I was so excited when I learned that there would be a sequel to 'The Thief' and 'The Queen of Attolia'. I was filled with anticipation for months, and when I finally got my hands on a copy of 'The King of Attolia', I practically devoured the poor book. And I must say, it was well worth the wait.
Megan Whalen Turner writes well, but her style will never be described as poetic or lush. Instead, her prose is matter of fact and to the point, describing settings without trailing on forever, and capturing moods skillfully. She excels at writing believable, humorous dialogue; some of it was so funny that I found myself laughing out loud.
Ms. Turner's plots and characters are what make her books so wonderful. Just as the plot of 'The Queen of Attolia' was very different from the plot of 'The Thief', 'The King of Attolia' possesses new themes and characters, while continuing the main storyline. I have noticed that Ms. Turner is distancing herself from Eugenides with each book: 'The Thief' was from his point of view, 'The Queen of Attolia' was third-person, but often from his point of view, and 'The King of Attolia' is third-person, but from the point of view of his guard, Costis, who is in nearly every scene. This technique makes sense. In 'The King of Attolia', Eugenides is a married man, and deserves some privacy.
The book mainly focuses on how Eugendies is perceived by the Attolians. Nearly all of them despise him. They love their queen, and they think that Eugenides is an undignified, unkingly idiot, who has humiliated Attolia by marrying her. Attolia wants Eugenides to step into his position of kingship, but Eugenides never wanted to be king, only to marry her, and he is digging in his heels and resisting her every effort. His attendents hate him, he is homesick, and, being Eugenides, he hasn't a chance of getting through the entire book (or even the first half of the book) physically and emotionally unscathed.
Most of the story lines are neatly tied up by the end, but, I must warn you, some of them are left dangling, and I am already panting for another installment in the series. I appreciate the way Ms. Turner takes the time to think up unique plots for each of her books, so I will try to wait patiently, but it's already difficult.
I love Ms. Turner's books the most because of the characters.
Costis is interesting and conflicted, but nothing like Eugenides. Though he is in nearly every scene, he is by no means the main character. He serves as the witness through whose eyes the reader views the real main characters: Eugenides and Attolia. He sees more of their private life than most people, but we can only guess at what happens between the two of them when he is not watching. (Intriguing hints about their wedding night are sprinkled here and there, but nothing inappropriate for younger teens/adolescents.)
Eugenides has matured a lot (and suffered a lot) since he first appeared in 'The Thief', but he remains the same marvelous, incorrigible, dangerous young man. His relationship with Attolia is fascinating. He loves her, but she frightens him; she loves him, but he frightens her. They are a surprisingly well-matched couple, and Ms. Turner protrays their complicated relationship beautifully. It's strange, unfathomable, and believable.
I love Eugenides, but I love Attolia as well, and I really enjoyed the closer look at her. She is no spunky warrior queen of fantasy fiction. She is both feminine and tough, and can be both gentle and ruthless. It's what makes her frightening, but it's also a wonderful combination for female character. In no other book have I encountered a woman quite like her. She would do absolutely anything for her country, and most of her people would do absolutely anything for her. She too develops in surprising ways throughout the book, becoming even more human and accessible than she did in 'The Queen of Attolia'. She continues to have a rather unique sense of humor, and threatening Eugenides with bodily harm is (usually) her way of making a joke.
Also, the court of Attolia is very, very different from the court of Eddis, and that was another factor I enjoyed in this book. Attolia and Eddis are both wonderful women, but they rule their kingdoms in completely different ways. If you liked Eddis striding around in trousers, being practical and understated, then you will almost certainly like Attolia sweeping through the halls in beautiful gowns, striking terror into the hearts of her subjects.
To my slight disappointment, Eddis and the magus are only in two scenes, and the minister of war does not appear at all (though he is occasionally discussed). The ambassador of the Mede plays an important role in the story, but does not interact with anyone. Other characters take their places. Teleus, Relius, and Ornon are three secondary characters from earlier books who become complicated and interesting people in their own right.
As soon as I finished 'The King of Attolia', I had to go back to reread my favorite scenes, and there were many. This book is excellent, and I eagerly await more!