Eugenides ends The Thief in triumph, but within the first chapter of this sequel, he is back in the prisons of the Queen of Attolia, where he loses his hand to the executioner’s axe, while the Queen looks on impassively. Forced to deal with the rest of his life as the Queen’s Thief of Eddis, with only one hand, he bitterly retreats to his rooms in seclusion, leaving Eddis without his skills just as the peninsula erupts in warfare, from both within and without.
With a title like The Queen of Attolia, you know that she is going to be a major character, and most of the book is spent in political maneuvering between the queens of Attolia and Eddis, but I was unprepared for the role that she takes on towards the end of this book. I found the backstory behind this development highly unbelievable. If you want to know why, highlight the following spoiler:
They are in love with each other? Really? No, I mean it. Really? He saw her as a young girl dancing in the gardens and fell in love with her. She listened to his fevered dreams outside his prison cell (where she had put him) and fell in love with him. And then the next time he ends up in the prison, she chops his hand off, but she still loves him, and he can forgive her chopping off his hand, and thereby destroying his professional life, but it’s all okay, because of twoo wuv. Seriously, Turner has her work cut out for her in book three if she wants to make me buy this.[END SPOILER]
The Queen of Attolia is much more psychological than The Thief, which may displease some of the younger fans of the series. The political machinations also seemed to be drawn out considerably, and it wasn’t until the last third or so of The Queen of Attolia that I felt the story line really seemed to move forward. This is symptomatic of many second books, as there is a need to get the story from point A to point B, and the action is sometimes a bit contrived to make that happen.
Even with an implausible development in the interactions of the characters, The Queen of Attolia is still a good story. Darker both in content and tone than The Thief, parents may want to read the first few chapters with their children to discuss Eugenides having his hand chopped off. In the last fifty pages, Megan Whalen Turner sucked me back into the story and I am looking forward to book three, if for no other reason than to see if she can make me believe what happened in book two.
Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen of Attolia, the second book in her THE QUEEN’S THIEF fantasy series, begins much the same as The Thief, the first book in this series: Eugenides (Gen) the thief is in prison. This time it is the Attolians who have captured him, but he’s made them, especially their queen, even more angry than he had the kingdom of Sounis in the first volume. From this similar beginning, however, the plot veers in some completely unexpected directions. Whalen Turner explained this in a Publisher’s Weekly interview:
I could have written a whole series about fun, cool, exciting things Gen could get away with, but they would all be leading up to a point where he did something he didn’t get away with. The next significant thing that was going to happen to Gen would be when he got caught. It was inevitable. So I started Queen there. I knew some people would be upset but I trusted they would also see it had to happen eventually. To write something else would be a kind of lying to ourselves.
It’s difficult to say much more without spoiling the story. This book, even more than most, is one that should be read without being spoiled. The first part of The Queen of Attolia is heart-wrenching and difficult reading, however. The first time I attempted to read it, about a dozen years ago, I foundered on the rocky part of the plot and didn’t finish it. However, after reading the third book in this series, The King of Attolia, and falling in love with the characters all over again, I came back to The Queen of Attolia to give it a second try, about five years ago. I made it through the book that time and rated it three stars; I was still much more enthused about the other two books in the series than this volume.
However, on this read, my third try, I’m rating it a strong four stars. Rereading the entire series, it has become more apparent how cleverly Whalen Turner has plotted this book, how well the books’ plots interlock with each other, and how brilliant and devious her characters are. Small nuances in the plot can carry significance. Each main character has layers and hidden depths. They can be charming and maddening, sympathetic and brutal, all at the same time. And the ancient Greece type of world, with gods and goddesses that are real and intervene occasionally in the lives of mortals, is fascinating:
“Stop whining,” Eugenides said.
“What?” Eddis’s expression shifted from wary to puzzled.
“That was the message. For me, alone among mortals, the gods send their messenger to tell me to stop whining. That’ll teach me to go hide in a temple.”
For a young adult fantasy, The Queen of Attolia has a surprising amount of complexity and depth. Due to the painful and disturbing content in some parts of the book, I don’t recommend this for middle grade readers, but the rewards for more mature readers are great.