Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: "The Queen of Attolia" by Megan Whalen Turner

(The Queen of Attolia is the second book in a series. I reviewed The Thief, the first book , here.)

"My" cover of The Queen of Attolia,
which apparently other fans despise.
The Queen of Attolia has not forgiven the thief Eugenides for outwitting her and escaping her judgment. When she captures him a second time in her own megaron, she invokes the historical punishment for thieves and orders his right hand be cut off before sending him home to his people.

The maiming of the thief becomes the catalyst for a war between three countries. The invading Mede Empire waits to overrun the first one weak enough to allow them a foothold. And Eugenides, one-handed and shaken, is called upon once more to snatch an impossible victory.

4.5 out of 5 stars

(grump + breakdown below the cut)


Oh for goodness' sake just read it. 

And that was, originally, all I meant to say about The Queen of Attolia. There's very little I can discuss that wouldn't ruin the delight of this complex, surprising story. Take the book on faith, on my recommendation. Don't read any more of a synopsis than the one I have given you. Don't let anyone ruin it for you. The Queen of Attolia must be read all unsuspecting.

But reading The Thief to my tender-hearted roommate has brought it to my attention that not everyone has my calloused book-heart. The Queen of Attolia's more somber content may come as a shock to those coming straight out of reading the prequel, which is all fun and witty shenanigans punctuated by occasional prison spells. In this novel, Turner depicts Gen's suffering (both the actual loss of his hand, and the trauma that follows) starkly and without softening the details. He becomes quite a different person than the sly, irreverent boy who narrated the first book. The larger story is one of ugly war and political maneuvering, rather than of an amusing heist. The first hundred pages are heavy going, emotionally speaking.

It took years before I realized that she
wasn't holding a bottle of magic floating
potion, but a hook prosthetic. Too late--
I'd already developed a resentment of
this particular cover.
From my perspective, the end of the story is worth all of the painful path to get there. If it were only a story about pain and war, I wouldn't recommend it so highly as I do. As hard as it may be to believe, given this warning, The Queen of Attolia is about positive character transformation.
"I can't steal things without two hands," Eugenides said bitterly. "That's why she cut one off."

"There are a lot of things that a person with two hands couldn't steal."


"Surely if it's impossible to steal them with two hands, it's no more impossible to steal them with one. Steal peace, Eugenides. Steal me some time."
But for some readers, the weight of suffering that opens the book may ruin their enjoyment of the story (and their week) entirely. So, for my gentler-spirited readers who just want a fun light romp out of their novels... for you and you alone, I withdraw my recommendation. Go reread The Thief and have fun.

Complexity of Writing: 3/5
Quality of Writing: 4/5
Strength of Characterization: 5/5
Logic of Plot Development: 5/5
Evocation of Setting: 4/5
Effectiveness of Pacing: 4/5
Resolution of Conflict: 5/5
Emotional Engagement: 5/5
Mental Engagement: 4/5
Bechdel Test: pass
Diverse Cast: pass
Content Warning: amputation, implications of torture, character trauma

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