Megan Whalen Turner’s 2022 Moira’s Pen: A Queen’s Thief Collection is a collection of short pieces, all related in some way to Turner’s Queen’s Thief series. The volume is illustrated by Deena So’Oteh.
This volume is crammed with a myriad of skillfully executed short, almost epigrammatic, stories and essays. There are far more than the page count would lead readers to expect. None of them will take long to read. Despite the brevity, Turner crams each story with significance; the effect is of a work that feels much longer than it is.
The illustrations are nicely done. However, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a underestimate when it could to estimating how much larger art will make even a very short book like this one.
Turner may be the author about whose work I had the most dramatic reversal of opinion. I began her series with the second volume, The Queen of Attolia. This was a grave misstep on my part. In context the novel was much more impressive. Likewise, this is a volume for which context matters. Do not begin with this volume without first reading the Queen’s Thief series. If you do, many events in this collection will be extremely unclear. Approach the series correctly and be rewarded.
A myth concerning a pen whose writings come true. NOT TO BE CASUALLY LENT TO MORTALS.
“A Conversation with the Muse”
Light-hearted whimsy about creativity and the utility of certain pens.
“A Letter to Readers”
Comments from the author about the process that led to this book.
“Eddis Goes Camping”
Princess Helen’s illicit camping expedition leads to a meeting with the gods and a glimpse of the future the girl is determined to remember, no matter what the gods decree.
“The Princess and the Pastry Chef”
A dutiful servant sublimates maternal concern for her distant daughter by caring for the naughty princess at hand.
A Trip to Mycenae
A non-fictional account of the author’s trip to Mycenae.
Young Gen addresses an insult to family honour as only a fated Thief can.
A brief note from the author about the history of fibula pins.
“Burning Down the House of Kallicertes”
Queen Irena effectively communicates her abiding displeasure with the disloyal House of Kallicertes in a way that will inspire legends.
Comments on a real-world pendant that inspired a pendant in Turner’s novels.
“The Watch Takes the Thief”
The Watch, having briefly detained the Thief, is increasingly astonished as the scale of the Thief’s thefts is slowly revealed.
The Lion Gate
Notes on the Lion Gate.
“The Destruction of Hamiathes’s Gift”
Disposing of a goddess’ gift involves unforeseen logistical challenges.
The Molossian Hound
Authorial comments about what is sometimes called the Jennings Dog.
“In the Queen’s Prison”
A short poem that I did not understand.
“The Games of Kings”
Two friends discuss high-stakes romantic strategies.
Authorial commentary on the Vapheio cups that inspired a scene.
Bullied by his brother into delivering a performance he is not qualified to attempt, Druic is lucky to receive only memorable advice from the watching king.
A king’s covert outing signifies the end of an era.
Witty banter between Thief and a Queen about earring provenance.
The Portland Vase
Authorial comments on the Portland vase.
Departing Mede ambassador Melheret receives one last pointed lesson, courtesy of the crafty Thief.
“The Cook and the King of Attolia”
The king mends fences with an offended cook.
Brinna’s Almond Cakes
A recipe for almond cakes.
“Ina and Eurydice Borrow a Beehive”
Two children acquire a beehive for nefarious purposes.
“Music to Delight the Ear”
From simple tunes to musical ambition.
Authorial musings on lamassu.
The Royal Game of Ur
Authorial comments on the Royal Game of Ur.
Melheret ponders possible futures, in particular those where his wife survives Melheret’s tragic habit of being right when more powerful people are wrong.
An unexpected meeting whose significance I did not understand.
“The River Knows”
A poem to the habits of a river not unlike the Nile.
“Alyta’s Missing Earring”
A child Thief is rewarded for service with his heart’s desire. Years later, the implications of his choice alarm him.
“News from the Palace”
A visit’s significance is lost on children determined to play an adult role.
The Queen of the Night
Commentary on the influence on the Thief series of the Burney Relief.
“Immakuk and Ennikar and the Gates of Heaven”
A grand poem about a ruler confronting heaven itself to end a devastating flood.
“The End of Eddis”
Natural calamity provides a suitable backdrop for a Queen’s last moments.
Long after the events of the Thief books, a young royal considers the weighty duty she must accept.
Some Persons of Significance Discover the World of the Queen’s Thief