If you ever wanted to see what a five star book review looked like from me, here it is:
The King of Attolia is what I wish my writing was. I’ve read this book god knows how many times, and I still love it. It has intrigue, it has the chess-master of all chess-masters of a main character, and it’s just made of awesome in it’s characters, it’s payoff, and it’s worldbuilding.
It tells the story of the newly formed rule of the King and Queen of Attolia. The King is originally from the neighbouring land of Eddis, and as such, forced a political match last we saw him. The whole castle despises him for bringing their queen so low, and one day, it becomes too much for palace guard Costis to bear. He punches his sovereign, and fully expects his execution come morning. Instead, the King makes him his training partner, later promoting him so that Costis may be freed up to do as the king wishes. Thus starts a tale of politics, spying, treachery, and above all, the manipulations of a very powerful and intelligent man who is playing the fool.
Rating: 5/5 Stars.
Things I loved
The thing I most love about this book would have to be the POV. We’re watching all this from an outsider point of view. While anyone who’s read the previous books in the series knows just how manipulative the titular character is, Costis, our POV character, does not. This works excellently, because we know the king is up to something, even when he seems blatantly foolish, but we never know what he’s up too.
It’s like watching Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. We know his character is devious. We never quite know how he’s going to pull it off until right before he does, and then it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
- The Chess-mastery
It would obviously be spoiler-rific to spell things out, but the King promises his Queen that he’ll see certain people unseated from power in a certain amount of time. As you read the book, you see the king being humiliated, hassled, a whole manner of things, so you presume he’s dealing with these things in secret, waiting for his moment.
But no. He’s already got his plan in place. He knows what he’s doing, and he couldn’t care less about them hassling him – he just takes their efforts and turns it around on them, guiding them into place. They think they’re striking against him, but in fact, their stepping further towards the cliff of doom.
The worldbuilding in this book was a lot more constrained than had been previously. Which is understandable – the POV character is a guard, and his adult life has mainly been within the palace of the Queen. We do get a good look at the politics inside the court though, and how the guard itself functions.
Most interesting for me were some of the real world implications of some common tropes that most fantasy books skim over. When the king asks if Costis is willing to serve him and his god, he truly means serve him and his god. His god is a constant, ever watchful presence in his life, and effects both the story, and how it goes.
If every call to allegiance came with the added side note of “oh, btw, you’re pledging obedience to this all powerful higher being at the same time” I’m not so sure that I’d be eager to pledge allegiance to anyone. Interesting idea though.
- The relationship between the King and Queen
Again, this is revealed slowly, and its an interesting relationship to look at. The Queen inspires terror and awe in her people, and she still holds the majority of power. It’s not until later on in the book that we discover she actually wants her King to wield some of his own power – she believes he could make her rule stronger. The level of affection they have for each other is also interesting to observe – because as we’re in neither of their heads when they think on one another, we can only observe, and speculate at their affection for each other.
And they haven’t always been on the best of terms, so the past is no guide here.
Things I didn’t like:
Not a lot here. I felt that the ending was… well. It was good and appropriate, but I didn’t really see the over-arching point of the book in it. More than anything else, if felt like a novella – a slice of a much larger story. I only wish there was more of it.
So yes. A truely amazing book. More of a character book than a plot one, but I like them that way. I only wish it had been longer