Mar 23, 2012

Review: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Book cover of The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Title: The King of Attolia [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Megan Whalen Turner [Website]
Standing: 3rd in The Queen’s Thief series
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: January 1st, 2006 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Paperback; 387 pages.  
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Spoilers!:  This review contains spoilers for the first two books, The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, so go read those first!

You can always change the perceptions of fools.
Eugenides, the former Thief of Eddis, has found himself in an uncomfortable situation as the reluctant new consort of Attolia.  Beyond nearly anyone’s comprehension, Eugenides didn’t marry the queen to become king, he became king to marry the queen.  Costis, a young guard, finds himself reluctantly dragged into the king’s circle, acting as the brunt of his ploys.  Grudgingly, his scorn for the new king turns to respect as Costis realizes that Eugenides has more to offer Attolia than it would appear.

A story that had matured in The Queen of Attolia has officially reached a point where I hesitate to say this series is really Young Adult any longer.  Not that it isn’t a perfect read for the intended age group, but it saddens me that so many adults probably overlook this series not realizing its depth and complexity despite the fact that at this point all of the characters are adults (yes, I realize this is the second time this week I've bemoaned labeling).  While many YA authors churn out books at the rate of one or more a year (and I am in no way degrading the work they put into them at this pace), Megan Whalen Turner takes around 5 years to write each installment.  This pace alone should be a tip off of the many layers of complexity and intrigue that exist in The Queen’s Thief series; if MWT takes five times longer to write her books, the result appears to be that I will be five times more satisfied and boggled when the pages run out.

The writing of The Queen’s Thief series is incredibly subtle, and I appreciate that MWT gives her readers the credit they deserve.  She doesn’t feel the need to explain everything, but lets you figure it out from the context, and she doesn’t use dialog unnecessarily.  Words aren’t needlessly repeated or wasted when actions or previous conversations can explain things.  You can divine the nature and strength of relationships from things so simple as the usage of names.  For example, the usage “Gen” vrs. “Eugenides” vrs. “Attolia” can exemplify the character’s relationship to Eugenides without us needing a lengthy explanation of their feelings toward one another.

I love the usage of folklore and mythology in these books.  Each book has at least one break where we get to learn a new tale of the gods or an old folktale.  The presence of the gods is really the only point of ‘fantasy’ in this series, but it’s enough.  The existence of the gods as not only real but immediate and powerful and interested in mortal lives is unique.  The stories we are told are always pertinent to the story, but come into play without hitting us over the head.

I realize this “review” has been more like “ramblings on The King of Attolia” but what’re you gonna do?  I love it.  I love the feeling you get when all of the pieces finally click into place and you can see the big picture.  MWT never hides the truth from her readers, but that doesn’t make the truth easy to see, and I cannot wait to go back and reread to see all of the breadcrumbs as they’re laid. When I began, I was heels-digging-in-the-ground stubborn about the point of view change to a character we had never even heard of. By the end, however, I could completely understand the reason for this and ended up loving this story told largely from a guard's perspective.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  Of course!  Although I have to admit I’m somewhat hesitant to start A Conspiracy of Kings because I know that once I finish it I’ll have a good few years to wait before the next installment. Still, I'm OCD enough to want these reviews consistent, so hopefully I'll have one ready by next Friday.

Recommended for:  Pretty much everyone.  This series is complex enough to keep adult minds reeling, but totally accessible to younger readers.

Real life repercussions of reading this book: I want a map! I'm certain I have Attolia and Eddis and Sounis so jumbled up in my head, I need this to sleep better at night.


  1. Yay, it makes me happy that you're now a Megan Whalen Turner fan too. You know there was supposed to be a map in A Conspiracy of Kings but I heard that it wasn't finished it time for publication. I do hope the next installment will include a map.

    1. I hope so too! I finally started Conspiracy last night, and am really enjoying getting to catch up with Sophos. Kinda missed that kid since The Thief.


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