The Queen of Attolia

One of the few good novels that I read last year was Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief, the first novel in The Queen's Thief series. I liked the wit and it was very entertaining and I must say that The Queen of Attolia was more of the same. It was not boring or static, like many sequels can be, but rather fun and compelling.

In the first novel of the series we met Eugenides, sometimes called Gen and often referred to as The Thief since he’s the Queen of Eddis thief. In The Thief, Eugenides steals a long-lost medallion that makes him both famous, appreciated and feared. In The Queen of Attolia, Eugenides small country Eddis goes to war with the powerful nation of Attolia and in Eugenides eyes it’s his job to rescue his land. To succeed, Eugenides – a man who has claimed to be able to steal anything – will have to steal something from the Queen of Attolia that she gave up a long time ago. The fate of not only Eddis but Attolia and Sounis as well, rests on Eugenides shoulders and one mistake can bring the Medean Empire to their continent to run over them all.

Like I said, I thoroughly enjoyed The Thief but I was careful to not have my hopes up too high for the sequel. The Queen of Attolia was, however, wonderful and well written. Eugenides is a lovely character. He’s funny, smart, sarcastic and daring. He fights for what he believes is right and he always has something extra up his sleeve. He goes through some substantial changes in The Queen of Attolia and I think Whalen Turner tells his story in a very good way. I don’t want to spoil what’s going to happen, but Eugenides must learn to live in a whole new way, something that’s not easy for him. I felt for him so many times in this novel, but I did enjoy following along on his journey.

In addition to Eugenides new life, The Queen of Attolia presents a few new, very important, characters, like the Mede ambassador in Attolia. The backstory of Queen Attolia is also revealed, which was very interesting. A substantial portion of the novel takes place in Attolia and you get a lot of information about Eddis neighbouring country as well. However, I do feel that Eugenides journey is the biggest part of the story and seeing him grow, from a reckless boy to a clever young man, was interesting.

What I think really makes these novels special is the way Whalen Turner tells the story and all the daring and, sometimes, downright crazy, plans and ideas Eugenides has. It’s so much fun seeing all the crazy things he does and how often he ends up in trouble for it, only to solve it in a hilarious way. Both the first and second novel is thrilling, exciting and funny. I have a hard time finding it all in one novel, but these certainly have everything you could ask for, and more.

I will certainly continue reading this series and if you haven’t picked the first novel up yet, what are you waiting for? This is a fantasy series when it’s at its best. Intrigue, lies, love, war and a conniving thief hellbent on always being right – what more do you want? Do yourself a favour and read these books. You won’t regret it.

The Marked Girl

This is going to be a long rant and with spoilers so if you want to read The Marked Girl (don't do it!) then you should skip this review because wow. I did not like this novel. I had such high hopes for it and I was left with what I can only describe as a disaster.

Liv is a sixteen-year-old girl from Los Angeles who lost her parents ten years ago and has lived in foster homes since then. She wants to be a filmmaker and one day when she’s out filming a project for her movie-making class three strange teenagers appears seemingly out of nowhere. These kids are crown prince Cedric, his betrothed Kat and their friend Merek and they’re really from Caelum and have come to Earth through a portal right next to the place where Liv is. In Caelum the royal palace is under attack and Cedric, Kat and Merek had to flee in order to hatch a plan and save their kingdom. They end up in Liv’s world, however, and when the portal closes they have no way to return to Caelum besides a vague remark Cedric’s father makes about some scrolls that should open another portal back to their realm. Liv stumbles upon Cedric again a while later and after finding out about who Cedric really is Liv decides to help him and his friends to go back to their world. She doesn’t know, however, how dangerous this will be both for her and her loved ones and she has no idea how connected she is to Cedric and his realm.

