Sunday, August 16, 2009

Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia Series

I have been putting this review off for a while now (no reflection on the books, I'm just a lazy bum) but I thought I'd get to it since this series is probably one of my favorites in 2009. First off these books are a YA (young adult) series. I mention this because many people (adults) prefer to leave the YA books to YA, and they don't know what they are missing so I'd thought I'd give a heads up.

To set the scene, the Attolia series takes place among three kingdoms, Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia in an era that likens itself to ancient Greece with all the mythical gods and beliefs firmly in place. The main character is a thief called Eugenides who finds himself in jail more times than he would like.

The Thief (A): We start the series with Gen incarcerated in the Sounis prisons where he was thrown after boasting of and then stealing the King's seal. Gen twiddles away his time the best he can until the King's top adviser comes a calling. The Magus makes Eugenides an offer he has a tough time refusing... Help me retrieve this ancient artifact from this mythical temple or die a long, slow, excruciating death. Hmm... let me think about that one and get back to you. Yeah, Gen accepts.

Off they go, Gen, the Magus, the magus apprentices Sophos and Ambiades, and a soldier called Pol in search of the hidden temple. The story builds up slowly and at times you wonder, where is this going? but Turner has a purpose for everything, from the confrontations with the apprentices "Useless the younger and Useless the elder" to his unlikely friendship with Pol who never seems to fit in. The book just wraps around you and then when you get to the end you have to do a double take because nothing is what it seems... and then some.

Honestly, Gen wormed his way into my heart and kept a firm grasp. He made me smile, laugh out loud and finally gasp in surprise. You really need to start the series with this one because it introduces you to Eugenides and gives you a clear idea of what this mild manner Thief is capable of.

The Queen of Attolia (A): A lot to live up to as the sequel to The Thief, The Queen of Attolia doesn't disappoint. You won't find the silly Eugenides in this one but more of a man dealing with loss. The three kingdoms (Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia) are losing the uneasy balance they have achieved in the past under the pressures of the Mede Empire. No one knows who is to be trusted and the Queen of Attolia, who has had to prove herself a capable queen since she took her throne, finds herself with the reputation of an implacable and cruel monarch which is put to the test when she captures the Thief of the Queen of Eddis.

Gen had been sent to spy on the neighboring kingdom when he was captured. At first he believed that the Attolian's would kill him but was proven wrong when he receives the sentence thieves of old received and is sent home maimed. Eddis is devastated by the pain and loss that Gen suffers and retaliates by declaring war against the Attolians, something that the Mede Ambassador encourages since it falls right into plans with his Emperor

This one is full of political intrigue and alliances made and broken. The author deviates from the single point of view of Eugenides and gives us the Queen of Attolia's point of view as well. Everyone talks about this book as the star of the series because there is so much going on but it really depends on what you are looking for in the book (my favorite is the last book - more on this later).

Like in the Thief, you sometimes have to pay close attention to what you might think are insignificant details because when all is revealed you end up with a WTF? Superb writing and wonderful characterization brings the war and different sides of the confrontation to life as well as Eugenides' pain and in the end the one handed thief still is capable of stealing our hearts.

The King of Attolia (A+): For me this one was the prize that had been promised through the other two installments of this series. I graded the others as wonderful but this one was fabulous! In the King we find Eugenides married to the Queen of Attolia, which makes him... The King of Attolia! but this is not a position that he actually wanted and the Attolian's would want him off the throne too. They show him no respect and think little of him as their monarch, regarding him as a humiliation to all Attolia.

Gen is away from everything that is familiar to him and misses his carefree days but he loves his Queen and will not give up his position by her side. The Queen sees how her people disrespect the man she has chosen to rule with her and knows that the only way that they will change their minds is if Eugenides steps up to the plate and starts acting like the kind his is but he refuses to become King to her Queen.

Love Love Love this one. We see Gen not so much from his point of view but that of a complete stranger. Costis is a guard that eventually gets to know the real Eugenides and little by little finds himself respecting the thief turned king. We watch through the eyes of the Attolians how Gen is perceived and how that perception changes.

I loved the relationship between Gen and the Queen, loved how human she became from the first time we met her in the previous book. I love that she was a strong Queen but also a strong partner for Gen who needs a bit of nudging to get him going. We can see in this book how she matches him perfectly, something we were left wondering in the previous installment. Like the previous books there is a twist at the end that should not catch us off guard because we should have learned to expect this from Turner but still she marvels us with her twists and turns.

This series is my favorite (as of yet) for this year and it's a YA. Doesn't surprise me since last year a YA series was also my favorite for the year (Stephanie Meyer's Twilight). The Thief was awarded the Newbery Honor award in 1997 and each subsequent installment also deserves a prize. If you have not yet read this series, don't hesitate in picking it up, you will not regret it. I recently posted about the announcement of a new addition to this series (more of a spin off as I'm lead to believe) which is centered in the world Whalen-Turner created. It is suppose to release early 2010 and is called A Conspiracy of Kings.

Can you guess I'm a bit excited about that?


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