Review written by Jonathan Lavallee.
The Queen of Attolia has captured The Thief and now she will make him pay for all the slights that she has felt from his presence—the little things that he’s done like leaving ruby earrings on her dresser, or changing the place of something in her room. This is on top of him stealing Hamaithes’ Gift right from under her nose, making her lose face in front of her barons. For someone who is a ruler because her barons have a healthy respect and fear of her, anything that damages that is intolerable. However, there is a voice whispering to her that she must not offend the gods. With this voice in her ear she does what the traditional punishment is for a thief, and cuts off his right hand.
The Queen of Attolia is perhaps my favourite book in the series. It takes the elements that are hinted at in The Thief and puts them front and center. There are the personal politics of the three rulers—Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia—which influence their public politics. While The Thief gives you the basic state of the land and the conflict, The Queen of Attolia makes it personal and makes it personal very, very quickly. As a reader, you get to see the personal lives of Eugenides and Eddis as they deal with his injury and what that means to her ability to deal with her neighbours. Attolia, seen by Eddis as someone cruel and harsh, has to deal with her own problems with a continental power, the Mede Empire. The book spans several years and you get a sense of the battles and alliances that take place between the three kingdoms.
However, your tween won’t get bogged down with battle scene after battle scene. There are a few skirmishes that break out but, despite the fact that alliances change and war is a constant in the book, it’s in the background. The focus of the story is very much the personal battles that the characters have, and their inter-personal relationships. Eugenides has to come to grips with the fact that he’s lost a hand and what that means as someone who is the Queen’s Thief. Eddis deals with her concern about Eugenides as well as her anger towards Attolia for maiming her cousin. There’s also the love that Eugenides has for Attolia, and the feelings that she has for him and Attolia’s inability to understand those feelings.
It’s got romance, and politics, and intrigue, and war, in doses that will keep tween readers entertained until they’re done with the book…which will be very shortly. There’s something for everyone in this book, and the dialogue between the characters is hilarious. They’re quippy, they verbally spar, they have honest moments of vulnerability. They threaten, they cajole, they complain (oh my goodness does Eugenides complain), and at no point does the dialogue feel forced, or like they’re talking down to anyone. The dialogue helps keep the story moving even though there’s a huge section of the book that deals with Eugenides recuperating from his injuries.
The Queen of Attolia does have some difficult and complicated parts, but if you have a tween who can handle it, they’ll be asking you for the next book!
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
When Eugenides gets caught by Attolia right at the beginning, the reader gets a good introduction to Attolia’s torture rooms heavy with the smell of blood. It’s dark and filled with devices that have a singular purpose of hurting people. The scene where they cut off Eugenides’ hand is hard too, and right on the heels of the description of the room. Eugenides sees what’s going to happen, and despite the fact that he’s incredibly concussed he fights hard against it.
Eugenides has a very complicated relationship with his family. He and his father have a long standing feud that still colours their relationship. It’s not as front and center to Eugenides as it was in The Thief but it is still there. There’s a part near the end where his father tries to strangle Eugenides after he informs him of a plan to try to save everyone. Eugenides’ cousins, the ones who were mean to him and held his head in a rain barrel, all sacrificed themselves to hurt Attolia after they heard that she had cut off his hand.
There is a lot of variety in the politics that the various rulers use. Sounis is ham fisted, but he’s got the backing of his nobles because he is a strong, military, male leader. Eddis is surrounded by her family who back her out of love and respect. Attolia is an island, cruel and cold because she feels that she only rules because her nobles fear her and the military that she built.
Love and Relationships
The main love plot is incredibly complicated, because Eugenides is still very deeply in love with Attolia despite the fact that she cut off his hand. Attolia is also in love with Eugenides, but she doesn’t have the words or the ability to understand what that means. Both Eugenides and Attolia are willing to do what they think is necessary to further the best interest of their kingdoms. Eugenides threatens to drown Attolia after he steals her away, and Attolia actually cuts off Eugenides’ hand and has several moments where she wishes that she would have just hanged him instead.
Attolia also plays with the Mede Ambassador’s affection to keep him believing that she’s interested in an alliance with the Mede.
If you liked The Thief then you should continue to read The Queen of Attolia if you think your tween can handle it. The Thief is a great book for your 10 year old, but you might want to wait a little bit and then surprise them when they’re a bit older with The Queen of Attolia. You may also want to get this book for yourself and read it, probably several times, before you hand it over to your tween.
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Published in 2001 by HarperCollins
Book two of four—sequel to The Thief, followed by The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings
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