Thursday, July 11, 2013
Reader's Choice Review: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Review: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Release date: 2000 (Goodreads won't give up the orginal pub date)
Publisher: first published by Collins Voyager, then Harper Collins, now Greenwillow
Series: #2 in the Queen's Thief series
Rating: A fantasy classic and an improvement on the prequel.
When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes's Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered...she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.
Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.
...at what price?
When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago...
My review of The Thief
First of all, I want to say THANK YOU SHELVER, not only for requesting I read this, but for BUYING me a copy! You are truly the best blogging bud a girl could have.
The cover: MY GOD, it's beautiful. That rich green and the shiny OMINOUS HOOK and the gorgeous painting... it's even prettier in person, I'm telling you.
Spoilers for book one, The Thief, ahead
The story: I love when a book you've heard nothing but raves about delivers on its promise. The Queen of Attolia, while not perfect, is pretty fan-freaking-tastic. Eugenides is as clever and funny and flawed as ever, only now he's darker. He's suffered through some terrible things, and that lends a wonderful edge to his personality and the story that wasn't there before. And if you thought things were twist-y turny in The Thief, JUST YOU WAIT.
We left Eugenides, Queen's Thief of Eddis and first cousin to the queen, in pretty good circumstances at the end of The Thief. He stole Hamiathes' Gift right out from under the nose of the Queen of Attolia, causing him to become a hero to his people and her to lose face in front of hers. But at the beginning of TQoA, we find poor Gen in a horrendous position. Attolia is forced to make a decision about him, and it's a choice that will haunt her for the rest of the novel.
The biggest change between book one, which I loved but still had major problems with, is that MWT changed her POV. Book One is told in first person from Eugenides' POV, while TQoA is told in third person and jumps between Eugenides, the Queen of Eddis, and the titular Queen of Attolia. Which I LOVED. This choice was brilliant. At first I thought it was a touch distancing (though in CERTAIN HORRIBLE SCENES OF WHICH I CANNOT SPEAK that is a good thing) but by going third person, MWT managed to make her story more epic in scope and add more action. And my goodness, did I love going inside the Queen of Attolia's head. MWT, you genius.
I always say that my favorite part of any story, even fantasies with all their awesome mythology and worldbuilding, is the characters. And while MWT skimps on a lot of details that I like having, she never skimps on characterization. She's a bit difficult at first, to be honest. I almost thought her style was dry, but that's because I wasn't paying attention. There was humor in the dialogue, and the personality was coming through in the things the characters say (and in Attolia's case, DON'T say) and the things they do (or that they wish they did-- again, particularly in Attolia's case). But UGH I love these people, particularly Attolia. Well, and Gen, obviously. And Eddis is also tremendous. And the magus. And... everybody. Because they all have personality, and it's fun. And funny! Books get a million points from me when they have a sense of humor.
But let's focus on the titular Queen, shall we? She's such a complex characters. She's absolutely wonderful to read about. She's a totally layered onion/cake/parfait (though not an onion cake parfait, because EW). She's been twisted by her circumstances, ruling over a difficult country full of disloyal and power-hungry barons, and she's not the person she used to be. Finding out who she really is takes the entire length of the novel, and even at the end I'm not entirely sure. I NEED THE REST OF THE BOOKS. I can't get enough of Attolia.
TWIST. TWISTS, YOU GUYS. Like, I pride myself at being really good at predicting what will come next in a book or movie. It comes from having read 23456779876 novels in my life. BUT. BUT. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT ARE YOU SERIOUS HOLY OLIVE TREES
IT'S PERFECT IT'S AWFUL IT'S GENIUS AND THE BREADCRUMBS WERE THERE THE WHOLE TIME. The plot pulled a fast one on me AGAIN. And this one seriously, truly left me REELING. And then... everything that comes after... I don't want to get into spoilery territory, but Gen continues to make me laugh even when he's breaking my heart, and Attolia continues to fascinate me. FEELS. They come, readers. Oh, do they come. Feels from Eddis, feels from Gen's father, and feels from... A ROMANCE. No, seriously, there is an actual romance in there that surprised the HECK out of me but...!
My complaints would be that a lot of the war is told through exposition, and the section where Gen mopes and hibernates and sulks (or whines, rather, sorry Eugenides) drags. Not that I think the timeline is long, since he's recovering from something traumatic, just that too many pages were spent on his inaction. War breaks out between the three countries of Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis, but it all happens off the page, and this information is relegated to the reader in a very boring fashion. I wish that information had been conveyed in a more interesting, dynamic way. But MWT does such a fabulous job of showing the intricacies of war-time politics, the stress of rulers (two female queens duking it out! With the lecherous male king just kind of there), and how sometimes you have to do really crappy things, or things you REALLY don't want to do, in the name of peace (*chuckles knowingly because I just said a THING you won't get unless you've read the book*).
And the VERY best part about finally reading this book is that Shelver won't poke me every time she senses me not reading it!
Have an idea of what I should read next? Fill out the form and let me know!