thief, Eugenides is subjected to this at the hands of Nahuseresh to attempt to force him to cede control to the Mede.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Being a king or queen means having to make decisions that will kill people. And as Eddis and Eugenides note in the final book, his refrain of "I can do anything I want" does not mean "I can do everything I want."
  • Conflicting Loyalties: Sejanis is torn between helping his father and his brother.
  • Continuity Nod: Lots, especially in A Conspiracy of Kings where Sophos is regularly thinking back to Eugenides's actions in the very first book and trying to imitate them.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Eugenides gets jerked around by the gods quite a bit, doesn't he?
  • Courtly Love: Erondites the Younger hopes to woo the queen of Attolia this way.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Sophos desperately wants to unite his barons by appealing to reason and the mutual long-term benefits of allying with Attolia and Eddis against the overwhelming Mede threat... after decades of his uncle Sounis mercilessly manipulating his barons through alternate warmongering and brutal taxation. Fortunately, Sophos brought a backup plan in case the speech didn't work.
  • Culture Clash:
    • One of the more minor problems Eugenides has settling in in Attolia is the Attolian's disdain for Eddisians, whom they consider to be "goatfoot" mountain barbarians—to the extend that they don't always know when Eugenides is insulting them back because they have no idea Eddisians can employ the Stealth Insult as well as themselves.
    • Eugenides makes use of this at the end of the third book in his duel with Laecdomon, even subtly warning him that while Attolians may treat practice swords as real swords to avoid mistakes in battle, "in Eddis we learn to keep track of the weapon we have in our hand." When Laecdomon disarms him, he expects that Eugenides will sit there and take the hit under the rules of Attolian sparring. Instead, his sword is grabbed by its edgeless blade and rammed into his stomach.
    "You forgot that it's a wooden sword."
    • Kamet also spends much of Thick as Thieves being annoyed at the Attolian's lack of understanding about the Mede Empire—especially regarding the treatment of slaves.
  • Cultural Posturing: Attolia and Sounis towards Eddis and each other; the Mede towards everyone else.
  • Dance Party Ending: The Return of the Thief ends with all the surviving characters and the gods themselves dancing on the roof of the palace.
  • Dance of Romance: Irene and Eugenides are meant to always lead the first dance at balls, so all of their dances are this. In at least one dance, Gen undoes the pins in Irene's hair one by one, while dancing, until her hair has fallen down.
  • Darker and Edgier: One of the few complaints about the second book is that it's much, much darker in ways that are not necessarily healthy or child-friendly. The author has said herself that she gets nervous whenever people say they read The Thief to their kids, because she’s “afraid they’ll say 'And we’re going to read Queen next!'"
  • Dead Person Conversation: In the final book, Eugenides ends up in a conversation with one of his many dead cousins. This particular one is Lader, who hated Eugenides and who Eugenides had to kill after Lader took a fight too far. As such, Eugenides has good reason to mistrust the warning Lader gives him—and is right, because the warning later proves to have been worded in a truthful but very misleading way that Eugenides would have regretted if he'd taken it at face value.
  • Decadent Court:
    • The royal court of Attolia, described by at least one character as a "cesspit".
    • Thick as Thieves elaborates on the Mede court. It is very easy for Kamet to believe that Nahuseresh was poisoned by his own brother for failing in Attolia.
    • Eddis' royal court is also fairly dangerous, but it's more likely to result in actual physical scuffles between feuding parties.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Eugenides is snide and sarcastic throughout. Attolia is also very deadpan in some of her humor, and only those closest to her are comfortable joking back.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Costis Ormentiedes is largely this in The King of Attolia, to give the reader a native and ignorant viewpoint of Eugenides.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Gen and the Magus after Gen steals Hamiathes's Gift out from under his nose. And after the war ends, Eddis and Attolia are quite close.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Sounis sues for peace after Attolia takes several of his islands after Eugenides destroyed his navy. When Attolia refuses, he receives a new fleet of ships, gaining the upper hand - and Attolia loses her chance to make peace.
  • Determinator: Eugenides most notably. Part of Sophos's character development involves growing into this.
    "Because [he] will not quit, Teleus. You may have noticed. He whines, he complains, he ducks out of the most obvious responsibility. He is vain, petty, and maddening, but he doesn't ever quit. Ever."
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Frequently in the sixth book, in case there was any doubt that War Is Hell.
  • Diplomatic Impunity:
    • Let a Mede ambassador into your country at your own risk. He'll try to bribe your nobles, sneak soldiers into your country, and make you his puppet, all while being very polite to your face. And you can't do anything because making a bad move against an ambassador is an act of war.
    • Defied in A Conspiracy of Kings by Sophos.
    "You shot the ambassador?”
    "You gave me the gun."
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: The reclusive Mede emperor suffers from something called "Tethys lesions." Fans speculate it's a fictional name for syphilis. Alternately, leprosy. (Tethys is also the name of a Greek goddess and a moon of Saturn noted for a huge, 'disfiguring' crater.)
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In-Universe, how Attolia cutting off Eugenides's hand is viewed.
  • Distant Finale: Moira's Pen has the short stories "The End of Eddis", where the Sacred Mountain erupts at the end of Eddis Helen's life, after she has safely moved the populace out of the danger zone. The story immediately after is "Gitta" which shows Eugenides' great-granddaughter Gitta preparing for her adult responsibilities. It also reveals that Eugenides and Irene's son Hector disappeared, Eugenia was forced to become queen, and Pheris helped her to flee the throne.
  • Divided We Fall: A driving part of the plot is how, one way or another, Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis must be united if they're to have any chance of staving off the inevitable Mede invasion.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Gen's revival in The Queen of Attolia is this through and through.
  • The Dragon: Nahuseresh to his brother, the heir to the Mede Empire.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • The king's attendants in The King of Attolia have no idea the short, idiotic-seeming man they're hazing is in actuality one of the most brilliant Chessmasters alive.
    • Baron Hanaktos loses the prince he'd had abducted - only for said prince to turn out to be disguised as one of the slaves working his fields.
    • There is an unofficial conspiracy to keep Philo with Eugenides and away from the front lines during the last book. Eugenides' entourage is ambushed with a roadside bomb and Philo is killed instantly.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Eddis has recurring prophetic dreams of Hephestia's mountain erupting and destroying Eddis.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: A lot of it by Eugenides and Eddisian soldiers in The Queen of Attolia.
  • Drowning Unwanted Pets: Sophos relates an anecdote that is illustrative both of Baron Hanaktos' daughter Berrone and the Central Themes of the story. Berrone convinced her father to outlaw the drowning of kittens for its cruelty. However, this resulted in the city being overrun with strays until the citizens snapped and went on a cat-killing spree that was extremely upsetting for everyone. Consequently, he rescinded the ban.
