The Queen of Attolia (Queen's Thief, #2) - Megan Whalen Turner
Genre: YA Fantasy (in a somewhat historical setting)
Publisher: Harper Collins
# of pages: 362 (pb)
Recommended for: EVERYONE
# of pages: 362 (pb)
Recommended for: EVERYONE
When Eugenides (yoo-JEN-ə-deez), 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...
Sometimes it happens. Sometimes I read a series out of order. Sometimes, like in the case of the Twilight series (where, for reasons that are still unknown, I dove into Breaking Dawn first and got to about page 100 before admitting that I was as confused and lost as Admiral Stockdale in that VP debate). Thankfully, no such confusion occurred due to opting out of reading The Thief, the first book in the series, first.
The gist of the story is easy to figure out. Eugenides is an infamous thief wanted in three separate countries. Luckily for him, his status as a cousin to the Queen has been enough to keep him safe, until a botched mission early in the novel results in a shocking and devastating punishment. The rest of the story, in large part, deals with Eugenides picking up the pieces of his life and attempting to recover from that event. Against the strong character-driven emotionality if the story is an elaborate backdrop of political intrigue, treacherous double-crossers, and war.
Megan Whalen Turner's fantasy geography is stunning and equally intricate. She creates a world reminiscent of Greek city-states (the fictional kingdoms of Sounis, Attolia, and Eddis supposedly based on the geography of ancient Greece), with a more Byzantine-era style, and featuring such early-modern technology as gunpowder, clockwork objects, and printed books.
I have to admit that some of Turner's storylines didn't make a whole lot of sense.
Most of the events in the novel revolve around this three-party war, which started out easy to understand, but soon seemed to delve into murky political motives with a lot of loose ends.
I love military tactics, perhaps more than the average reader, but I was thoroughly confused by a lot of the goings-on. And I think that all the attention given to the politics of the countries detracted from the most enjoyable part of the story, the characters.
Honestly, I think the thief Eugenides is now one of my all-time favorite characters. This is what I consider a successful, lovable, cheer-worthy character: someone who is both highly intelligent and extremely witty, physically capable (without being the brawniest dude in the room), and someone who undergoes some sort of emotional maturity over the course of the story. I definitely noticed a different character at the novel's end than at the beginning, and I like that. And I liked that Eugenides had to pull himself out of a depressing and practically insurmountable ordeal. It's okay for characters to get into a funk, but they need to be able to pull themselves out of it. :) The two rival queens of Eddis and Attolia are the other characters of great importance, and I liked how Turner portrayed the familial interactions between Eugenides and his cousin, Eddis. But since the Queen of Attolia is also the title character, I expected her to be a little more rounded and to play a bigger role in the story. But we don't see her except occasionally, until the last 100 or so pages. In that time, I didn't buy into the character transformation that Turner says she went through.
And really, the main reason this book is 4 stars instead of 5 is because of Megan's writing style. On one hand, I love her creativity and I love how brilliant she obviously is. She had a seemless ability to make three fictional countries come alive with extensive histories and geographic elements. But I feel like most of the book was told to me, not shown. Her characters are obviously meant to be highly rounded and with a lot of depth, but because of the fact that her narrative was more of a "telling narrative," I didn't feel much of a connection to what was going on. Even a 3rd person narrative can have some emotional exploration and insight, and I found that lacking here. I wish she would have just kept the 1st person narrative that she started in The Thief...
But I'm saying all this as a 20something reader. I have no doubt that kids/teens will be fascinated by the detail of this series and the literal nonstop action (I'm serious. This is one of those books that is just flat EXCITING to read). And it's definitely a series that I wholeheartedly recommend, especially to young readers and boys.