Send me a character & I’ll answer the following about them! : Attolia Irene from the Queen’s Thief
I’m tongue tied and paralyzed even trying to begin to do justice to this profile of Irene because she is my most favorite fictional character of all time. I hang off of every sliver, every bit, slight mention, and mere allusion to anything that has anything to do with her, in canon and head canon. I am here on earth to unlock my own ‘Queen of Attolia’ and so in her the character’s growth and unveiling, I feel as if I am living a part of me that has yet to come on the physical timeline and has always been encoded in my DNA.
For lack of better words, I feel Irene like Costis does, in the fanfiction story, “Dance Me to Your Beauty” by Oshun
( https://archiveofourown.org/works/8883880 )
…he missed no slight tightening of her lips in irritation or quaver of uncertainty. He noticed her every soft inhalation or straightening of her shoulders whenever a courtly function ran on too long. The times he had detected faint lavender circles under her eyes, he obsessively wondered what prevented her from resting well…
I love her brokenness. Her vulnerability so tightly, elegantly hidden by power and strength. Two seemingly contrasting ideas are so equally real in Irene. I love the tears that she won’t shed. I love Eugenides for kissing her so softly that they are coaxed to fall. I love her every hesitation. I love the time and patience it takes across multiple novels for her to finally thaw and unveil herself as the good, kind, sweet, thoughtful, sensitive, moral, merciful person that she is. I love how Eugenides draws such tenderness out of her after a lifetime of being almost broken by the demands placed on her to fight for her life and her people. I love how Eugenides and Irene are so clearly the same soul after the most traumatizing, polarizing events imaginable unfolded between them, stuff only two halves of one soul could overcome together through each other’s love. I love how great their fear is of each other and yet their love for each other is even greater and how they always ultimately choose that love over the fear.
Irene is the very symbol to me of how nobody, none of us, is truly how we appear on the outside. She is my daily encouragement to Look and See beyond the masks, the petty annoyances. Irene is my shining hope for the world around me where everyone hides behind a mask and guards their softness and sweetness and vulnerable nature carefully as they try to navigate a world still tempered with predatory harshness.
fall in a hole and die | don’t like them | eh | they’re fine I guess | like them! | love them | actual love of my life
Well this is a given. She’s the Queen of Attolia, the perfectly gorgeous, to the point where she seems ethereal amidst mere average humans.
I find it more compelling to explore Irene’s personal relationship with her beauty, which she refers to dismissively, flippantly as “just a mask” when Phresine prods her about how time’s a ticking and she’s still single (in QoA). Irene sees her beauty as a convenient tool, a necessary weapon and means to power, power not born from selfish ambition or greed like it is for many men, but an innate instinct to fight for her own physical and moral survival and that of her country.
I find myself acutely aware of how although she owns it fully and maximizes its use, Irene does not revel in her own beauty, that it is a tripled edged sword to her. I don’t find Irene to be at all vain about her superior aesthetics in the way that Kamet is vain about his talents. In fact, it’s clear to me that she feels shame for how her beauty is the only thing that can people can see in her to the point where it reinforces an image of herself that she knows not to be her truth and yet she cannot escape it. The mask that grows heavier to bear, with each passing day that it leaves her feeling old and exhausted. The infamous exchange from TT, where she flushes deeply when Eugenides tells her “You are more beautiful, but [the Queen of Eddis] is more kind.” just screams of shame. Which just makes me love her more and want to hug her… which she would probably not let me do because she is “slow to trust” and so I hope that Eugenides hugs her and holds her close and helps her feel safe, on all of our behalf.
Irene would be the first one to tell us that being beautiful does not bring her any closer to happiness, in the way that all the wealth in the world could neither buy it. However subtle, I feel this to be one of MWT’s most potent intended messages to counter the soul crushing weight of all the patriarchal, hegemonic, one dimensional fairy tales foisted upon us since days of old that try to tell us that the value of the feminine lies in appearance alone.
get away from me | meh | neutral | theoretically hot but not my type | pretty hot | gorgeous! | 10/10 would bang
Irene has so many layers, is so multidimensional that I’m sure she embodies all of the houses at once, especially as she awakens to her own divinity. However, if you want me to answer this question based on more initial impression, she’s melancholic, ruthless and goth-y, so Slytherin. Just as I say that, I’m not fully comfortable saying it because all the nefarious bad guys are slytherins and I want Irene to be surrounded by people who will help her feel sheltered and nurtured after a lifetime of having to pretend that she doesn’t long for and need both of those qualities in the people around her. I don’t think she was able to recognize it in herself until she got a chance to be those things for Eugenides after she crippled him because she was afraid of what he would and could do to her while she slept surrounded by an inflated palace guard immune to nothing… but him.
