Friday, October 2, 2020

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

I'm going to save you a bunch of time and heartbreak, and tell you something I wish someone had told me before I was seduced by the sea of glowing four- and five-star reviews for this book: If you liked the first book, THE THIEF, the sequel, QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, is going to depress and anger you, and KING OF ATTOLIA is going to bore and frustrate you. There, I said it.

THE THIEF was one of my childhood favorites. I read it in middle school and really enjoyed it-- it stayed on my childhood bookshelf for years before I finally got rid of it in favor of other books, but it was a story I never forgot. All of these stories are set in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Greece, where the gods interact with and look over their charges, but tend to take a light hand in favor of letting the mortals figure out things for themselves-- even at the cost of their suffering (read: see QUEEN OF ATTOLIA).

THE THIEF is narrated in first person and I loved Gen's voice, which made QUEEN OF ATTOLIA somewhat of a disappointment because it's narrated in third person-- and Megan Whalen Turner decides to torture the everloving hell out of her poor character, in a way that wouldn't have felt out of place in a Game of Thrones episode. I was honestly shocked, because even though there is violence and intrigue in the first book, it's pretty mild, whereas tonally and contextually, the sequel seems much older in terms of the age group it's targeting. This is not really made clear, and thank goodness somebody warned me.

In KING OF ATTOLIA, the reader is removed yet another step from Gen. Now the narration (still in third person, blast it) is from a guard named Costis, who is loyal to the queen of Attolia but ends up serving the king by marriage. Costis has a lot of scorn for the king at first and undermines him at every turn with resentment. But gradually, he comes to realize that the king isn't the usurping fool he imagined; in fact, he might be worse-- a blend of compassion and danger that makes him infinitely lethal and foolish to underestimate. That is really the only saving grace of this book-- the twists. There's always a great twist at the end of one of these books that just completely turns everything on its head.

So, I'm a little torn on what to read this book. It's filled with way too many characters I didn't care about (including the narrator), and takes way too long to get where it's going. Towards the 55% mark, it picks up-- finally-- and the payoff is good but isn't really worth the slog. Plus, I freaking hate the Queen of Attolia still and I think it's quite disgusting how the ship between her and Gen is forced in. I don't buy them as a couple anymore than I did Rhysand and Feyre from the ACoTaR series. I'm sorry, but you can't just ret-con a bunch of abuse and problematic behavior for the sake of your ships and your plot contrivances. I won't buy it, and it's lazy as all get out, and it makes me write reviews with a frown.

If I hadn't already bought the next two books in the series, I would have quit here. But apparently Sophos is in the next book and I like him, so hopefully this means Costis will be left in the dust.

P.S. Hugs and smiles to Erika for BR-ing this series with me. Her reaction to the events in QUEEN OF ATTOLIA made me feel like I was slightly less delusional and I'm so grateful for that.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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