The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner: A+

From the front flap:
There is a new king in Attolia. Attolia’s barons seethe with resentment, the Mede emperor is returning to the attack, and the king is surrounded by the subtle and dangerous intrigue of the Attolian court.

When a naive young guard expresses his contempt for the king in no uncertain terms, he is dragged into the center of the political maelstrom. Like the king, he cannot escape the difficulties he makes for himself. Poor Costis knows he is the victim of the king’s caprice, but he discovers a reluctant sympathy for the man as he watches the newly crowned king struggle against his fate.

Review:
Eugenides is being his usual brilliant, lazy, bored, self-mocking, others-mocking, and occasionally hotheaded self in this book. He’s such a great character; I could read a whole book just about him reacting to things. In fact, in the first hundred pages, there isn’t a lot of plot, just setting the scene of life at the Attolian court and how the also likable Costis has been snagged into the service of the king. “Poor Costis,” indeed.

And then the intrigue starts, and the character development, and the little revelations behind what the public perceives and… it’s just so well done! It’s hard to describe too much, as I am determined to avoid spoilers.

I’ve enjoyed every book in this series, but it’s been this one that’s really cemented me as a devotee and left me impatiently awaiting Gen’s future exploits. Each has been better than the last, but The King of Attolia is perfect. Do yourself a favor and read these books!

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner: A-

From the front flap, edited for spoilers:
When Eugenides outwitted the Queen of Attolia, she lost face. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered… she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.

Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.

Review:
The Queen of Attolia is the sequel to The Thief, set in the same world but without the same narrator. Strenuously avoid reading the description of this book on Amazon, for there is a spoiler right there in the first sentence. I was its victim, but thankfully, the event it describes happens fairly early on so I didn’t have to spend the whole book wondering when it was going to occur. Suffice it to say, Gen does a lot of growing up in this book.

He’s still as likable as he was the first go around, but with this volume, I’ve also grown to like the Queen of Eddis quite a bit. A rational, competent, female leader in trousers who spurns offers of marriage and earns her court’s loyalty by ability rather than by scheming, Eddis (the monarchs go by the names of their countries) is an excellent character.

Although I enjoyed The Thief, The Queen of Attolia is much better, in my opinion. It’s become more of a game of political intrigue, and I prefer that sort of story much more than one with lots of traveling. Essentially, there’s a power struggle between three countries in one part of the world, and they need to get their acts together to avoid being overrun by an Imperial power from another coast. Although Gen’s is primarily the main point of view, there are passages in each of the countries allowing us to get a glimpse of the motivation and rationale of all parties.

The Queen of Attolia is fast-paced, clever, and entertaining. I especially found Chapter 16 to be amusing. I am really quite surprised that my local library is shelving it in the Juvenile section rather than YA, as I’m not sure very young kids could really grasp the importance of, say, buying up a whole bunch of surplus grain as a political maneuver.

The one downside I could give it is that sometimes the story jumps forward to show Gen doing something, having made a decision he was struggling with previously, but without showing how he finally came to make his choice in the matter. In most cases, the story manages to loop back around and give a bit of explanation, but it can leave one in a state of not understanding his motivations for a time.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: B+

From the inside flap:
The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities. What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

Review:
That description makes this tale sound dull and full of theological tales, but really, there are only 3 or 4 of those. The real story involves Gen being recruited by the magus to help steal a stone that supposedly imbues the owner with immortality and proclaims him or her the rightful ruler of a country called Eddis, a neighbor to the country Gen and his companions are from, Sounis.

Gen’s traveling companions are interesting, though not quite as fully fleshed out as they could be. The evolution of the relationships throughout the course of the book is subtle and well done, as Gen is simply viewed as a tool to start with. Gen himself is a very entertaining narrator, clever and trying to be as annoying as possible at first, which is amusing.

The author is good at evocative descriptions that aren’t too wordy, but I would have liked to have had a map so as to better visualize their travels, particularly in the last couple of chapters. Although this was shelved in the Juvenile section of the library, she doesn’t noticably oversimplify things for the benefit of a younger crowd. Overall, the traveling portions are less boring than I usually find and were enlivened by the interactions of the companions, but towards the end, do get a little repetitive. Thankfully, the end itself is not dull.