This book moves away from Gen’s point of view even more and gives us a whole book with Sophos. The first time I read it, I really wasn’t a fan; Sophos was too often passive, too prepared to just let things slip by and become a slave, for rather nebulous reasons about it being easier. It actually worked better for me this time; I knew that the action was coming, so that probably helped, and I do love the interaction between Sophos and Eugenides. Once more it shows the difficulties for Gen in becoming a king: the fact that he can’t just have simple friendships, but must decide how to play at politics with his friends to his own and his queen’s advantage.
The first part still is rather wishy-washy, with Sophos just slipping into slavery and making no apparent effort to get out of it. As a narrator, he just doesn’t have the tenacity of Gen, and big chunks of the book are spent away from Gen, unlike in The King of Attolia. Still, this time I did think that the interaction between the two was worth the price of entry, and Sophos’ relationship with the queen of Eddis is also kind of, well, adorable.
If Costis’ narration in the previous book bothered you because it wasn’t really a book of action, there is more action here. Sophos has a kingdom to win back and defend, and he’s very much active in doing so. And we see more development of the relationship of the kings and queens of the area to their gods: Sophos learns something of what drives Eddis, revealed previously to Gen and the reader.
Overall, it’s a weaker book than the others, but it stood up surprisingly well to the reread.
If you’ve read The Thief, Gen won’t have you fooled in this book, but it sort of doesn’t matter because the point of view character is Costis, a young soldier in the ranks of Attolia’s guard, and he is completely taken in by Gen. As are most Attolians. It’s a joy to watch Gen fooling the characters around him in just the way the reader is fooled when reading The Thief — and to try and keep up with the way he’s thinking, why he’s doing what he’s doing, etc.
It doesn’t gloss over the problems inherent in the situation: the difficult relationship between Irene and Gen, the difficulty of getting her Attolian subjects to accept him, Gen’s continuing issues with being so closely watched over by the God of Thieves… It keeps all the balls in motion, hinting at the further difficulties that will arise as Gen really becomes Attolia’s king, while delivering a more or less satisfying storyline for Costis as well. He’s a bit bland (not to mention easily fooled, at least from the reader’s point of view, and not that perceptive), but his growing loyalty to Gen works well.
Pacing-wise, I think this might be the most successful so far, but I don’t have recent enough memories of The Thief to be sure. But really, I just enjoy the heck out of Gen making his own way through life, and darn how Eddis or Attolia or the gods think he should go about it.
It’s been ages since I reread The Thief, but fortunately the two books don’t rely on each other too much. The Thief introduces Eugenides and the pseudo-Greek world he lives in (along with its other, less congruous features, like pocket watches and the real and tangible presence of gods); The Queen of Attolia goes on to develop the character and his place in the world. It does a skillful job of developing a character who starts off completely unlikeable, slowly unpicking the difficulties of being a queen in a man’s world, of hardening your heart so that you can live to fight another day. And it touches on disability and recovery and betrayal and love, and of course there’s still some political maneuvering, because the characters just can’t resist.
There’s one aspect of the book that, both times, threw me somewhat and made me doubtful that it could pull it off. It does, albeit awkwardly: more with a sense of hope and promise than a sense of security or surety (though that comes later, in The King of Attolia). Eugenides’ relationship with Irene, the Queen of Attolia, is an interesting one, marred by their shared past and the terrible things Irene did in the effort to secure her throne, and yet… perhaps not beyond hope. There are aspects of it that feel a little sudden, like Irene suddenly realising that she actually likes Eugenides, but at the same time, you can look back through the book and see it happening.
It’s certainly not, at least, insta-love, or an easy romance. It always acknowledges that these two people are very different, that they hold power over each other, that they’re playing at politics as much as they’re reacting to each other as people.
Oh, and the Queen of Eddis continues to be awesome, of course.
This is a book that definitely hasn’t suffered from rereading; it was probably more satisfying than I remembered, I think, because reading it a second time just allows you to see the way all the threads come together, the way everything falls into place.
I remember feeling somewhat ambivalent about this book the first time I read it, but I was sure it wouldn’t be that way this time: over the course of the other books, I came to love Gen and appreciate the world. Well, I still do love Gen and I appreciate the world, the set up for the twist that comes near the end of the book, the way Gen’s voice works as a narrator. But I still wasn’t that in love with the world in this book; I still didn’t get that attached to the characters. This is a series where I think the middle books are the strongest, but I was surprised that the familiarity of a reread didn’t make me appreciate this more.
One thing I do like is that while you might initially expect it to be something like pseudo-medieval Europe, based on the limited details you get at the beginning, it quickly becomes clear that this is a Greek-based world — although there’s plenty about it that’s unique, as well. I liked the fact that the geography of the place mattered a lot, too: where things are in relation to each other, how you get from A to B, where you have to pass through on the way.
This does set up a fun world, but this story still felt simplistic to me, easily guessed and so not as absorbing as I’d hoped.
