Monday, September 19, 2011

The Queen/King of Attolia (Megan Whalen Turner)

To recap the series:
The Thief (reviewed here)
The Queen of Attolia (reviewd below)
The King of Attolia (reviewd below)
A Conspiracy of Kings

Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Publisher: Green Willow Books (HarperCollins)
Length: Queen: 279 and King: 385
Rating: 4/5
The next two books in the Queen’s Thief Series did not disappoint. (As a side note, one of the great things about the library is that you get to read books in their original form. As these books were published about five years apart, I get to see the evolution of their book cover designs first hand. I admit to thoroughly judging a book by its cover, so it’s always interesting to see how covers change through time. After much scrutiny, I approve of the current hand-obsessed book designs.)

No matter how many books set in fantasy worlds I read, I continue to be amazed at the level of detail created by their authors. The world presented in these books is no exception. I really wish I had a map so I could better picture the lands of three main countries of Attolia, Eddis and Sounis. And while the HarperCollins catalogue promises a map in the latest book, I’m not seeing one.

The cover of the book I read
The current cover
The Queen of Attolia (2000): Things I liked:
1.      It jumps right into the story. The Thief starts with our hero (of sorts) Eugenides in prison in Sounis, and the second book opens with Eugenides trying to stay out of prison in Attolia. Fitting for Eugenides, a thief named after the king of thieves. All of the books begin with action and then piece together how Eugenides came to be in that pickle, and how he will escape (or often can’t escape, but tries anyway).
2.      We get more than Eugenides point of view. This book is called The Queen of Attolia, and we often get her thoughts and actions as well. I’m going to call it limited first person omniscient, as much is hidden despite seeing so much.
3.      It’s unconventional. The ending is never expected, but you grow to love Eugenides enough that you can accept whatever the author throws at you.

Other thoughts: The physical book I read has lived in the library for about ten years. Somewhere in that time, a reader took it upon themselves to ink out any “bad” words in the text. I never verbally swear myself, but even I don’t have an aversion to the words chosen to be crossed out (I had to guess based on context they were so well scribbled over, but usually I don’t find “hell” and “whore” to be that deplorable). What I’m saying is that I’m not a fan of censorship. I first read these books ten-ish years ago, and my young, (slightly righteous) sensitive mind wasn’t offended then. If it’s your book, do with it what you will. But if it’s a library book, I say treat it with more respect- let each reader decide what they like and what they don’t. Have you ever come across a censored book or been tempted to censor a book?

Current cover (as I read it)
The King of Attolia (2006): Things I liked
1.      By this point, we know not to trust the narrator, whoever they may be, to tell the reader the full story. This book pushed it even further, introducing a new narrator, Costis, who is clearly wrong in a lot of his interpretations. It was frustrating seeing everything from this skewed point of view, but necessary for the development of the plot. It’s almost a mystery story the way things are revealed and everything comes together.
2.      Eugenides will always be one (or five) steps ahead of everyone else. He’s like the author, pulling strings and making things happen, unseen in the background.
3.      Each book introduces a new and ever-expanding cast of characters. This keeps the books fresh even though they’re always about Eugenides and happen in a short period of time.
Other thoughts: Unreliable narrators abound in fiction. Sometimes I like them, taking pleasure in noting things the main character does not. Sometimes I hate them, thinking they are really wrong and stupid and need to figure things out. Sometimes I don’t even notice until it is revealed a character was wrong all along. What are your thoughts on unreliable narrators?

I had the great pleasure of meeting Megan Whalen Turner’s editor at Green Willow Books, Virginia Duncan, while at the Denver Publishing Institute, so I might have to email her and find out the story about the missing map as I read A Conspiracy of Kings. A review will be forthcoming! 

And in case you were curious:
As I read it (the original I believe)
Current Edition

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