Earlier this week I posted about my recent interest/obsession with rereading some of my favorite children’s books—from chapter books to young adult novels. The first book in this rereading binge of mine was Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen of Attolia.
It might be odd to write about The Queen of Attolia because it is actually the second book in Turner’s series “The Queen’s Thief”. But because my books are all boxed up in my parents’ house, I had to go to the library to find some of the books on my “to reread” list and the library did not have The Thief (book 1). The Thief is a great book, and I highly recommend it as a MUST READ, but as Megan Whalen Turner says herself on her website about the order of the books, “I’d like to think that finding out major plot points ahead of time won’t ruin The Thief, but it will certainly change the experience. On the other hand, I think The Thief spoils The King of Attolia. So there are pluses and minuses to any order you choose.”
So I skipped ahead to read The Queen of Attolia, not only because the library didn’t have The Thief or because you don’t need to read The Thief to read The Queen of Attolia, but because The Queen of Attolia is my favorite books in the whole series. And a great example of the strengths of Megan Whalen Turner’s writing.
There are so many things I love about The Queen of Attolia, and Megan Whalen Turner’s books in general. One is the world. The entire series is set in a world that is half mythical and half real. Turner sets her story in a Mediterranean world with three primary fictional countries—Attolia, Sounis, and Eddis. But this world is not entirely made up. Turner bases her countries heavily on the Mediterranean countries, such as ancient Greece, and draws some true history into her stories. All of this makes the countries of Attolia, Sounis, and Eddis more real, like they existed as contemporaries of Greek and Roman civilizations.
Another strength of the entire series is the characters. The central character of the first book is Eugenides, a member of the royal family of Eddis and the Queen’s Thief. His role as the thief is self-explanatory. He steals things—everything from amulets to people. He is smart, clever, and has a quiet charisma that draws you in. After making something of a hero of himself in The Thief, Eugenides suffers a terrible set back in the beginning of The Queen of Attolia that will take all of his strength and will to overcome. But I won’t tell you what for the sake of keeping this a relatively spoiler-free review.
The other two characters I love most are the queen of Eddis and Attolia. They are as different as night and day, but both admirable, strong female characters. Helen, the queen of Eddis, is plain, but an independent and wise ruler. Her strength of characters wins her the undying loyalty of her court and her country, and especially the loyalty of her cousin and thief. Irene, queen of Attolia, is not so lucky to have the loyal support of her advisors and ministers. After coming into the throne following the assassination of her father and brother, Irene is forced to extreme measures to keep her throne, and it makes her a harsh and cruel woman. But both queen share a deep love for their countries, determined to do what is best for the people they rule.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Megan Whalen Turner’s books is the plot. Especially in The Queen of Attolia, the plot is a winding river of political intrigue, alliances and enemies, and unexpected turns of fate. Most books with this kind of fantasy leaning focus their plots of big battles and wars, but while there is fighting and armies in these books, the true plot lies in the behind the scenes politics. The queens of Eddis and Attolia and the king of Sounis plot ways to protect their country and weaken the others. They forge alliances and break truces. Schemes and plots abound in these books, the biggest ones belonging not to a monarch, but the thief himself.
I won’t talk any more about plots and twists because I really don’t want to spoil anything too big about these books. It’s much more exciting to read when you don’t know what’s coming. All I will say in closing is that if you haven’t read these books, you need to. Even though they are designated as “children’s books”, these books contain some of the best plots and characters out there. The only drawback is that each book leaves you wanting more, and even though there are four books out already, there is always a long wait before the next book. We’re still waiting for book five, and who knows when Megan Whalen Turner will publish that one.