As part of my rereading spree–which has been amazing–I’ve reading Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series, a little out of order though. I started with The Queen of Attolia, which I already reviewed. The review gives a good summary of some of my favorite elements of every book in this series, but I love these books so much I couldn’t help but review The King of Attolia too.
For those of you not familiar with the series, go read the books. But here is a short summary of the events leading up to Book 3, The King of Attolia. Book 1 (The Thief): Meet Eugenides. He’s “the queen’s thief” for the country of Eddis. He steals things–objects, people, hearts–and he is very good at it.
Book 2 (The Queen of Attolia): Eugenides is stealing from the wrong person. Irene, the queen of Attolia, a country neighboring Eddis, has managed to hold her throne in the midst of treachery and instability through clever maneuvering and cruel shows of strength. And she is sick of Eugenides making a fool of her by stealing things from her palace. So when she finally catches him, she cuts off his hand. Sent back to Eddis, Eugenides suffers from PTSD and depression, but eventually rejoins the world as the countries of Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis prepare for war. Proving that he can still things with one hand, Eugenides steals the queen of Attolia.
Book 3 (The King of Attolia): Now Eugenides is king in a country where everyone hates him. He loves the queen–even though she cut off his hand–but despises the crown he must wear as her husband. The throne of Attolia is still unstable, and the Mede empire is threatening to invade. But the unstable political situation with the barons may destroy Attolia before Mede even sets sail. It is the king’s job to stabilize the country, but what can a one-handed foreigner do against the dangerous Attolian court and the looming Mede empire?
The King of Attolia has all the great aspects of a Megan Whalen Turner book–great characters, political intrigue–but the genius of this book in particular is the structure. The book introduces a new narrator, a member of the royal guard named Costis. He’s a great addition to the book because he allows the readers to see the characters, especially Eugenides, from a new, third party perspective. He sees Eugenides as Attolians see him, an imposter king who forced the queen to marry him. He thinks Eugenides is inept, sloppy, a terrible king and a terrible husband. And the reader agrees. Through Costis, the reader sees Eugenides careless attention to state matters, his minimal interactions with the queen, and his sorely lacking fighting skills.
But Costis, and the reader, are only seeing what’s on stage. It’s not until the end that Megan Whalen Turner reveals everything that went on behind the scenes–Eugenides plan to destroy Irene’s greatest domestic enemy, win the loyalty of the guard, and stabilize the throne. Only at the end does Costis, and the reader, realize, “Oh, snap. Eugenides is a genius. And the king and queen really love each other.”
It’s an emotional and thrilling ride, this book. Eugenides struggles with his disability and his situation as king are visible, but so is his genius. At the end, you really can’t help but appreciate how incredible Eugenides is (or how awesome Eugenides and Irene’s relationship is). This book is a definite MUST READ. I just reread it, but I feel like simply turning back to the first page and starting again. OR IF MEGAN WHALEN TURNER WOULD WRITE BOOK FIVE ALREADY.