Back in May, I read The Thief for calico_reaction's Monthly Dare. I ended up *really* liking it and promptly picked up the next two volumes in the series that were at the time available in paperback. I didn't get around to reading them until now because of other reading obligations, but since the paperback of A Conspiracy of Kings just recently came out in paperback, I decided to finally hunker down with these.
Overall, I didn't enjoy this second installment nearly as much as the first, and it's mostly due to the narrative voice and a "twist" that happened near the end of the novel, which I *will* be talking about, so definite spoilers ahead.
In The Thief, we were presented with a first-person POV from Eugenide's perspective. That was probably my favorite part of the book. He was such a funny and snarky character, so seeing things from his point of view was a delight, to say the least. In this installment, Turner decided to use a third-person omniscient narrator. I don't mind third-person narration, but I prefer when its limited (we still only get to see things from one character's perspective) because it helps ground things a little better. With the narration in this book, Turner slips and slides through a bunch of character's perspective and sometimes does so in the same paragraph, causing me to sometimes not know which character's perspective were experiencing at any given point. This wouldn't have been so bad if there had been some kind of clue in the text as to when this head-hopping was happening, but more often than not, it would just come out of nowhere. So that bugged me a little bit.
The other thing that drove me kind of bonkers in this book was the aformentioned "twist" near the of the novel. This "twist" is Gen taking the Queen of Attolia hostage and forcing her to either consent to marrying him, or drowning her. When she chooses, reluctantly, to marry him, he then professes his love to her. Now, the reason this bothered me so was because at the beginning of the novel, Attolia CUTS HIS HAND OFF and causes Gen all kinds of grief: nightmares, sullenness and his sudden uselessness as a thief... just all kinds of stuff that is described in the first quarter of the novel. So to me, it just made NO sense for Gen to be in love with this frigid young woman. Also, him describing how he discovered he loved her because he would sneak to the castle and watch over her (unbeknownst to her) kind of creeped me out and felt a little too stalkerish for my tastes. It also just felt very manipulative on Turner's part, and she really didn't have me sold.
Now, some things that I really LIKE about this novel, and about this series as a whole, is Turner's writing. These books are put in the Middle Grade sectiom (9-12 yrs) of the book store, but they don't read like they're solely for middle-schoolers. They're easy enough for middle schoolers to grasp (though I'm interested to see how many of them would be interested in the heavy political intrigue that's in this book, as opposed to the "quest tale" that's present in The Thief) but the writing isn't dumbed down in any way so that they're perfectly enjoyable for adults as well. I definitely have to applaud Turner for her ability to cross so many age-barriers.
Actually, when I think about it, these books remind me of middle-grade versions of A Song of Ice and Fire, in that this is a fantasy series that's set in a world that clearly isn't our own, but the "fantasy" aspect of it is kept to a minimum. Not to mention they're both character-centric series, both rife with political intrigue. There's just a whole lot less killing going on these books, for obvious reasons.
The world-building in these books is quite decent as well, my favorite part of it being the pantheon of gods. They're talked about much in The Thief than in this volume, but they're still present nonetheless. They're the only fantasy aspect of the novel, and they're very played down, but I think I like these books all the more for that.
This isn't anything I especially like or dislike, but while reading this book I had a hard time visualizing the characters in my mind because we're never given anyone's age. All that we're ever told explicitly is that Gen is quite a bit younger than Attolia, and that Attolia and Eddis have been ruling for quite some time, BUT, they both rose to the throne fairly young. So, I usually pictured them to be anywhere between 18-22 years old. Gen I figured was about 15-16. It's not something that's overly important, but I was still curious nonetheless.
Final Verdict: I didn't enjoy this second volume quite as much as its predecessor The Thief, and this was mostly due to the change in narration (we go from a first-person POV to a third-person omniscient one) which brought about a lot of head-hopping between characters which left me a little frazzled and sometimes frustrated. Also, the big reveal at the end of the novel really didn't do it for me, and it felt manipulative on the author's part.