This week’s theme is “Top Ten Books I’d Like to Reread”, which is a topic just made for me — the first one in a while I think I could talk for ages about — because I love rereading. Honourable mentions in advance to Chaliceand The Hobbit, both of which I already reread recently! And I’m just going to leave it unsaid that I want to reread The Dark is Rising books, since I do that every year.
Seaward, Susan Cooper. I’ve been meaning to reread this for a while. Heck, by the time this post goes live, I might’ve got round to it already. It’s beautifully written, a bit more mature than The Dark is Rising, and I love the characters a lot. I read it right through the day I got it, I think, at Christmas a couple of years ago. And then I made my partner read it, and my mother, and… everyone else I could get my hands on, really.
The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay. I think this might be the next book in my chronological-by-publishing-date reread of GGK’s work. I think it’s my mother’s favourite of GGK’s books, and my partner loves it too; I remember liking it, though it wasn’t my favourite, but it’s one of the few I’ve only read once so far (along with Under Heaven, which is too new for me to have reread yet).
Sunshine, Robin McKinley. This is another I might’ve got round to already by the time this post goes live, because I’m tearing a streak through Robin McKinley’s work lately. Sunshine is one of my favourites; the world-building, the characters and their relationships, all the talk about food… And also, vampires done right, so that they’re genuinely fucking freaky, even Our Hero.
Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey. And pretty much everything by Carey, actually. I love the richness of her writing, and the intrigues of the court in Terre D’Ange. Honestly, if it wasn’t for all the sex and BDSM in the book, I’d recommend it to everyone, because the actual world-building is really cool. But I’m aware it’s not something everyone can be comfortable with.
The Fire’s Stone, Tanya Huff. I could swear I’ve already talked about wanting to reread this somewhere on the blog, but I can’t find it. I did start a reread recently, but then got interrupted. I’m particularly curious because just before I first read this, my partner and I were working on an original world/plot that was very, very similar in many ways. And I’m looking forward to the relationship between the three main characters, and the way the situation turns out for them all. It’s sweet, feel-good stuff.
The Winter King, Bernard Cornwell. I’ve always loved the way Cornwell handles the legends. Okay, some of his characters really don’t fit with the legends, and I do like the legends, but at the same time he has one of the most likeable versions of Galahad, and a really interesting take on the magic/reality stuff where the narrator can view it as magic and we can dismiss it as trickery, or maybe not quite.
The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner. And the rest of the series. It’s easy to read, fun, and does interesting things with the character, the world, etc. I’m less a fan of the most recent book, but I’m still going to try rereading it.
The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula Le Guin. The whole series, really, but this one is my favourite. It marks a separation from the world of the first book, which is fairly conventional fantasy, and begins to shape a place for women and a different view of the world that’s more in line with Le Guin’s own beliefs. And she’s so good at writing the small clear moments of quiet that really shine (Ged’s hand and the thistle).
Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb. It’s been a long time, and I miss Fitz, Nighteyes and Verity. (My mother never liked Verity nearly as much as I do, but I find him one of the most genuine characters of the lot — not subtle, not perfect for his job, but doing what he can and making good despite the difficulty.) And there’s a new Fool trilogy now, which I even got an ARC for originally, so I want to reread everything to get back up to speed for it.
Sorcerer’s Treason, Sarah Zettel. I remember these being good books, using a less typically Western fantasy setting, with a lot of Russian influence and I think later Asian? I remember finding it very different, at any rate, and I do like Zettel’s work. So, soooon. I hope.
Any of these your own special favourite? Let me know! I comment back to everyone who comments here, both on my post and on your own if you’ve done one.
Hello everyone! I’m late with Stacking the Shelves this morning because my partner’s internet doesn’t want to access WordPress. I seem to have it sorted now — fingers crossed… So anyway, it’s not been a bad week, though I’ve so far resisted buying any books in the local shops (though I do know the location of just about all the publicly accessible English-language books in Leuven).
From the library
I feel like I should like Mary Stewart’s Arthurian work more than I did the first time I tried it, so I’m going to try again, and the library provided that excuse. I’m pretty sure The Bone People was recommended to me by Jo Walton, so I was excited to find that. And there’s some other sci-fi stuff I should read, and The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane because the title makes me think of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.
And a gift from the author…
x ecd6mm2aqwe““““““““““““““““ asz,.jupy[;ol <— That was my partner’s bunny’s commentary on the matter. Here’s a picture of her in her tunnel.
And if y’all beat my record for number of comments on an StS post, my partner says I can give her a treat, and maybe we’ll take a video of that.
Anyway, I did also pick up some books on the Kobo store, as you might’ve expected.
Clariel is obviously one I’ve been waiting for a loooong time, and Kobo messed me around a lot in getting it. Hot Key Books, the publisher, were really great, though. They recced me Tribute, so I picked that up too. Megan Whalen Turner is a reread for me. The others have been recommended by various people and so on.
Okay, that’s it. Remember, every comment increases Hulk’s chances of getting a treat. She ecd6mm2aqwes you!