Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review of The Queen of Attolia

The Queen of Attolia is the second book in the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Currently, there are four books in this YA fantasy series in the following order: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings, which was just released in hardcover in March. The Thief can currently be read online free of charge.

Warning: Although I did try to keep descriptions at least somewhat vague (and kept the plot details to a minimum to try to avoid spoiling this book), there may still be hints that could lead to spoilers for The Thief in this review. If you have not yet read The Thief and are interested in this series, you may want to just skip this review other than perhaps the last paragraph, which sums up basic thoughts on it.

Once again, Eugenides is sneaking around - this time in the castle of the Queen of Attolia. Although he manages to make it outside the palace, he is caught in an alley and returned to the queen for judgment. Initially, the queen decides to have him executed, but fearing that a quick death would be too kind to her rival Eddis, Attolia instead brings back an old punishment for thieves. She then has him returned to Eddis, inciting a war.

While I enjoyed The Thief, I didn't absolutely love it and didn't quite understand all the rave reviews this series gets - until reading The Queen of Attolia. The Thief is a quest fantasy with a great twist at the end, but this second volume starts with the twists much earlier and just keeps getting better all the way to the very last sentence, which is a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. It's a darker story and much tighter than its predecessor, which sometimes digressed into too much travelogue for my taste. This novel also has the emotional connection that The Thief was mostly lacking, and I found myself completely invested in seeing what happened to all the different characters. The Queen of Attolia was an improvement over The Thief in just about every way.

Unlike the first book, The Queen of Attolia is told from the third person perspective of multiple characters, including Eugenides, Attolia and Eddis. Having so many point of view characters made for a richer experience and the narration was still very sneaky even without being solely from Eugenides' point of view. There are still bits that are deliberately left out until later, although they are revealed more throughout the story instead of all being saved up for the end like in The Thief. There were a couple of reveals that were predictable, but even knowing what was going to happen did not ruin those parts at all because the way they were handled was superb. Every little detail and conversation was full of significance and I found myself going back and rereading the same part two or three times before forging on ahead just because it was so good. Because there is a tendency for parts to potentially have more than one meaning and so many of the little touches are important, this book would be a great one to reread.

This novel was more about the politics and the characters than the previous installment and there is some great dialogue and interaction (and a wonderful romance!). Eugenides is still full of surprises as a skillful thief, even when his talents are applied to something very different than the object obtained in the first book. For in this novel he is asked to steal peace between kingdoms during a turbulent time between many nations, particularly Attolia and Eddis. The leaders of these two countries are both fascinating women who play much bigger roles than in the first novel. Both the Queen of Attolia and the Queen of Eddis are competent rulers, but they are both very different women shaped by their different cultures and political situations. Yet both are perfectly capable of holding their own even if they do not have the same style of leadership.

The main fantasy aspect is the setting, which is similar to ancient Greece with a pantheon similar to the Greek gods and goddesses. Attolians tend to view the gods and goddesses as superstition, but Eugenides takes them very seriously.

The Queen of Attolia is much more mature than the first book in this series with a focus on political maneuvering and characters. It's clever, it's fun, it's completely absorbing, it's full of both heartbreak and joy - it's one for the keeper shelf.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a birthday present from my mile-long wish list.

Reviews of other books in this series:
Other reviews of The Queen of Attolia:


orannia said...

Thank you Kristen. I must confess to skimming the review so as to avoid spoilers for The Thief, since you've pretty much convinved me I need to read it sooner rather than later :)

Kristen said...

Orannia - I hope you like The Thief when you do read it. It has a bit of slow travelogue, but it's definitely worth it - and the next book is far superior.

Angiegirl said...

Such a great review, Kristen!

I still get chills thinking about the first time I read this. It just came out of nowhere and OWNED me. :) I love it when that happens.

Kristen said...

Angie - Thank you! I actually struggled quite a bit with this one - I didn't want to give too much away but there was so much I wanted to say about it!

That's a great description - it did come out of nowhere. I expected to like it, but I didn't expect to LOVE it!

orannia said...

Maybe over my long weekend, although I copy of The Archer's Heart (Astrid Amara) has FINALLY arrived...

Kristen said...

Orannia - Wow, that did take a while. The Archer's Heart does look very good though so hopefully it will be worth it!