The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. ★★★★
The King of Attolia is the third in the Queen’s Thief series, which starts with The Thief. I would suggest reading at least The Queen of Attolia beforehand to know the background on the different characters going in. Note – there will be inevitable spoilers for previous books in this review.
The King of Attolia is a introspective, character based YA fantasy novel. Honestly, if I hadn’t known it was marketed as YA, I wouldn’t have guessed. The characters ages are never explicitly stated, although we know Eugenides to be young. It’s also has very low levels of magic. There’s a bit of communicating with the gods, but nothing beyond that. Certainly, there’s no wizards or dragons.
The King of Attolia takes up not too long after The Queen of Attolia left off. Eugenides has married Attolia (Irene), but the court absolutely hates him. They consider him to be weak and stupid, and to be fair, he doesn’t give them many reasons to think otherwise.
The majority of the novel is told from the point of view of Costis, a palace guard. Costis has the misfortune of losing his temper at the king and punching Eugenides in the face. Certain he’s about to be executed, Costis is instead made Eugenides personal guard. Costis provides the perspective of an outsider and lets the reader see Eugenides from the perspective of the court. Costis gradually comes to see more and more of who we know Eugenides to be from previous books.
The strength of this series is the characterization, which is excellent. There’s so many complexities and subtleties going on. All of these characters feel realistic, and the joy of the series comes from getting to understand them. It’s a pleasure to spend time in their company, and Eugenides is relentlessly charming.
Plot wise, The King of Attolia is slower paced book focused around court intrigue. It reminds me a lot of The Goblin Emperor, actually. My main criticism is that there’s a bit of a lull about a hundred pages from the end, where it seems like everything’s wrapped up. There’s still somethings to be taken care of, but it throws off the pacing.
I’d recommend The King of Attolia for those looking for a quiet but well wrought shorter fantasy novel.