A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{August 5, 2010}   The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Plot: …I don’t know how to summarize these three books without giving everything away. The series follows three small countries (Soumis, Eddis and Attolia) and their rulers. They are all facing the threat of foreign invasion and are each dealing with it in their own ways. In the first book the king of Soumis is trying to win the hand of the Queen of Eddis so that he might claim her country and strengthen his own. To this end, his highest adviser leaves on a quest with a thief to find a holy object. In the second book, Eddis, Attolia and Soumis go to war. And in the third Attolia’s new king must adjust to his new role and bring the country’s rebellious barons under control so that they can confront the invaders with a united front.

That (purposely vague) plot description does not do this series justice. This is a wonderfully rich fantasy world with complex and realistic political intrigue (and people behind the intrigue) and a compelling pantheon of gods. I’m not entirely sure why this series is often shelved with the children’s books in book stores, or even the YA (though it is put out by Harper Teen, an imprint I’ve grown quite fond of). These are dense books about adult characters and about politics. There is nothing inappropriate in them (a little gruesome violence aside) and I would have loved these as a teen, still I find the editorial choice interesting. I suspect a lot of adult fans of political fantasy (like myself) are missing out.

The writing quality and style develops beautifully over the three books. I admit that I had a bit of trouble with the first book, The Thief, mainly because of the first person narration. The main character in all three books is an intelligent man who wins through trickery and manipulation. He’s wonderfully good at it and even tricks the reader at times. But this is also why the first person narration bothered me. How do you trick someone who is in your head? The big reveal at the end of the first book left me feeling a bit betrayed. But the two other books do away with the first person narration and are better for it.

The King of Attolia is definitely the best  in terms of plot, character development and intrigue (though there is now a forth book, The Conspiracy of Kings, which I would love to find even better) but they all have something to commend them. The Thief, whatever else I may say about it, makes beautiful use of stories and storytelling. And the Queen of Attolia pits two strong, powerful, intelligent and deeply interesting women against each other in a battle that I became as invested in as they were. To think I found them in a remaindered book sale and picked them up for the pretty covers.


H.L.Fatnassi says:

The covers are quite lovely and it sounds like a really nice series. Will have to check it out.

I’m glad YA has been developing as a target audience genre but one thing I don’t like about many people’s mentality is the idea that YA isn’t for adults or that if it’s not R, it’s a kiddie movie. It’s a disservice to both ends of the equation.

I am going to have such a reading pile once I catch up with your blog. ^^;

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