  • Dumb Is Good: Most of the characters, good and bad, are very, very smart. However, there is one notable exception. In the fourth book, Sophos is saved by the Big Bad's idiot daughter, Berrone. She helps Sophos escape from his kidnappers and hides him as a slave. She didn't even recognize him, she just couldn't bear to see anyone that badly treated. Berrone is a total sweetheart and a well-known soft touch, which means that everyone likes her and everyone takes advantage of her.
  • Ear Worm: "The King's Wedding Night," apparently. Even dog-loyal, humorless Costis finds himself absently humming the tune.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In The Queen of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Eugenides towards Relius for torturing him for information after the queen of Attolia cut off his hand. As he sees it, Relius was doing his job, and it was out of genuine and passionate loyalty to Attolia.
    • Costis and Sophos, in the previous books, are manipulated heavily by Eugenides but forgive him easily by the conclusion. In comparison, Kamet doesn’t seem to have much to complain about, having been freed from slavery, but he was extremely ambitious for power as a slave and doesn’t forgive Eugenides as easily as the others. Eugenides understands.
  • The Empire: The Medes, whose ambition to take the Peninsula overshadows every book.
  • Enemy Mine: Attolia and Eddis ultimately ally in the face of Sounis's aggression.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In-story example with Attolia. We the readers already know the queen, but for her barons, her claiming the throne definitely led them to figure out this was no puppet queen they were dealing with.
  • Ethnic Goddess: The people of Eddis are the only ones to keep to the worship of the old gods, and are referred to as "Hephestia's people" after the chief goddess of their pantheon.
  • Everybody Knew Already: The first Tomato Surprise at the end of the first book turns out to be a surprise only to Sophos, and the readers, much to Gen’s disappointment. The magus, Pol, and Attolia at the least had all figured it out beforehand.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Several examples, most obviously the magus of Sounis and the Eddisian minister of war. Eugenides is the name of the god of thieves, and many of the Thieves of Eddis are named after him. Thus it's both a name and a title. In addition, all of the royalty in the three countries take state names derived from the name of their countries (Eddis Helen, Attolia Irene, Attolis Eugenides... Sounis's real name is never mentioned in the first three books, but in CoK it becomes Sounis Sophos. If Sounis ever got his way and married Eddis, she would be Sounia.) Their nobles, such as Baron Hanaktos and his wife Lady Hanaktia, likewise take their titles from their lands. Kamet calls his traveling companion simply "the Attolian", though to longtime readers it's clearly Costis.
  • Everyone Is Related: Eddis, being such a small mountain country, has special priests whose sole job is to keep genealogies so they can make sure no one too closely related gets married.
  • Exact Words: Divine advice tends to run on this, when it's not straightforward things like "stop whining and go to bed". In Return of the Thief, Gen is warned to beware the "tongueless one" and not to overreach. Everyone thinks the tongueless one is Pheris, because Pheris can't talk and the prophecy also mentions the House of Erondites, but actually the prophecy is talking about a certain pass named "Tongueless" in a different language. And not overreaching means geographically; Gen names himself as king up to the River Lusimina, and when they reach the Lusimina, Pheris remembers and warns him not to cross it. Good thing, too, because some extra Medes happen to be lying in wait on the other side.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Gen's hair is long enough to braid in The Thief, but gets cut early in The Queen of Attolia and remains short thereafter. After all, he mentions that the reason he keeps his hair long is because a braid provides Hairy Hammerspace, and he can't braid his own hair with only one hand.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Having been made Queen through an arranged marriage and lacking allies at court, Attolia's ruthless actions were necessary to gain authority to govern the country. While not approving of Attolia's methods, Eddis admits that such measures were necessary given Irene's situation.
    • Sounis could probably have won a long and bloody civil war with his father's help, but ultimately decides that summarily executing the ringleader of his rebellious barons, as Attolia recommended, is the lesser evil.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Ambiades, in the first book.
  • Fantastic Drug: Quinalums, used by priests and priestesses to induce trances and visions. Although lethium is explicitly some kind of opium extraction, the chemical origin of quinalums isn't specified.[[spoiler]]Not that there aren't plenty of real-world candidates.[[/note]]
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Goatfoot" for the mountain-dwelling Eddisians.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The three main kingdoms are some sort of alternate Mediterranean-Byzantium.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted; there are primitive flintlock weapons. This is noted in an author-to-author interview included in the back of one book where Turner points out all the other aversions to Medieval Stasis she seeds throughout The Thief, and people are still surprised to see pistols show up.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: And a very active one, at that. Comes, of course, with such curses as, "Gods damn, gods damn!” But they’re extremely careful which gods they swear by (at least in Eddis, where the population seems generally to be made up of more true believers and fewer skeptics as compared with Attolia and Sounis).
  • Finders Rulers: Hamiathes’ Gift, which gives its possessor claim to the throne of Eddis. Sounis wants it because if he has it, Eddis cannot refuse to marry him.
  • First-Episode Twist:
    • The end of The Thief reveals that Eugenides is the Thief of Eddis, in service to the Queen of Eddis, and part of the Eddisian royal family and has been screwing with EVERYONE (and does it on a regular basis). There are three books that follow. Try explaining to a friend why they should read this series without somehow spoiling them. You can't.
    • In addition, do not buy The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia at the same time; not only does the back cover spoil the fact that Euginides becomes king of Attolia, but it also mentions that he is in love with the queen, who had absolutely zero redeeming qualities in the first book.
  • First-Person Smartass: As if The Thief could be described any other way, when it's narrated from Gen's point of view?
  • Foil: Several, many of which are acknowledged In-Universe.
    • Eddis and Attolia. Both inherited their thrones at a relatively young age after losing brothers who were the original heirs. However, Attolia was a minor princess raised to make a noble marriage in the heavily patriarchal Attolian society, and she had a lonely childhood, while Eddis was raised in a loving household and taught to ride and fight like a man, and she inherited her throne securely with the support of her uncle, the head of the Eddisian army.
    • Attolia and Sophos. Both begin as naive, sheltered children who become unlikely rulers that inherit thrones in countries with disloyal, scheming, and backstabbing, if not outright rebellious, nobility, and both learn that they have to sacrifice some of their idealism to take control. But while Attolia has always been reserved and crows colder the more she holds power alone, Sophos has a handful of loyal friends and supporters. And while she's wears a Tough Leader Façade, he wears his heart on his sleeve and is a terrible liar.
    • Eugenides and Nahuseresh. Both are scheming Badass Bookworm Consummate Liars and The Ace playing Xanatos Speed Chess from opposite ends of the board, Nahuseresh seeks to marry the queen of Attolia to become king and bring the kingdom into the Mede Empire, while Eugenides seeks to become king of Attolia to marry the queen, because he's in love with her.
  • Foreshadowing: The books are full of it, as a reread after knowing the Twist Ending shows. For instance, in the first chapter we have "He wanted to know my name. I said, "Gen." He wasn't interested in the rest."