gryffindor | slytherin | ravenclaw | hufflepuff
Her jealousy and envy of the Queen of Eddis. Although it didn’t amount to any pleasant exchanges for the two queens or to good international relations, I’m intentionally putting it under “Best Quality” because it shows that Irene longed for the balance between masculine and feminine the Helen was fortunate to have her entire life. It shows that Irene longed for Truth. I love that despite her lady-like and feminine outward appearance, Irene would also have loved to learn how to use a sword, fight her own battles, ride a pony as a child, swim, hunt and basically “run wild in the mountains” as Helen did. A lot of girls and women I know are perfectly satisfied being “girly,” don’t even think to question the binary masculine/feminine construct, see nothing wrong with the limitations of their gender-body assignment, and never think about how they are unconsciously imprisoned by them.
worst quality: Nothing. Irene is perfect in my eyes. I feel her sadness, her ever-increasing joy, the beginnings of real laughter, her rage, her strength, her endurance, her patience, her fear, her boldness, her shyness, her wisdom, her child-like responses that she suppresses, how when she says she feels old, it’s because she feels tired and sad. I don’t find her scary. I find her to be scared. It’s interesting to note, I teach English to students in Korea and they’re always confusing “scary” with “scared” and in Irene’s case, the two are actually interchangeably one and the same.
ship them with: Eugenides, of course. He is her perfect match, her twin flame, her twin soul, her divine counterpart, her split soul, her other half. He is the god to her goddess. He Saw her when nobody else did. He saved her as she saved him. I also love the idea of Costis being equally in love with both of them and both of them welcoming him into their bed and their intimate lives. Again, my main influence is “Dance Me to Your Beauty” by Oshun (fanfic link above). Just as much as I love the idea that Eugenides and Irene saw Costis’s future with Kamet and set them up together in a unified divine pairing of comparable high vibration.
brotp them with: I love Irene and Helen’s begrudged, cautious woman-to-woman, peer to peer friendship. I love when Irene caves to Helen in QoA: and tells her she likes her even when she didn’t think she would. I love that Helen is willing to give Irene another chance. I really feel like Irene didn’t truly mean to be awful when she “poured vitriol” into Helen’s ear at Helen’s coronation; perhaps there was a little ego in it but Irene was honestly sharing herself and yet I also understand how Helen, having never known Irene’s neglect and abuse, perceived it as more negative than intended. Irene pretty much gives the same advice to Sophos years later and he actually takes the advice with reasonable success.
I love that Irene routinely accepts Helen’s advice on how to “handle” her husband. I love the moment when Irene comes to Helen’s aid one of the few times it’s actually Helen who’s in need of support, when the fact that she’s in love with Sophos hits her like a pile of bricks too late. I adore that Helen so fully accepts Irene’s support, by holding tightly to her. In how Irene took Helen’s hand in that moment, I feel like Irene was also apologizing for how she’d treated Helen for all those years previous.
I also brotp Irene and Sophos. I love how it’s clear that as she’s still learning how to have functional, trusting friendships, how she looks to Eugenides for guidance and she’s clearly in awe of Gen’s close friendship with Sophos, shown through the softness of her voice whenever she asks Gen about him… I love how even in CoK, she’s still thawing and really, in her own rigid, chilly way she’s generously pouring her heart out to Sophos by offering him everything she knows about ruling a country to him on their walks. And Sophos, needing the reassuring warmth that he receives from Helen to be confident in himself, doesn’t fully understand how Irene is reaching out to him and remains scared of her. I sense that after the miscarriage undoubtedly shatters Irene into the billion pieces that are necessary for her to fully begin again, healed and anew, that Irene and Sophos will have their own close friendship that won’t be so stressful to Sophos.
I brotp (ship?) Irene with Costis! I love the idea of Irene and Eugenides being willing to share their bed with Costis occasionally, and Costis alone because of his “confounded, asinine, patron sense of honor”…. because there’s something powerful about trust being so strong within a primary relationship that both partners can open themselves to loving and allowing their significant other to love a third person without jealousy. Being that Eugenides and Irene are otherwise both “very jealous people,” that they would trust Costis, and trust each other with Costis…. the thought, the fantasy of all of them together leaves me breathless. And not to leave Costis as always second in line, the third wheel, through their masterminding, Kamet enters Costis’s life for the best and the pairings reach a satiating equilibrium.
