Monday, August 14, 2006

Lord Peter With A Hook

First off, I want to be very clear that I am a fan of Eugenides, the main character in three books by Megan Whalen Turner. I think the books are uneven, but Eugenides is a big enough draw to keep me reading.

He first appeared in The Thief, a marvelous book in which a thief isn't exactly what he appears to be. I wasn't as fond of The Queen of Attolia. For one thing, Eugenides is maimed by a woman he loves and later marries. That's way too close to victimization for my taste. If the genders had been reversed, if a female character had been maimed by a man she loved and later married, I think I wouldn't have been the only reader who was left with a bad taste in her mouth. But, still, Eugenides is a compelling character who I wanted to stick with.

The King of Attoila is an improvement on the second book. I don't think I'm giving away anything to say that Eugenides is now a king. A lot of the story is told from the point of view of a young guard, Costis. I liked that, but it did make for a problem. In order to get information out about Eugenides and his queen, those two characters have to behave somewhat revealingly in front of Costis and courtiers. That didn't seem realistic to me. And so much of the story involves Costis that when Turner jumps away to scenes without him--a couple are even in another kingdom--the movement is very awkward.

I also had a lot of trouble following the court intrigue. I never figured out why Eugenides told the Queen to have a couple of characters arrested, why one of them was released relatively quickly, and the other tortured.

Nonetheless, I stayed up late reading this book and kept stealing time away during the day to keep reading. Eugenides is that great a character.

In this last book, he reminded me a lot of another famous aristocrat--Lord Peter Wimsey. In The King of Attolia, Eugenides presents himself to the court as weak and ineffectual so that he can pursue his own aims--just as Wimsey does. He is knowledgeable about literature and all manner of other things--just like Wimsey. He suffers nightmares as a result of the torture he experienced in an earlier book. Lord Peter suffers from shell shock as a result of his experiences during World War I. Eugenides has Costis. Lord Peter has Bunter.

Of course, Eugenides has a hook instead of a right hand, while Lord Peter only has a lousy monocle for one of his eyes.

I first learned of Eugenides at the YA forum at Readerville. We got into a big discussion there regarding Eugenides' age. The younger YAs saw him as being a young teenager, maybe fourteen or fifteen. Older readers felt he had to be in his early twenties.

He is referred to in The King as being very young, though he has now acquired the sophistication (and battle scars) of an adult man.


Leila said...

I still can't decide if I want to BE Eugenides (minus getting the hand chopped off, of course) or MARRY Eugenides. He's such a dreamboat.

Gail Gauthier said...

While I definitely like him, I have a hard time putting my finger on why he's so attractive and on so many "fantasy fictional dreamdate" lists. (I've known of readers who kept those kinds of lists.) Because women are attracted to bad boys, and he has the benefit of not really being a bad boy?

I also wonder how guys feel about these books.