    "She may be a fiend from hell to make me feel this way."
    • Probably most notably, Gen's entire conversation with the Magus before he steals peace.'
    " "I think the main pass would be better," Ambiades said hesitantly, giving the magus one last chance."
  • Four-Star Badass: Eddis's Minister of War.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Gen (choleric), Eddis (sanguine), Attolia (melancholic), Sophos (phlegmatic)
  • Framing the Guilty Party: In King of Attolia, Gen accuses Sejanus of poisoning his medicine. Gen put the poison in there himself and didn't take it, since the symptoms—screaming nightmares—happen anyway. Sejanus still takes the credit for it because he did arrange for the garden assassination attempt. But there's a twist: Gen accuses Sejanus' brother Erondites the Younger, since he knows that, despite their pretensions to the contrary, Sejanus and Dite love each other. Just as he intends, this pushes Sejanus into "confessing", thus allowing Gen to do nothing worse than exile Dite (who he's already gotten a cushy music teacher job in a faraway court).
  • Gallows Humor:
    • Eugenides and Attolia's banter sometimes takes this form.
      Gen: The day you stop fussing, I'll know to start sleeping with two knives under my pillow.
      Attolia: Don't be ridiculous. (Implying that no amount of knives would save him)
    • There are also several jokes throughout the books referring to Attolia's method of disposing of her first husband by poisoning her own wine; she actually defuses him from blowing up on a particularly unwise courtier by offering him her wine goblet, provoking a laugh.
  • Gambit Index:
    • Eugenides pulls off something in the index every book.
    • Batman Gambit: The main plot in The King of Attolia.
    • Gambit Pileup since he's hardly the only one trying. The trope is so prevalent throughout the series, and the plans so complicated, that is possible to read the books multiple times and make new discoveries of mini "Gambits" acts that seemed innocuous every time you read.
    • Gambit Roulette: There are many plans, many planners, and all of them complicated.
    • Xanatos Speed Chess: They all change as necessary.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Irene, especially in The King of Attolia. Gen is elevated to this from a straight Deadpan Snarker in the same book, too.
  • Gentleman Thief: Eugenides, to some extent. He's petulant and whiny, but he's also very regal.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Played with, though the queen of Attolia, who despite a very unpleasant reputation, is a competent ruler and she has a Freudian Excuse for some of her behavior. Not to mention that her barons wait like a pack of hounds for the day she slips up. So in fact she's doing whatever needs to be done for the good of her country, which is no easy task in a sexist government.
    • The trope is explicitly addressed in the second book, when the Medean ambassador attempts to seize control in her court; in the process, he executes one of his allies for petty reasons. Attolia thanks him for showing her barons that "if [she] is a dangerous ruler to cross, [he is] a dangerous one to serve."
  • Good Is Not Soft: The people and politics of Eddis are probably the most trustworthy of the three peninsular countries. Unlike Sounis and Attolia, Eddis can rely on the undying loyalty of her court, and she is beloved by her people. They are no less capable of enacting a merciless end on threats to themselves—they're just slightly more likely (if they can) to do so in a straightforward fashion.
  • Government Procedural: Among the main characters, we have the sovereigns of three different nations, the brother to the heir of a fourth, and a number of advisors to said rulers.
  • Graceful Loser: Sejanus spends Queen of Attolia doing everythng in his power to wreck Eugenides' life, from the petty (ensuring he's always late and not respected by the court) to the genuinely heinous (telling assassins where exactly to find Eugenides in the garden). He manipulates the rest of the attendents to turn Eugenides into a ridiculous figure in accordance with his father Erondites' plot to divide the throne and seize power. But when Eugenides reveals that he was letting Sejanus do all of this as part of his own plot to destroy Erondites and cuts off all avenues of exoneration, while also understanding that Sejanus was really trying to help his beloved older brother, Sejanus accepts his fall with dignity and honor.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Hooooo boy. A major theme of the books is that strong rulers, even ones who want to be The Good King, have to be willing to make sacrifices and intimidate their enemies if they don't want to be usurped or turned into a Puppet King.
  • Guile Hero: Eugenides. Basically everything he ever does shows how terrifyingly brilliant and cunning he is.
    • Also, Attolia and the Magus. Eddis, Gen's father, and even Sophos have their moments.
    • Played with, however, in Thick as Thieves. Costis, who is decidedly not a Guile Hero, is sent to "steal" Kamet, who is, because Kamet "would have evaded a man with twice his cunning." He presumes that Costis is Dumb Muscle, and doesn't take early chances to escape because he thinks he could slip away from the Attolian at any time; later, when the opportunity presents itself, he realizes he actually likes him now and doesn't want to abandon him.
  • Gilded Cage: Eugenides captures the Magus in the second book and has him housed in a pleasant lodge in the country, where he he is cared for/guarded by Eddisian soldiers. Eugenides nastily reminds the Magus of his status by pointing out—during a picnic—that Eddis asked the Magus to move his seat so that her guards would have a clear shot at him if necessary.
  • The Grotesque: Most people's reactions to Pheris.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: The fabulous unified rout of the Medes by the combined Attolian and Eddisian forces at the end of The Queen of Attolia.
  • Hairy Hammerspace: One of the reasons Gen likes his hair long. And what enables most of the climactic plot twists of The Thief.
  • Handicapped Badass: Eugenides after the opening chapters of The Queen of Attolia, depending on how you look at it. It’s clear that early on, Attolia and even Gen himself consider the loss of his hand a crippling handicap (“What can a thief steal with only one hand?”), but if anything, it ultimately helps him on the road to becoming much more awesome than anyone (except maybe Eddis) would have expected.
  • Happily Married: There are some rough spots, but The King of Attolia is one long exercise in Squee.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Early in the fourth book Sophos is abducted by slavers working for rebel barons who want to install him as a Puppet King. To disguise him, the slavers maul his face, and he escapes by tricking the daughter of one of the rebel barons into purchasing him; she then hides him on her father's estate among the field hands. He spends several months there working the fields and finds himself oddly happy, free of responsibility and respected by the other slaves and the overseers for his hard work and his storytelling.
    • Kamet, much as he dislikes his master's beatings and humiliations, at least believes himself to be content with the prospect of someday becoming a hugely influential servant of the Mede emperor. He actually laughs when Costis offers him freedom at the beginning of Thick as Thieves.
  • Heal It With Fire: Attolia orders Eugenides's wound cauterized after she has his hand cut off.
  • Heel Realization:
    [Attolia] wondered when she had sunk so low that she had begun torturing boys.
  • Heir Club for Men: Attolia and Eddis both only became heirs to their respect thrones when their older brothers died. In Eddis's case, at that point she was expected to be queen in her own right, but Attolia was only intended to be queen to whomever her father picked out to marry her and become king.
