The Attolia Series, by Megan Whalen Turner

I’ve now read A Conspiracy of Kings (twice!), and felt compelled by its awesomeness to write a review, which is impossible without at least mentioning the previous three books in the series.

So I’m going to attempt reviewing the entire series.

With as few spoilers as possible.

Which will be a trick. 🙂

Here goes.

Book #1: The Thief

After bragging that he can steal anything—and flaunting the pilfered king’s seal in a tavern to prove it—Gen winds up in prison. Fortunately, the king’s adviser, the magus, needs him, and Gen finds himself bundled along on a cross-country trek in pursuit of the mythical Hamiathes’ Gift, an object which can only be retrieved by a thief.

But this isn’t just a straightforward adventure story. Set in the three countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia, MWT gives us a wonderfully-drawn world inspired by the landscape and culture of ancient Greece, complete with her own pantheon of gods. She’s so exact in her story-telling, so deft with her characterization and so careful with every single word, that you don’t notice the subtleties of her impossibly tight plot until it whacks you up top the head at the end and you find your jaw sitting involuntarily on the floor.

This would be why The Thief garnered a Newberry Honor.

Book #2: The Queen of Attolia

In many respects, The Queen of Attolia feels completely different from The Thief. It reads more like a YA novel, and is told in third person instead of first. Gen—or Eugenides as he’s referred to in this book—is still the main character, but the third person POV changes things a bit.

In Queen, Eugenides is forced to deal with a terrible loss, and the third person POV gives a certain amount of needed distance from this loss. We learn as much or more about Eugenides’s character than we did in The Thief, but the focus is slightly different. He’s vulnerable in a way he wasn’t in the first book, and as we mourn for him we wonder if he can go back to the way he was, we wonder if that’s even possible.

And while we’re worrying about Eugenides, MWT is busy with her careful descriptions and meticulous character studies and oh-so-subtle-and-understated plot threads. There’s war, political machinations, a new threat to our trio of countries in the form of Nahusersh, the oily ambassador from the Mede empire, and last—but certainly not least—one of the most intriguing romances ever to grace the boundaries of fiction. We’re talking rivaling Eowyn/Faramir and Doctor/Rose, here, so you know I mean it.

Oh, and I started reading this series because of Queen’s cover. Intriguing, no?

Book #3: The King of Attolia

This is the book I can say the least about without completely giving everything away. It’s narrated in third person by a young soldier named Costis, but is still very much about Eugenides—we get an even further wide-angled view of him than we did in Queen. It’s a great, great book, filled with all the MWT surprises and subtleties and complexities and heart we’ve come to expect.

And that’s really all I can say. 🙂

Book #4: A Conspiracy of Kings

Narrated largely in first person by Sophos, a character from The Thief, this, again, is a different book entirely from the other three in the series. Eugenides is important but even more distant than before, and for once this isn’t his story—it’s Sophos’s. We find out what he’s been up to since the first book, and follow his journey from timid, insecure boy, to mature, hardened-yet-vulnerable king.

Sophos is a great character, albeit very different from Eugenides (whom he sort of hero-worships, which is adorable), and I really enjoyed getting to know him. I read Conpsiracy last Wednesday and again over the weekend because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

You really almost have to read these books multiple times to understand/appreciate all the subtleties and motivations; MWT is a careful, meticulous writer, which is why rereading her books is so rewarding—you inevitably find things you missed the first (or second, or third) time around.
There’s a definite sense in Conspiracy of things-being-set-in-motion-for-epic-ness-to-come (there’s two more books planned in the series), which left me feeling a ttiiiiiiny bit unsatisfied, because I know there’s going to be a long wait to find out what happens next.

But only a tiny bit. 🙂

___________________

That was hard. I started this post on Tuesday.

Advertisements

A Conspiracy of Bookstores

So today is March 23rd, a day I have been looking forward to for some months, as it is the day that the fourth book in Megan Whalen Turner’s ridiculously-amazing-but-I-can’t-really-tell-you-much-about-them-for-fear-of-spoiling-the-awesome Attolia series, A Conspiracy of Kings, was released.
Too bad none of the Borders or Barnes & Nobles in the greater Phoenix area seemed to notice. 😡

Oh glorious A Conspiracy of Kings. What lies between your pages? Will I ever know???

NaNoWriMo Day 23: Green Bar!!

Wordcount: 50,107
Chapters Completed: 8
Number of Characters Being Badly Treated: all of them, in various ways (heh heh heh)
Sanity of Author: 67%
Overall Quality of Prose: Absolutely Atrocious
Color of Bar: GREEN!!!

Look, everybody! My bar’s GREEN!

*dances wildly round the library, to the disapproving stares of the young woman simultaneously texting and browsing one of the computers, the lady with the patterned red skirt perusing the reference books, and the old man in the green sweater conversing with a lady in coral-colored pants who sounds exactly like Emma Thompson*

Okay so I’m not literally dancing. You know.

