The King of Attolia by Megan Whelan TurnerNovember 9, 2010 at 12:25 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | 2 Comments
Tags: Megan Whelan Turner
I frequently wish fantasy authors would write more standalone books and less one story, multi-book series, but my experience with Megan Whelan Turner’s books suggest they know what they’re doing. After reading and really enjoying The Queen of Attolia, I just kind of didn’t get around to reading the sequel for months. A chapter into it, I was wondering why on earth I had waited so long, because I was enjoying The King of Attolia far more than most of the books I’d read in between.
This is the third book in the series, so readers know pretty much everything about the main character, the retired (sort of) thief Eugenides, when they start. Unlike Queen of Attolia where his motives for most of the book were purposefully obscured, in King it’s pretty obvious to the reader what Eugenides is up to. Turner wisely tells the story almost entirely from the perspective of characters who don’t know him. I strongly dislike books whose viewpoint characters spend most of the plot doing what the reader knows are dreadfully stupid things, but here the viewpoint characters are reasonable people so the device works beautifully.
Of course, when considered dispassionately, Eugenides is basically a superhero, able to sneak around like a ninja but also fight even the most experienced warriors to a standstill in a straight-up fight. He’s still fun to read about, partly because of the quality of characterization, but also because Turner doesn’t bother trying to make the reader wonder if he’s going to win. Instead, she lets us wonder just how much collateral damage will be done before he gets what he wants. Like Dorothy Dunnett’s somewhat similar heroes Lymond and Nicholas (although not to their extremes), Eugenides is a dangerous person when under pressure, both to those around him and himself.
It would have been easy for Turner to have started churning out copycat Eugenides books after The Thief was a success. Well, maybe not easy, but certainly easier than what she’s been doing. The second and third books of the series have both challenged Eugenides and forced him to mature, and Turner resisted the temptation to hit emotional reset buttons, unlike so many authors (not to mention screenwriters, since serial TV is a big offender here too). Readers new to the series should definitely start with The Thief. Theoretically this is all YA, but if it wasn’t for the length (a nice change in itself from the multibook epics) I probably wouldn’t have noticed if not told. I definitely recommend the series for fantasy readers be they young adults (whatever that is) or actual adults.