I thought this seemed really interesting when I first heard of this novel nearly two years ago. I got myself a copy last summer but didn’t read it until right before the year ended. I had high expectations but none of them were met. I always try to pick out at least one thing that I thought was good in a novel, but nothing was good with The Marked Girl. It was just various shades of bad and horrible. The only thing I liked was the cover and that's probably because the author had nothing to do with it. The inside of the book was awful and here’s why:

The writing was so bad. It’s a Young Adult novel so maybe you can’t hope for too much (but at the same time, a lot of YA literature is very good) but this was one of those books that makes you wonder if it has missed a stage of editing. The language was childish and weak, it was very repetitive and there was nothing that made the characters stand out from each other. They’re all a bunch of sixteen-year-olds that seems to think they adults and then there’s one adult who acts (and talks!) like a sixteen-year-old. The manuscript felt like a first draft and I shudder to think about what the actual first draft looked like because this was one of the worst things I’ve ever read.

The storyline was weak and boring. Liv is a filmmaker (in LA? Wow, unique!), something that’s mentioned a few times, but it’s forgotten when The Real Story begins. The novel kicks of right away with Liv and Cedric meeting in the first ten pages and then two months passes before their paths crosses again. I didn’t understand why two months had to pass, it didn’t make sense to me that the story didn’t continue right away since nothing happens in those two months but anyway. When they meet again it’s at a museum were Cedric and his friends lives in some tunnels underneath the building? Liv sees Cedric dressed as a security guard and she’s so curious about this strange man that scared her a lot when she met him for a few minutes two months ago so she follows him to these underground tunnels and doesn’t realize until she’s actually a long way from the safety of the museum that she’s in a rather strange and potentially dangerous situation. Nothing bad happens (of course) and she’s introduced to Cedric, Kat and Merek. She finds out about them coming from another realm and they tell her about some monsters – wraths – that wants to kill them and that they need a way back to Caelum. Liv doesn’t believe them until she sees the wraths herself and then she agrees to help anyway she can. And then, naturally, they realize that Liv is that magical scroll that can open up a portal to their world. The whole story can be summed up like this: they meet, they’re apart, they meet again, they fight wraths, they flee, they fight wraths, they find out about Liv’s ability, they fight wraths, they try to work out a plan, they fight wraths, they hatch a plan and try to execute it but it fails, they fight wraths. It was repetitive and it felt like a story I’ve read a hundred times before. No thank you.

The characters were hollow. I didn’t care about anyone of them. They were all flat and just various degrees of stupid with Liv being the dumbest of them all. You have pretty much every cliché here: A lonely foster-girl without parents, believing her whole life she was the one that accidently started the fire that killed them. A superhot flirty prince who needs to take responsibility for his kingdom who falls in love with a girl he can never have. A tough girl who can fight and take care of herself who stands by and watches as her betrothed flirts with half their kingdom. And naturally, the youngest son of a lord, a boy that’s jealous of the prince because he has everything and the poor boy will never get anything since his older brother will take over after their father. Later on we’re introduced to a spoiled, bratty thirteen-year-old who thinks she knows everything and an eighteen-year-old who loves medieval video games and wants nothing more than to experience those things in real life. Author Lindsey Klingele wants me to think that Liv is a sassy and strong girl who can take care of herself but the truth is that she rushes into every situation without thinking twice and then wonders why nothing goes right for her.

The love story was laughable. Obviously, Liv and Cedric hit it off but Cedric is engaged to Kat and has been his whole life. Poor Kat has to sit by and watch as Liv and Cedric grow closer, but honestly, I couldn’t feel a spark between them. It’s insta-love at its best; they’ve known each other for about a week and I’m supposed to believe that they have real feelings for each other and actually feel sorry for them that they can’t be together because of Kat and you know, the fact that they live on two different planets.

The plot twists were silly and useless. Cedric believes “a scroll” is an actual piece of paper but it turns out it’s a human born with a special mark and Liv just happens to be one of them! Remarkable! The kind collage professor they turn to for historical help is actually a bad guy that wants to kill Liv. Well, colour me surprised! Liv’s caseworker is also a scroll? Wow! And his brother is the evil guy that tries to kill Cedric and his friends? What! Yeah, neither of these plot twists surprised me because the plot was see-through.

I’m also wondering what happens with the rest of the world because I’m assuming that scrolls doesn’t exist in LA only? Are there portals in to Caelum somewhere else? Who knows, Klingele didn’t think this was important information to share and Liv never asked that question herself. All in all, is was a horrible read. There’s a sequel, of course, but I’m going to stay far away from that and I suggest you save your time, energy and money and stay away from The Marked Girl.