  • Heir-In-Law: The Queen of Attolia was a minor princess whose fiancé plotted to take the throne by killing her brother, the heir. Once that was done, the fiancé would seize power through her, except that he and his father discussed these plans around her openly, so she poisoned him at their wedding and took the throne herself. However, because Attolia (the country) is pretty sexist, it would remain unstable so long as her barons thought they could marry her and seize power themselves, forcing her to enact a brutal regime until she married Eugenides, who puts in enough kinging that she can maintain her rule without a problem.
  • Hellhole Prison: Take your pick of any of the royal prisons, but special mention goes to Attolia's royal prison, not because it's objectively any worse, but because of the torture certain characters endure there.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Eugenides is hated in two of three kingdoms, and by the fourth book on his way to being hated in the last kingdom as well, despite doing everything for the best interests of all three.
  • Heroic Bastard: Played with in the first book, Gen lampshades and disputes the trope, telling his noble companions that although they might assume otherwise, his parents were married, and his sisters have also made respectable marriages. Since it's later revealed that he's not actually lower class, it's not quite a subversion of the trope.
    "My sisters are even married, and honest housewives to boot!" At least they were mostly honest.
  • Heroic BSoD / Heroic RRoD: After suffering firsthand the cruelty of the woman he's in love with, Gen is very thoroughly broken.
  • He's Back!: And blowing up Sounis's navy!
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Teleus and Relius; the epic Immakuk and Ennikar; Kamet and the Attolian.
  • Hidden Depths: Most notably Irene.
  • The High King: Eugenides in book four.
    Teleus: "That one will rule more than just Attolia before he is done. He is an Annux, a king of kings."
  • The High Queen: Attolia dresses as the ruling goddess of the peninsula's original pantheon to emphasize her sole authority over her country. She is beautiful, distant, and ruthless, and her subjects—her soldiers and commoners especially—demonstrate an obdurate loyalty to for her, even if she is not a paragon of goodness.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When Eugenides turns the tables on his attendants in King, he hammers in that each and every one of their pranks on him amounts to grievous criminal misbehavior at best - he only let them get away with it this long so he could destroy an enemy of the crown in their midst.
  • Honor Before Reason: Costis Ormentiedes is the poster boy of this trope.
  • Hook Hand: Eugenides has one of these from the second book onward. It is razor-sharp, so it can be used for combat. He also uses it to make one of his many serious points in The King of Attolia.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • In The King of Attolia, the king's attendants subject him to a three-month-long humiliation conga. Subverted in that he let them, so that he could destroy the noble house of one of his attendants.
    • Costis in the same book also suffers from one, as after punching the king in the face (when the king deliberately baited him), he's first stripped of rank, then promoted well out of his capabilities, assigned to the king, and used by the king as a regular Butt-Monkey.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Eugenides, of course.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Eugenides doesn't have a good relationship with his cousins, but after his maiming in the second book, they all jump at the call to lead Eddisian reprisals (including those who were the worst bullies to him), and several of them die heroically in combat.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Attolia's cruelties were all to keep her country stable and in the hands of someone who wanted the country to prosper.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Gen's initial feelings about being king.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Eugenides' plan in Return of the Thief.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Costis Ormentiedes doesn't show up til book three, and for the others, we miss him much.
  • Impossible Thief: Eugenides has stolen a queen, the king's seal, and a country. He was only caught once, when he was trying to get arrested. There is nothing he can't steal, except, it is said, himself out of a prison.
    • In "Envoy", he steals a priceless statue from a lockbox under constant guard. He bribed the guard.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Ambiades, the grandson of a duke implicated in a conspiracy.
  • In Medias Res: The Thief appears to begin at the start of Gen's quest. In actuality, it begins just before the climax of it - before the start of the book Eugenides planned everything out, disappeared from court, and made a new life for himself, all as a set-up for being recruited to steal Hamiathes's Gift. A Conspiracy of Kings opens up with Sophos and the Magus trying to get to the attention of Attolian royalty, then reverts to narrating the events that led up to it - leading to the events of the prologue chronologically occurring roughly in the middle of the book.
  • Insistent Terminology: The Queen's Guard and some individuals in her inner circle refer to Attolia as "My Queen" in private—their feelings for her are a mixture of loyalty, love, and terror. That they call her that is emblematic of their devotion to her, as anyone not loyal to her is not allowed to use that honorific, having to use instead "Your Majesty." Late in the book, after unwittingly betraying Attolia, Teleus is rebuked while begging for his life when he addresses Attolia as His Queen, but insists that she will always be His Queen, even if she cuts his head from his body, because his loyalty to her has no bounds.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite the very different path of history, the books seem to be set around 1500 and a lot of technology from that period or even later are present: printed books, wristwatches, guns, stained glass windows, etc. There's also a mention of a plague a few decades previously, which might be similar in setting to the Black Death.
  • Inheritance Murder:
    • Attolia's father was murdered so that she would "inherit" the throne—orchestrated by the family she was given to for marriage because the country's patriarchy meant that her husband would be the ruler. She, however, had other plans.
    • What Sophos infers would have been his ultimate fate, if the rebel conspirators had succeeded: he would have been married off to the rebel leader's daughter, fathered an heir, and most likely have suspiciously and suddenly met his end once the baby was born. Fortunately, that never comes to pass.
  • Intangible Theft: Eugenides has stolen time, peace, and a mythical object.
  • Ironic Echo: "Diplomacy, in my emperor's name." Later followed by, "Diplomacy, in my own name."
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The Thief, at Eddis's encouragement.
    • Also, later, Sophis narrating his adventures in A Conspiracy Of Kings.
    • Likewise Kamet in Thick as Thieves, at the request of Relius.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: After Sophos' attempt to win the barons over with a Rousing Speech fails, Akretenesh walks up behind him and insults him and his country in a whisper, unaware that the amphitheater they're in was designed so that even whispers would carry to the highest seats.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Sejanus, of all people. It turns out he really does love his brother, and begs on his knees for his safety.
    • And Eugenides himself, for that matter. "Famous in three countries" for being a Consummate Liar, a chronic snarker who always has something acidic to say, and a constant complainer, but really a good guy underneath.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Attolia's first husband had a "porcine habit" of taking food and drink from her own plate during the period of their engagement. So, at their wedding feast, she put deadly poison into her own wineglass, knowing that he would grab it eventually.
  • Jerkass Gods: "Stop whining?" Really?
  • Jumped at the Call: Gen. It's his dreams of greatness that set the whole first book rolling.
  • Karma Houdini: Nahuseresh stirs up an ugly three-way war, buys Attolia's barons against her, kills the barons he can't corrupt, incites Attolia into cutting off Gen's hand, and does pretty much everything he can to take Attolia's country from her. And then gets away scot free in the end. (He is, however, in disgrace with his emperor.) He finally gets what's coming to him in The Return of the Thief.
