Book 1: The Thief
**** This review does spoil earlier books so if you haven't read The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, here's your chance to leave. I'm going to be circumspect in the premise and first paragraph, then I'm diving in. :) ****
The Premise: Costis is a captain in the Attolian palace guard and he has very little respect for the new king of his country. Like most Attolians, he's certain that his queen is not a willing wife to the new king, a weak and silly man, who is nothing like how a king should be. So when the king makes a disparaging remark about the Attolian guards, Costis sees red and hits his king in the face. This begins his own personal nightmare as he's forced to redeem himself by becoming the king's new whipping boy. It also gives Costis an up-close view of the new king of Attolia and the longer he serves him, the more he discovers.
My Thoughts: Heheh, things get good in this installment. Once again the story is in the third person, but the focus is now on a new-to-us character - Costis, a member of the Attolian palace guard and what his perspective is on his king and queen shortly after their wedding and the treaty between their two countries. Costis is a very straightforward kind of guy. He's honest about how he feels and he prefers things to be simple and out in the open. Which makes him not only the complete opposite of his king, but an easy target.
I really hope that the people who haven't read the first two books are gone now so that I can stop dancing around who is now king. If not, you did this to yourself.
Alright, so by the third book, I think readers have gotten to the point where they have certain expectations of Eugenides. Namely: you don't underestimate Eugenides. He's just good at thinking several steps ahead and at pretending to be more vulnerable and powerless than he actually is. While this is something that I love about his character, he can't approach his current situation the way he is indefinitely. The problem here is that he is king, and as Costis tells him after hitting him, it is "because you didn't look like a king". I think that part of Eugenides reluctance to take up the reins of power and to really show his true strength is that he wants to be married to Attolia, but becoming king to be married to her wasn't something he thought about. Now he's far from his home and family in unfriendly territory.
This book is about Eugenides moving forward towards accepting his position. He already has it in him to be kingly, but these are the first days of his rule in a country that has its share of unrest. Its Barons test the Queen when they can, and no one likes the new King. It's in Eugenides' nature to poke fun at people even when they don't know that they're made fun of. He dances with the wrong girls, he falls asleep at important meetings, he looks bored and foolish.
The fun of this book was sitting back and seeing him through the eyes of a new character and in a new role and setting. It's fun to watch the subtle progression in Costis' feelings as the book goes along, because he becomes privy to things other Attolians do not see. For instance the relationship between the king and the queen, and Eugenides' weak moments. There's a certain amount of darkness there, much more than previous books.
I think this may be my favorite of the series, but I don't think it was perfect. There were parts that felt over explained, and this is a series that explains though showing - so for instance the relationship between Eugenides and Attolia was sometimes theatrical. I also felt like part of this book had Eugenides exerting his powers to direct Attolia towards a different rule - one that has less fear and mistrust, and they way this was shown was problematic. I felt like some parts were heavy handed if you got what was going on, but on the other hand, if you didn't understand the point of what Eugenides was doing, it may just look confusing.
Overall: I pretty much loved The King of Attolia. There were minor details that I felt could have been better, but otherwise I had a ton of fun reading it. I think it appealed to the thinker-aheader in me to see if Eugenides could surprise me. I love books that do that.
Fantasy Cafe - 8/10
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes - 5/5
Angieville - positive
Stella Matutina - 4.5 stars
Book Harbinger - positive
fully-immersed - positive
All About Books - positive
jmc-bks - positive