The short: 4/5 ✦. Another wonderful installment in this realistic and real fantastic fantasy series.
One of the things I admire about Turner is her ability to jump around in perspectives, change main characters, and otherwise let us look at everything from entirely new points of view. It’s one of those things that seems like it would be deemed a no-no in writing classes, but Turner pulls it off with stellar prose, tight plotting, and simply spectacular writing all around.
The main character in The King of Attolia is obstinately a guard named Costis, though there are a couple other character POVs too, in a more omniscient way. Through Costis, we get to see the king from an outsider’s perspective, and from someone who hates him, no less (at first). I wouldn’t even deem Costis as the protagonist, since that’s arguably Eugenides, the titular King of Attolia. His whole arc throughout the book is fascinating because, as the synopsis states, he really doesn’t want to be king, but he loves the Queen too much to have given up the chance. Being Gen, he’s of course really stubborn about it and willingly acts the buffoon so the Queen is still clearly the one in power. Or . . . is that what he’s doing?
Like the first two books, nothing is quite what it seems in terms of plot, and luckily, despite Gen’s reluctance to accept his new role, we get to see his immensely clever brain at work in his most convoluted plan yet: getting the entire country to accept him as King and (subconsciously) also personally accept the responsibility. Though the Queen isn’t featured as much this book, she has some character development of the most lovely and romantic kind (no steamy scenes, just simple love of the purest sort, and it’s unbelievably cute and precious), and she’s also revealed to be as manipulative as Gen, though she recognizes when he has to fight his own battles.
The beginning is a little frustrating because everyone hates Gen, especially Costis, and though we as the readers know he’s not the lightweight fool he’s making himself out to be, he has to play his cards very carefully to slowly win over Costis, his attendants, the captain of the Guard, and finally the rest of the country. How he manages it is revealed slowly and magnificently in Turner’s signature style.
I truly admire this series for taking a traditional fantasy story and turning it on its end, making it real and gritty and political and full of personality as it should be. Next up: The Conspiracy of Kings!
Header image: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, published January 24th 2006 by Greenwillow Books