  • Kick the Dog: Attolia cutting off Gen's hand, although the ramifications the act has on her conscience deconstruct the trope and make her more sympathetic. Played completely straight with Nahuseresh, though, who is a giant bastard.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Sophos shooting the Mede Ambassador.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Gen's cousins held his head in a water cache and wouldn't let him out until he agreed to spit insults about his family.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: The resolution of the three-way war between Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis: Eddis abducts Attolia's queen and negotiates a peace treaty marrying Attolia and Eugenides, making him king.
  • Kissing Cousins:
    • Subverted. Half the world thinks Gen and Eddis are lovers. They think it's funny.
    • Pretty much the entire Eddisian court counts on some level. They're all related in some capacity, so there are priests whose entire duty consists of sorting out family trees to figure out who can marry whom.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Costis.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Attolia.
  • Leap of Faith: Thieves traditionally fall to their deaths. Every time Eugenides jumps, no matter how small the distance, he puts himself in his god's hands. Luckily, Eugenides (the god) has few enough true worshippers that he pays very close attention to his followers. Unluckily, he's also fickle.
  • The Legend of Chekhov: Each book features at least one myth about the old gods (or, in Thick as Thieves, myths about ancient heroes a la The Epic of Gilgamesh) that foreshadow the plot or characters' developing relationships.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • Eugenides does this once per book, it seems.
    • Attolia reveals to her Mede ambassador that she is not to be played for a fool.
    • The young, naive, hopelessly idealistic Sounis violates the sacred truce at the Barons' Meet.
    • Costis spends most of the third book being the Butt-Monkey of the Attolian court; he spends most of the fifth book singlehandedly taking down elite swordsmen, slavers, and lions.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Eugenides and Helen.
  • Little Miss Badass: Sophos' sister Ina. Quick-witted and sharp-tongued, when captured to be used as a hostage, Sophos knows she's going to make their lives an absolute misery.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: In Queen of Attolia, the Magus is the one to break the news to Eugenides that Eddis has been at war with Attolia for months without his knowledge. It's not that it was deliberately kept from him — as Eddis points out all the signs were there, if he'd bothered to put two and two together — but no one went out of their way to tell him either. Eugenides does not take the news well.
  • Love at First Sight: Eugenides, towards the Queen of Attolia. Also Sophos for Eddis, except that he didn't remember meeting her when he was four.
    • Viciously deconstructed, as well. Gen may have been entranced with Attolia when he first met/saw her, but he didn't really love her until he got to know her (and not "Attolia") whether it's through information obtained from the magus or just out-and-out spying on her.
    "Calf love doesn't usually survive amputation, your majesty."
  • Low Fantasy: Although it's in the Sci Fi Ghetto in terms of where it's shelved in libraries and bookstores, there's really no fantasy at all besides the fact it's set in a different universe. And the highly active pantheon.
  • MacGuffin: Hamiathes's Gift in the first book. Only then it saved Gen's life, so...
  • Martial Pacifist: Eugenides is somewhere between this and a Technical Pacifist. He hates the idea of killing and doesn't really even like physical combat, and often finds himself in the position of The So-Called Coward, but is a very skilled fighter, and will kill when absolutely necessary.
  • Marriage of Convenience:
    • Eugenides may have had a crush on Attolia from a young age, but her initial feelings on him were much cooler, and she primarily agreed to marry him to foil a Medean attempt to annex her country. Due to a combination of Irene's carefully cultivated emotionally distant demeanor and their complicated shared history, it takes most of the third book for them to work through their relationship and truly love each other.
    • Sophos and Helen form a relationship with much more affection for each other, but their marriage was contingent on Sophos actually being confirmed as the king of Sounis before they could proceed.
  • The Masochism Tango: Gen loves the extremely ruthless Queen of Attolia even after she has his hand chopped off.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The barons of Attolia try to force Eugenides to apologize to Pent for attacking their ambassador after their ambassador kissed Attolia against her will. Eugenides responds by removing his seal of kingship, instantly destabilizing the throne. When they run to Attolia so that she'll bring him to heel, she removes her own seal, sending them into a complete panic because they are now faced with the real and terrifying prospect of King Erondites and certain Mede rule, and they withdraw their demands.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Eugenides is the name of the Eddisian god of thieves. It also means "well-born".
    • Ambiades (ambi-, Latin: 'both') points to his ambivalent loyalties; scholarly Sophos's name means 'wisdom'.
    • The Queen of Attolia is named Irene, meaning peace. Especially poignant when Eugenides steals her away after Eddis asked him to steal peace.
    • Agape is one of the ancient Greek words for love, with a connotation of all-encompassing kindness.
    • Sophos's slave name is Bunny, which his companions who previously knew him as "Man-killer" think is an Ironic Name and he himself feels is actually pretty appropriate.
    • Overlapping with Named After Somebody Famous, there is a physician named Galen and the leader of an expeditionary force named Xenophon. Sejanus was the power behind the throne of an eccentric Roman emperor, who was arrested for conspiracy at the height of his influence.
  • Medication Tampering: In King of Attolia, Eugenides' medicine is spiked with a dangerous hallucinogen that is used to induced oracular visions and can lead to death if misused—as well as screaming nightmares. He put it there himself and didn't take it because he gets screaming nightmares anyway, and he needed to "expose" his chief attendant as a traitor without revealing how he learned how and why the attendent actually tried to murder him.
  • Minored In Ass Kicking: Eugenides, at his father's insistence.
  • Modest Royalty: Eddis' royals from the queen on down tend to dress more like soldiers than courtiers. This sometimes causes the nobility of other countries embarrassment when they assume that (for example) the two enormous burly men sent to oversee Eugenides' recovery are mere soldiers and not princes.
  • Mr. Exposition: A few of the characters take turns standing in for this role in The Thief when narrating the myths and legends of Eddis's old gods.
  • Mugging the Monster: Sejanus spends the course of half of King Of Attolia screwing around with Gen in every way he can muster, from constant hassles to minor pranks to even an assassination attempt, because he thinks Gen is weak and won't do anything about it. Over the course of about two pages, Gen finally points out to him that he's given Gen all the legal pretext he needs to obliterate his noble house's bloodline and destroy one of the Crown's biggest threats.
  • Mythopoeia: The gods of the Peninsula are heavily based in Greek mythology but the stories and names are created for the setting.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Eugenides is the name of the god of thieves, and is also a family name in the Royal Thief line of Eddisian royal family. This lets Gen pretend to be merely an Eugenides in the first book, even though the magus knows that the Queen's Thief of Eddis is named Eugenides.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Used in the books to filter out the harsher language (although some swearing is left uncensored). One line from A Conspiracy of Kings justifies the use of the trope by adding in characterization of the main narrator:
    I screamed at them every curse I ever practiced when I was alone, trying to imitate the Thief of Eddis, but I doubt I sounded anything but hysterical.