Last week I was about ready to give up on this thing entirely, but a much-needed Saturday writing marathon with good company and yummy tea boosted me up to 47k, and also reminded me that, horrible writing aside, I actually do like this novel. 🙂

In non-NaNoWriMo news:

I just finished reading the first book in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, which I enjoyed heartily. It is narrated in part by a snarky djinni who employs footnotes with spectacular sarcasm. Very much looking forward to book two.

I meant to link to this in my last post; it’s an interview with the fantastic Megan Whalen Turner, author extrodinare of The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and the forthcoming A Conspiracy of Kings.

And that about wraps it up!


Loving the color green,

Joanna

Fantastic Reads!

Today I give you a list (complete with mini reviews) of Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order). So, here you go:

Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order):

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine


I discovered this book at the library as a kid, and have reread it multiple times over the years. Unlike the movie version that shares the same name (the movie was sorta cute in its own way, but the book is about ten thousand times better and completely different), Ella Enchanted is a quirky, imaginative, and touching re-telling of the Cinderella story. Complete with fairies, curses, masked balls, adventure, and ridiculously-adorable-romance-by-letter.

Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith


An old favorite—pretty sure I could quote the entire thing from beginning to end. Originally published in two separate volumes (Crown Duel and Court Duel), this book chronicles the history of the spunky Meliara, Countess of Tlanth, from her role in a misguided war to her noble (but equally misguided) attempts at unraveling the multi-layred intrigue at the royal court. Complete with battles, dashing and mysterious members of the aristocracy (swoon), secret admirers, squee-worthy-Jane-Austen-esque-romance, and a fabulously satisfying ending.

Beauty: a Retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast, by Robin McKinley


Another old favorite, this gorgeous retelling of my favorite fairy tale is as touching as it is beautiful. Last time I re-read it, I got all teary, so you know it must be good. 🙂

Jackaroo, by Cynthia Voigt


Another old favorite, Jackaroo is not quite fantasy in the traditional sense, as it contains no magical elements, but in my mind it still totally counts. It’s a medieval-esque adventure-romance set in an invented land called simply “the kingdom,” and tells the story of Gwen, an innkeeper’s daughter, who happens upon the clothes of an infamous folk hero crammed in the back of a cupboard… Full of gritty details and touching realism, this story has a wonderful ending that you don’t quite expect.

East, by Edith Pattou


A more recent favorite, East is a retelling of the lesser-known fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which is sort of a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and the Cupid and Psyche myth. This is a gorgeous book, told in alternating first person points of view, which in some cases can be annoying, but in this case works marvelously. It’s about a girl named Rose, and a White Bear under an enchantment, and an evil Troll Queen, and an epic journey North… Beautiful and gripping; first time through I read it all in a day.

The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner


Another semi-recent discovery. I first read The Thief on the plane en route to Michigan for a friend’s wedding a few years ago, and devoured Queen and King shortly thereafter (I’ve read all three twice more since then). These are the kinds of books where the least amount of info you know going into them, the better you’ll enjoy them. Which makes them kinda hard to review. I’ll just leave it at:

  1. Well-drawn and realistic world inspired by ancient Greece
  2. Ridiculously intricate and clever plotting—with surprise twists and turns galore
  3. Fascinating characters
  4. Equally fascinating relationships.

Basically, read them NOW. You won’t be sorry.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones


Tragically enough, I didn’t discover this wonderful book until last December. I’ve already read it twice. Basically, Sophie works in a hat shop, gets turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, and becomes a cleaning lady for the heartless Wizard Howl. Filled with delightfully quirky characters, a rollicking (and complicated) plot, and deliciously amusing chapter titles (like “In Which Sophie Talks to Hats” and “In Which Howl Expresses His Feelings With Green Slime”). This is the kind of book that, once you get to the end, you want to turn back to page one and read all over again.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale


I know I mentioned this book a while back when I’d first read it, but it bears mentioning again! Based on a lesser-known fairy tale, Book of a Thousand Days tells the story of lady’s maid Dashti and her Lady Saren, who get shut up in a tower for seven years because Saren refuses to marry the suitor chosen for her. The prose is beautiful and rhythmic, the plot fascinating–and surprising!–and the characters well-drawn. A great, great book.

Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce


A very recent addition to my list of favorites, Curse Dark as Gold is a compelling reworking of Rumplestiltskin. It follows the story of Charlotte Miller, a young woman struggling to save her family’s mill. When she accepts the help of the mysterious Jack Spinner, who can spin straw into gold, she fights against the idea of the old family curse, afraid of what it might ultimately cost her. As well as the gorgeous prose, great characters, adorable romance, and chilling fantastical elements, one of the neat things about this book is the attention given to detail; it almost reads like historical fiction set during the industrial revolution, and one really gets the feel for life in a woolen mill. A fascinating and intriguing read.