I brotp Irene and Kamet, because in a different way than Eugenides and Irene are exactly alike, Kamet and Irene too are exactly alike. They seem to have an already established, comfortable connection with each other. They are astoundingly, heart achingly similar in their histories of abuse, enslavement and profound mistrust.
needs to stay away from: I dunno. Nahusaresh? That seems to be handled. I appreciate that Irene knows how to flirt in the regular, benign, basic-bitch kind of way (she learned it from Chloe) and then totally bends Nahusaresh over with it in deception, cunning on the level of her husband, yet in a manner all her own. In contrast, the way she actually flirts with Eugenides is completely fatalistic.
misc. thoughts: I love that it’s clearly stated that Irene wasn’t necessarily considered immediately beautiful or graceful as a child or adolescent. I love that her earth-shattering, goddess-evoking beauty was something that she grew into and her regal grace was something that she practiced. I love that she was a quiet, shy, awkward girl in stunning contrast to the woman she had to become. Although she grows out of the awkwardness, I get so vividly that the real Irene is STILL quiet and shy even when Attolia is commanding, enduring, regal and not to be fucked with.
I love that in a similar way that MWT organizes our six protagonists in perfect contrast with each other, three light skinned (Irene, Sophos, Costis) three dark skinned (Eugenides, Helen, Kamet), three masculine and male bodied (Eugenides, Costis, Sophos), and three feminine and/or female bodied (Irene, Helen, and Kamet– clearly a feminine energy in a male body… e.g. Godekker referring to him as “pretty.”) she also subtly has a yin-yang balance going on in each character’s athleticism/physical abilities. I see this as being the three who seemed to be at ease and capable inhabiting their bodies from the beginning vs. the lesser athletes who had to grow into their athletic abilities later on:
On one side, Eugenides, Obviously. I mean, the one-handed handstands, the master duelist, leaping across rooftops, for fucks sake! Enough said. The more subtle of the three, but I feel still deserves this category: Helen, a trained soldier since childhood, in stance and skill, “not quite as dangerous as a male soldier twice her size,” but alarmingly close. AND OH MY GOD COSTIS. I will never, ever forget how that scene in TAT where he stealthily breaks the necks of the slavers and then catlike, sets to work undoing their chains, kills multiple soldiers with one stone (as Gen can), muscles rippling at every turn, stealing from mountain lions, reading how strong, strapping, competent a soldier and survivalist Costis is was nothing short of ecstatic. These three all probably know how to swim (even Gen with one hand).
On the other side, the lesser athletes, the ones that had a learning curve learning how to be comfortable and capable in their bodies: Sophos who was mediocre or downright wimpy at most things physical for a good part of childhood, luckily puberty was generous to him and enslavement was strengthening. Sophos turned out admirably, or at least passably strong, capable and competent, shooting a pistol, shoveling dirt, building walls. Oooh my mouth was watering when MWT described how his shoulders had broadened from the hours of fieldwork. Helen might possibly be better at fighting a battle than him (or maybe he was just being humble when he was talking about how he was waving his sword around trying not to cut the ears off his own horse, lol)… And I don’t even need to say anything about Kamet, who keels over like a flower at even the most remote of physical demand, who has to be towed along in shallow water, Kamet needs no explaining here. And then Irene…. the disadvantage of being genetically inclined to being built like a supermodel is the initial growth spurts are jarring… she occasionally gets “ungainly with hesitation.” Categorizing Irene on this side is probably more because as an Attolian female, her culture kept her chained to a loom and denied her the chances to explore her physical potential until much later in life where she learned to ride and hunt on horseback and use knives and shoot pistols. Like Sophos, I imagine Irene ended up perfectly competent, but the learning curve was longer for these three (and even Kamet gets whipped into shape on his journey across the empire). However, someone needs to teach Irene and Kamet how to swim…
I know this is insanely long but I just could not stop! and I thought about cutting it into pieces… I might still to make it more manageable, yet there’s something satisfying about letting it all flow forth until it doesn’t and seeing the thought process as complete.
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Please know that if I tagged you in this… it’s because I know you to be passionate about the Queen’s Thief in some way and I hope to invite in the kind of dialogue about this extraordinary saga that so fills my soul. (whether be it by reblog posts, or rapid fire one on one messaging) Please consider any of the above to be prompts or I would gladly converse with you about anything else … this is the kind of stuff I live for and I can hardly believe that there is a like-minded tumblr / sounis livejournal community that also lives for it.