  • Necessary Fail: When Eugenides in a rage demands that the gods explain why they betrayed his movements to Attolia, the goddess points out that had he not lost his hand, he would not now be marrying Attolia.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The future Queen of Attolia's first fiance had a scheming father who wanted to seize the thone through the marriage. Because his son was not nearly as clever, his father spent a lot of time explaining and re-explaining the necessary steps to their plot, and didn't bother to keep their voices down around the mousish princess—who quietly absorbed all the lessons in political intrigue her father-in-law was trying to impart to his son.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Attolia is noted by her attendants to be unfailingly polite, though remote.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Averted with the queen of Eddis, who though being not within the scope of traditional feminine beauty and having the bearing and gait of a man, and having been trained as a soldier, is noted by many to have a magnetic personality with a smile that would make men want to walk across hot coals and beg for another. Sounis, while obviously wanting to take over her country by marrying her, also seems to 'want a smile for himself'.
  • No Hero to His Valet: While no one who knows him doubts he's one of the most capable people in the universe, Eugenides' cousins, father, wife, gods, and even his Lawful Stupid bodyguard all put up with his supreme petulance only for so long before threatening to sit on him.
  • Non-Action Guy: Kamet. Probably the only main character in the series who isn't competent with some kind of weapon.
  • Noodle Incident: The "story of the potter and the prophet" mentioned in the sixth book is one of the few that isn't told in full, but the events and its moral can be picked up from context—it involves the potter breaking all his pots when he shouldn't have.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Gen lives off of this.
  • The Oathbreaker: The King of Attolia opens with royal guardsman Costis Ormentiedes awaiting the repurcussions of punching his king in the face.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Gen loves to live by this.
    • Also Attolia in her interactions with Nahuseresh.
    • Pheris Erondites, to everyone, to avoid being targeted by his scheming grandfather.
  • Odd Couple: Costis and Aristogiton, an obstinately honourable patronoi and a pragmatic okloi.
  • Official Couple: Eugenides and Irene.
    • Later on, also Helen and Sophos.
  • Offing the Offspring: Eddis's Minister of War has to be forcibly prevented from strangling his son when they're captured by Attolia - because he thinks he's going to be tortured even worse than he was the first time.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Characters frequently swear by an assortment of gods, with or without specific names. And then sometimes they just invoke their patron god, leading to conversations like this:
    Costis: Oh, my god.
    Gen: O my god. You want to call on the god appropriate to the occasion. After all, your god would probably be Miras, light and arrows and all that sort of thing, whereas my god is a god of balance and, of course, preservation of Thieves...
  • One Degree of Separation: Everyone in Eddis is apparently related to everybody else. It's so egregious that they have special priests whose job it is to track the genealogies and figure out who can marry whom. Truth in Television for a small mountain country, of course.
  • Only Sane Man: Melheret is the only Mede ambassador who understands how dangerous the rulers of the little peninsula really are, kings and queens alike, but his attempts to convince his superiors of that go unheeded. He's also the only one who isn't a complete condescending ass to his hosts. This is why Eugenides and Attolia send him off with a genuinely nice gift when he is recalled to the Empire.
  • Pals with Jesus:
    • Eugenides is noted for not only talking to his gods, but for having them talk back. Sometimes it is dramatic. Other times they tell him "stop whining" and "go to bed."
    • When a feverish Costis meets a God in Human Form, he greets him like a friend, to the amusement of the god and the embarrassment of Kamet.
  • Pet the Dog: Kamet feels compelled in fairness to Nahuseresh to point out he wasn't a bastard all the time: he once laughed off Kamet's accidental destruction of a priceless work of art, and he arranged a happy retirement for a slave woman they were both in love with.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Eugenides is fairly small and more than fairly deadly.
  • The Plague: There was one nearly fifty years before the first book that decimated the populations of Sounis and Attolia.
  • Playing Both Sides: The Mede Empire routinely stirs up conflict between the three states of the Peninsula, and even within them, such as their meddling in Sounis' civil war in the fourth book. They'll send their support to whomever's going to have a war going in order to soften up al three locations.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!:
    • Inverted in The Queen of Attolia. Ornon, Eddis' ambassador to Attolia, does a good job of working Attolia up to executing Gen rather than torturing him for valuable information and starting a war. Gen being killed as a thief wouldn't force Eddis to take military action. But Gen having his hand amputated and sent back does.
    • In The King of Attolia, Teleus begs for the lives of his men and himself using an archaic language phrase provided by the King. It takes some convincing for Teleus to do it, though.
  • Point of View: The first book is from Gen's first person perspective, the second is more third person omniscient while deliberately omitting certain key pieces of information that completely alter the interpretation of the text in hindsight, and the third is almost exclusively third person limited from Costis's POV. The fourth book alternates between Sophos telling the story in first person to Eddis, and third person omniscient. The fifth is Kamet's first-person account, and the sixth is Pheris'.
  • Praetorian Guard:
    • The Queen's Guard of Attolia. Eugenides wants to cut their numbers to prevent them eventually going from king-maker to king-breaker.
    • The Mede Emperor's elite guards, the Namreen.
  • The Professor: The Magus of Sounis, who also doubles as an impossibly Cool Teacher for Sophos and Ambiades.
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: After defeating the entire royal guard in King of Attolia, Eugenides is invited to their private bath by Teleus in recognition of their newly-won respect for him. The scene serves as the denoument of the book, with Eugenides finally explaining (and apologizing for) his behavior over the course of the book, and Teleus' one joke.
    Teleus: No matter, Your Majesty. You are revealed at last.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Eddis has been having recurring prophetic dreams of the sacred mountain eventually erupting and decimating her country. And Sophos has dreams of a female tutor discussing philosphy, history, and poetry with him in his ideal perfect library.
  • The Quest: Book one, to find Hamiathes's Gift. Kamet is the object of the Attolian's quest in Thick as Thieves.
  • Quip to Black: Not what you were expecting, Magus?
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Costis spells out all the ways in which Eugenides does not deserve his throne early in The King of Attolia.
  • Religion is Magic: Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how you interpret Hamiathes's Gift. Its king-making power might be just as true as the rest of its legend, or the Gift might be just a symbol.
  • Reluctant Ruler:
    • Eugenides as king of Attolia. As one character observes, he didn't marry Attolia to become king, he became king to marry Attolia.
    • Sophos gets this treatment in The Thief, too, though it’s more Reluctant Heir since his uncle is still the reigning king. Sophos would much rather live out a leisurely scholar’s life than inherit Sounis.
  • Reluctant Warrior: Eugenides, who hates to kill people. Despite being quite good at it.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Every monarch in the books is completely competent at managing his or her kingdom and much of the Eddisian royal family is engaged in government/military work in some way.
  • Ruling Couple: Eugenides and Irene.
