He’s up in the rafters, spying on rotten power hungry schemers. He’s walking along the parapets…on his hands. He’s jumping from rooftop to rooftop, with a flagon of wine in his hand. He’s swiftly deposing of his enemies. This is the Eugenides we see in The King of Attolia. He’s still as defiant, sharp-tongued and clever as he was in The Queen of Attolia, but now, he’s got to lead a people who adamantly hate him. Which is tough for someone like him because, knowing him, the more you look down on him and believe you know him, the more he’ll surprise you and irk you and get you all riled up in frustration. That’s what he’s good at!
In this book, you’ll see Eugenides pitted against the Attolians, from his own royal attendants, to the general of the royal army, to the royal secretary and master of spies. Everyone wants a piece of him and he gives them ample examples of how terrible and unkingly he is. Plenty of examples. But you can’t ever be too sure of yourself when you’re around The Thief, you better watch your back, or that dark shadow creeping up to your bed in the dark hours of the night will turn out to be your worst (and most elegantly petulant) nightmare.
This book made me laugh in surprise… there are so many funny scenes of Eugenides acting out and completely enjoying the expressions of disbelief and contempt on the faces of those around them. It’s almost as if he does it test them out, to see if they’d react the way he expected them to, then, to confuse them further, he grins wide and rakishly, blatantly enjoying the commotion he creates as he goes. So all these confused Attolians, with their formalities and their stiffnecks, can say to make sense of the chaos that is Gen is call him a nutball and pretend that they have him completely figured out.
The King of Attolia is a story mostly from the point of view of Costis, who, unlukcily, must be His Royal Devious One’s personal body guard/lieutenant, and be the butt of all of Eugenides’ jokes. So, basically, Costis has to run around after Gen, which turns out to be the most difficult task he’s ever been given. Not only does he feel worried about having to watch King Gen’s back when he’s out talking a private walk in the gardens, he has to cater to Gen’s odd habits of locking himself in his room and staring out a window, of his late night prowls and disappearances, and his every whim. It’s so very amusing to read!
Here’s an excerpt:
“Ahh,” said the king, and then “Aagh!” a moment later. “What is that, an awl?”
“Oh, no, Your Majesty, no, as you can see, it is a very fine needle.”
“It doesn’t feel like a needle – it feels like you’ve spent too much time working on people who don’t pay you and you should – ow! Ow! Ow!”
Costis closed his eyes, appalled. The king couldn’t lie on a deathbed with a sense of dignity. The attendants were all on the verge of breaking into laughter, and the king, far from minding, was enjoying every minute of it.
The queen’s lips thinned.
“I am very sorry,” the physician said helplessly.
“Stop apologizing and hurry.”
“Your Majesty, I…” Petrus looked as if he were about to cry.
Ornon spoke firmly from behind the doctor. “Your Majesty is upsetting his physician.” The ambassador stepped closer to the bed. He and the King locked gazes.
Eugenides looked away. “Oh, very well,” he said, sulkily. “Tell him to get on with it.” He took a breath and let it go in a brief huff of audible petulance.
The poor physician! He didn’t know whether to take Eugenides’ whining seriously or not. Such is the nature of this whole story! You never know if Eugenides is just playing with you, or if he’s really got something in mind…
Rating: 4.5/5 Puzzled Courtiers