REVIEW: ‘The Queen of Attolia’ (2000) by Megan Whalen Turner

by Sarah on December 16, 2009 · 11 comments

Genre: Children’s/Young AdultThe Queen of Attolia

POV: 3rd Person

Sensuality: N/A

Violence: One disturbing scene

My Grade: B+

I read The Queen of Attolia as part of Keishon’s TBR Challenge. It’s the second book in Megan Whalen Turner’s wonderful series about the thief, Eugenides. I adored its predecessor, The Thief. Although these books are billed as children’s books, I think the series has appeal for a much wider age group.

While I try as far as possible to avoid major spoilers in my reviews, there is an important twist towards the end of The Thief which will be apparent when I describe the basic plot of The Queen of Attolia. If you haven’t yet read The Thief, you might want to skip this review.

The Queen of Attolia takes place a couple of years after the end of The Thief. Eugenides has grown older and more cunning, but he’s about to meet his match. On a spying mission for the Queen of Eddis, Eugenides has crept into the Queen of Attolia’s palace. His mission is to gather information for his monarch but Eugenides can’t resist provoking Attolia by moving her belongings about her room, among other practical jokes. Attolia realizes who is behind these pranks and orders the palace searched. When Eugenides is finally caught and brought before her, Attolia orders him to be hanged. A few choice words from Nahuseresh, the oily ambassador from the Mede Empire, persuade Attolia to change her mind. Instead, she orders Eugenides right hand to be cut off – the traditional punishment for a thief.

By the time an ailing Eugenides returns to Eddis, his queen has declared war on Attolia. At the same time, the country of Eddis is facing an attack from her old enemy, the King of Sounis. After a slow and painful recuperation, Eugenides is determined to prove himself useful to his queen. He succeeds in kidnapping Sounis’s chief advisor, the Magus, and starting a war between Sounis and Attolia. With Attolia and Sounis preoccupied fighting each other, Eddis hopes to gain a little time to prepare for the inevitable war with both her neighbours.

The icy Queen of Attolia, meanwhile, is wracked with guilt for what she did to Eugenides. At first, Attolia is reluctant to acknowledge that what she feels is guilt. She has been used to ruling her country with an iron fist and ruthlessly suppressing any hint of rebellion. Unlike the Queen of Eddis who is beloved by her subjects, the Queen of Attolia is feared by hers. Feeling any sort of affection for another human being is alien to her and Attolia doesn’t like it.

Eugenides has been fascinated by the Queen of Attolia since he was a little boy. When the opportunity presents itself to manoeuvre her into a political alliance through marriage, he doesn’t hesitate to do so.

While The Thief remains my favourite book so far in the series, The Queen of Attolia is a wonderful story. I adored Megan Whalen Turner’s imaginative use of Greek mythology, history and landscape to create a world which is entirely her own.

The highlight of this book was Attolia’s character. She’s ice cold and Machiavellian in her approach to politics. Megan Whalen Turner provided enough background to explain why Attolia is the way she is without rendering her a pathetic character. I wasn’t sure how Megan Whalen Turner could redeem Attolia’s character sufficiently for me to want her to marry Eugenides. By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure they would have a HEA, but I believed they could try. There are several loose ends which will no doubt continue in the next book in the series.

One niggle I had was the vagueness concerning people’s ages. I would guess Eugenides to be in his late teens. The Queen of Eddis is described as being a few years older than him, and the Queen of Attolia is even older than that. So what sort of an age gap do they have? Five years? Ten years? Given my assumption that Eugenides is under twenty years old, I do wonder how he can find lasting happiness with a woman who is probably a decade his senior. I would imagine Megan Whalen Turner will explore their relationship more fully in The King of Attolia, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Also Reviewed in this Series:

The Thief (1996)

Other Reviews of The Queen of Attolia:

Avid Book ReaderA-

The Book Smugglers10 out of 10

Dear AuthorB+

Medieval BookwormNo grade but very positive review

AngievilleNo grade but very positive review


Victoria Janssen December 16, 2009 at 14:18

I LOVE Turner’s work.

She has a new one coming out in 2010.

Sarah December 16, 2009 at 14:22

@Victoria Janssen I know and I can’t wait! I plan to read The King of Attolia in the meantime.

Mandi December 16, 2009 at 14:30

I read Thief and it was really good so I just read your review with one eye open. I need to get my hands on Queen!!

RStewie December 16, 2009 at 14:57

I’m looking to get my neice this set for Christmas…does it have any sex or cussing in it? It’s billed as “children’s” but I’ve read some YA lately that she can’t read.

Keishon December 16, 2009 at 15:15

does it have any sex or cussing in it?

Not that I recall. There’s barely any kissing but Sarah’s memory is more recent. This would be a great gift set to give for Christmas. What a great idea. It does have some mild violence in them though.

Sarah December 16, 2009 at 15:16

@Mandi This is a wonderful series. I hope you enjoy The Queen of Attolia.

@RStewie There’s neither sex nor cussing in The Thief and The Queen of Attolia. I can’t speak for The King of Attolia, but I’d imagine it’s similar. There is a brief reference to someone having a lover, but that’s about as sexually explicit as it gets!

I’d definitely recommend starting her with The Thief as The Queen of Attolia assumes a background knowledge of the characters and the world in which the stories take place.

@Keishon Our comments crossed!

Magdalen December 16, 2009 at 15:26

I still can’t decide if MWT thinks she needs to be tricky to be good. (If she does, then she’s wrong. She’s good even without the tricks.) Some of what she withholds from the reader is appropriate, and makes the ending of each book exciting. But a lot of it seems unnecessarily tricky.

That it’s her prerogative as an author is undeniable, but it seems at odds with Eugenides’s character. He’s definitely the kind of guy who doesn’t reveal anything until he needs to, but the twist in the Queen of Attolia — how he feels about the Queen of Attolia — struck me as not a “Wow! I didn’t see that coming!” sort of twist but rather a “Wow! Bud, you might have mentioned that sooner!”

Turner has created a fascinating landscape and world with wonderful characters. This may just be me — but I think she can tone down the “unreliable narrator” convention and just tell great stories about this world.

Keishon December 16, 2009 at 16:28

Well, MagdalenB (as we’ve discussed this on Twitter which I enjoyed, btw), what you see as “tricks” I view as nice surprises. Such different perspectives and I always find that fascinating when discussing books. King of Attolia was pretty much the same way, info being withheld purposely to give a nice twist at the end. I like it and it works for me.

RStewie December 16, 2009 at 17:16

Thank you so much! I’ll be getting her this series, then. She’s been on the lookout for some new books.

heidenkind December 16, 2009 at 22:40

I LOVED this book. Like whoa. This is actually the first book in the series I read, so I was totally blown away by the story and the twist (which I have to say is kind of spoiled by this review). I mean, I was enjoying the book a lot before that, but then I was like, “Hang on, this is a LOVE STORY??? Teh awesome.”

Personally, I like how MWT always has twists in her books that you never see coming, but that fit perfectly into the story. If you don’t like twists in stories, you probably should just not read her books.

Ana December 17, 2009 at 14:19

I LOVE this series and I am a HUGE fan of the unreliable narrator and the “twists”. I agree with Keishon – they just work for me. But to be honest, I don’t think they are SO out there. If you go back and re-read , knowing what to look for, a lot of things are telegraphed. Like how Attolia feels towards Gen and how he feels about her. There is the earrings incident, the way he raises his eye-brow like she does. How she can’t sleep until she hears news about him. it is all there – and I love it.

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