  • Sacred Hospitality: This is mentioned as being an important rule. Baron Hanaktos planned to violate it, but was thwarted by Sophos.
  • Sand Bridge at Low Tide: The temple of Hamiathes's Gift is a man-made Cave Behind the Falls beneath a riverbed, and only accessible for so many nights per year when the gates to the reservoir at the river's source are closed.
  • Scars are Forever: Eugenides is covered in them, from sword practice, to getting stabbed, to torture, to a feather-shaped scar on his face as a sign of his god's approval, to the stump from his severed hand.
  • Screw The Rules, I'm Eugenides!
  • Second-Hand Storytelling: The bulk of A Conspiracy of Kings is Sophos narrating the events to the queen of Eddis.
    • Also, the first book is strongly implied to be a copy of the book the Gen wrote to explain his story of the search for Hamiathes’ Gift to his queen.
  • Secret Relationship: Played with in King. Eugenides and his queen hide the true romantic nature of their relationship for several months so that he can put in motion his plan to destroy the House of Erondites, with Costis clearly quite embarrassed that he'd never realized that Eugenides's talents meant that sleeping in separate bedrooms did not one bit preclude him from visiting his wife whenever he wanted in secret. In Conspiracy, Sophos explains that Sounis exiled him to Letnos after discovering his correspondence with and marriage proposal to Eddis.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Attolians dismiss Eddis as "just a woman" despite the fact that they themselves have been ruled by "just a woman" for years, and she is so effective that much of the nation views her with a mix of love and terror. Aris points out the absurdity of this and takes the more realistic view that if Eddis has to be just as strong and intelligent, otherwise she wouldn't still be a sovereign queen.
  • She Is the King: Helen, ruling as Eddis. Normally, a woman would reign under the title Eddia. This is sort of hinted at in the series proper, but actually explained in the short story (aptly titled) “Eddis":
    “My Queen,” said Xanthe, “you are Eddia.”
    Knowing the consternation it would cause, and knowing she would overcome it, Helen said, “No, I am Eddis. The gods have told me so.”
  • Sherlock Scan: Eugenides, Attolia.
  • Shout-Out: To Rosemary Sutcliff and Diana Wynne Jones in the first book. And DWJ again in the fourth.
    • The refrain of characters saying, "so, so, so" is from Jones.
    • Rosemary Sutcliff: The ring Gen picks up in Aracthus's temple is identical to the one handed down in The Eagle of the Ninth and its seven sequels. Costis's cloak-pin and "two inches in the right place" echoes Phaedrus in The Mark of the Horse Lord. The island of Epidi in the northwest corner of the map is probably named after a British tribe that appears in these and other Sutcliff novels. The "new spears" and "boys' house" mentioned in "Eddis" are from Warrior Scarlet. Turner has stated that Marcus's abrupt loss of Plot Armor at the beginning of The Eagle of the Ninth profoundly influenced her ideas of adventure protagonists, and that Thick as Thieves "revisits" that novel. Costis resembles the generality of Sutcliff's dogged, honourable Roman soldier protagonists, down to his land-owning background.
    • The Odyssey: Polyfemus the one-eyed giant who supposedly built the walls of the city of Sounis is a nod to Polyphemus the Cyclops. Sophos comparing his tutor to a disguised goddess mentoring a young hero refers to Athena and Telemachus. The famous Homeric epithet "the wine-dark sea" appears in The King of Attolia.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Eugenides has been in love with Irene since childhood and has, at least according to Eddis/Helen, never shown interest in any other woman.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Gen and Irene. While they love each other fiercely, they also both have fierce tempers (though most often, it's not upset at each other, but Anger Born of Worry).
  • Smart People Play Chess: Alluded to repeatedly in Return of the Thief. The Baron Erondites uses chess to assess the intelligence of his potential heirs. Pheris can play chess but hides it as part of his Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Snipe Hunt: Attolia to her attendant Chloe, when Chloe makes an ill-thought remark on one of Attolia's suitors.
    Attolia: Chloe.
    Chloe: Your Majesty?
    Attolia: Go fetch something for me.
    Chloe: What would you like, Your Majesty?
    Attolia: I don't know. Go find out.
  • Spanner in the Works: Berrone is this for her own father, largely by virtue of being so naive and good-hearted that she sneaks behind her back to buy the one slave that wasn't actually a slave.
  • The Speechless: Pheris.
  • The Spymaster: Relius, officially. Though several characters fit this trope despite not acting in any official capacity. There are characters who fit this trope even though it's literally their job to have other people do it for them.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Eugenides, though it’s played sympathetically towards him. Attolia was understandably put out, though it turned out to be good for both of them.
  • Standard Royal Court: The series largely revolves around the doings and plottings of the royalty of three countries.
  • The Strategist: Of the main rulers, Attolia most of all, although Eddis gives her competition occasionally.
  • Stealth Insult: Inverted when Melheret leaves the Attolian court. Attolis Eugenides gives him a pair of cheap earrings for Melheret's wife, which is a stealth insult to the Medes overall. In actuality, the setting is cheap, but the stones themselves are good because Eugenides and Irene actually respected Melheret but couldn't give him an obviously nice gift because it would endanger him. Melheret, who was bright enough to realize they were a real threat but couldn't convince his superiors to take them seriously enough, understands the gesture.
  • Street Urchin: Gen in the first book is disguised as one, but his constant claims that he came from a respectable family are true enough; it just happens to be the Eddisian royal family.
  • Stupid Evil: Mede ambassadors, for all their cunning and subtlety, just can't seem to get the idea of a clever woman through their brains. Nahuseresh seems totally unaware that the cooperative woman on Attolia's throne only got that throne by being smart and ruthless. Akretenesh, his counterpart in Sounis, similarly does not consider that Eddis is anything but silly and love-struck. Melheret, the ambassador who learns not to underestimate Eugenides et al., goes unheeded by his higher-ups.
  • Succession Crisis:
    • Attolia seems to go through one once every couple of generations, being littered with scheming barons. Attolia herself is aware that she is still in one, because as long as she's unmarried, her barons will view each other as rivals for her hand.
    • One of the central conflicts of A Conspiracy of Kings is the inheritance of Sounis, which requires confirmation by the council of barons.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Subverted in A Conspiracy of Kings. Attolia hands the new Sounis a gun to solve his problems. Her husband also includes his own gift in the box, which Sounis hopes is a solution different than killing. When he finally opens the lower half of the box, he finds... a second gun. Meaning that Eugenides, the cleverest and most devious man on the Peninsula, couldn't think of another solution.
    • Played straight at the book's midpoint, when Sounis rejects alliances with the Mede and Melenze to ask help of the king of Attolia. This is foreshadowed by a parable of a man who accepted as a gift from a goddess, neither gold of which he would be robbed nor a sword with which he would die fighting, but a friendly wolf that might or might not eat him.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Gen has a tendency to throw things when he's angry. His ink pots are frequent victims, although he claims that Attolia has thrown such things at him on occasion as well.
    "I'll stop shouting. I won't sit down. I might need to throw more ink pots."
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Attolia spent her year living with her fiance's family spinning thread, embroidering her fiance's shirts, and collecting poisonous plants to murder him.
  • That Old-Time Prescription: Lethium, an opiate named for Lethe, the water of forgetfulness in the Greek underworld.
  • Theme Naming: Amusingly subverted for irony: the beautiful and ruthless queen of Attolia is named Irene (meaning peace), while the kind, mannish, and ugly (or at least unattractive) queen of Eddis is named Helen (after "the woman who launched a thousand ships”). Both queens lampshade this in the second book.
  • Tomato Surprise: Once in The Thief, once in The Queen of Attolia, and if you hadn't read the other books before The King of Attolia, there's one then, too.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eddis and Attolia, respectively.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Eugenides comes back from his brutal torture and amputation colder, harder, more ruthless, and way more badass than before.
    • In the fourth book, Sophos doesn't take a level in badass, he takes several. Then he rips them to pieces with his bare hands, gnaws on them, and uses them as fuel with which to fire even more badass.
    • Although he was by no means not a badass before, Costis spent the entirety of King of Attolia being Overshadowed by Awesome, treated as the resident Butt-Monkey by the king, and in general being way out of his depth among all the political intrigue in the royal court. His return in Thick as Thieves goes far out of its way to rectify this, finally showcasing him in his element as an excellent soldier who can more than hold his own in a fight, possessing a good tactical mind, and has clearly learned how to use other people's perception of him to his own advantage.
  • Tranquil Fury: The queen of Attolia is universally described as terrifying when she loses her temper, and a reputation for stacking up the body count on top of that. Eugenides gets in on it as well on the rare occasion when he's mad enough to stop throwing simple tantrums.
  • Translation Convention: In Thick as Thieves, Kamet calls Eugenides "Great King" and everyone present gasps. Although he explains to the reader that he used the archaic for to improve his pleading, there's a hint in that he refers to the word, and that he didn't just use the words "great" and "king" together. Not only does use of the archaic show a particular degree of reverence, Kamet addressed Eugenides with the word Annux, which previous books defined as a king who rules other kings.
  • Trial by Combat: The Eddisians demand to subject Annux Eugenides to "The Trial" in the sixth book. It consists of all the Eddisian men of diplomatic rank trying to beat the living daylights out of him and then some. Eugenides finally falls to his father after absolutely refusing to give up; it takes a miraculous healing by the gods to keep him from being bedridden for weeks.
  • Trickster Mentor: Eugenides serves this role for Costis in the third book.
  • Turn Out Like His Father
    "Like many men, I have two grandfathers. One of them was Eddis.”
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • The entire populace of Attolia, including the people who should know better (I'm looking at you, Teleus), underestimates Gen. He shows them.
    • Mede ambassadors and women. They just don't get that women have brains too, and it doesn't ever work out.
  • Undying Loyalty: Teleus and Relius to Irene, Costis to Gen and Irene, Gen to Irene and Eddis and vice versa. Gen also has a way of inspiring this in people once he drops his Obfuscating Stupidity, of which Irene and Costis are only the most prominent examples.
  • Unexpected Successor:
    • The princess Irene was a minor member of the royal household until her brother unexpectedly died falling from his horse. A year later her father followed and she was crowned queen of Attolia.
    • Also, the princess Helen. Having two older brothers and one younger one, she wasn't likely to inherit until all of three of them died of plague. When her father died months later, she became the crowned queen of Eddis.
    • Sophos is the son of Sounis's bastard half-brother. Though the official heir, he and everyone else considers him a placeholder for Sounis's future son, until Sounis dies suddenly of a fever.
  • Unnamed Parent: Eugenides's parents are known only as the minister of war and Queen Thief, while Sophos's, technically the duke and duchess of somewhere or other, don't even have nicknames. Eddis and Attolia's are also not named except as the previous Eddis and Attolis.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Gen pretty much never says anything untrue in The Thief, but still manages to give other characters and the reader a completely false impression of himself. As a case in point, he defends the respectability of his family, noting that his father was a professional soldier and his sisters made good marriages ...however, he doesn't mention that his father is Eddis’ Minister of War and his sisters are princesses. Just a small detail. Despite the later books being third-person, they're still unreliable. Hmm, mysterious narrator, no need to mention how Gen really feels about Attolia, is there? Even though it drastically changes how all of it looks?
  • The Unreveal:
    • "Melheret's Earrings" in Moira's Pen ends with Melheret being recalled to the capital after the failure of the invasion and his choice to go, in case the emperor truly wants his counsel, even though it's more likely that the emperor will scapegoat and kill him. We don't find out what happens to him.
    • "Gitta" in Moira's Pen reveals that Eugenides and Irene lost their son Hector to a mysterious disappearance, but the circumstances are not elucidated. Also, Pheris helped Eugenia flee the country because she didn't want to rule it, and she hated the country of Attolia as a result. We're left to imagine the details of this saga.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: While everything that's important to the plot is explained sooner or later (usually later), many significant details are up to the reader to interpret, or in fact notice at all. Unlike most examples of this trope, no outside knowledge is necessary for full appreciation of the story. The only outside knowledge that could help a reader tease out the plot twists beforehand only exists in-universe. For example, Gen's careless use of the phrase "Be blessed in your endeavors" reveals his Eddisian origins, but you'd have to be a citizen of one of the three kingdoms to notice.
  • War Hawk: The king of Sounis uses war to distract and weaken his barons so they're easier to keep in line.
  • War Is Hell: The sixth and final book has lengthy sections devoted to the Medes' final, full-scale invasion of the Little Peninsula. The unsanitary and miserable conditions of battlefields and field camps are described, characters are killed off unexpectedly both in battle and in accidents, and the experience is long, grueling, and terrible. No wonder Pheris complains about artists making battles look beautiful.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The rulers of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis are ultimately trying to keep the peninsula from being overrun by Medea. It's not until four books in that they actually begin uniting their effort to do so instead of fighting against each other.
  • Wham Chapter: Eugenides losing his hand near the beginning of The Queen of Attolia.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Eugenides and his father had a famous falling-out when Gen tore up his army enrollment papers. While they've since mended their relationship, he notes that his father still wishes he'd become a soldier rather than a thief.
  • World of Snark: It's easier to count the characters who don't snark than the ones that do.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: In Return of the Thief, Nahuseresh says he had Kamet tortured to death in order to goad Eugenides into battle. It works.
  • The X of Y: All the titles after the first book. Well, and A X of Y.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Many characters attempt this, but no one pulls it off with quite the same flair as Eugenides.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Succeeding with his final gambit in Queen means Eugenides will never be able to call Eddis home again.