Judged by Grace • find her on Goodreads
Full disclosure: this was probably not a fair fight.
I’d read The King of Attolia about two years ago and I really did like it a lot, but I’ve never felt quite as strongly about this particular series as I get the impression so many others do. The King of Attolia is the third book in a series of fantasy novels about a thief who married the Queen of Attolia and became king. It focuses on the relationship between Eugenides, the thief, and Attolia, the queen, but also on all of the political maneuvering and intrigue of the Attolian court, and it’s done largely through the eyes of a third party, Costis, a young guard. Usually, established relationships are among one of my favorite things to read about, and I feel as though they’re not done nearly often enough. But the aspect of this book I found most compelling (on first read and again on reread) was the political intrigue. I never connected with the romantic relationship between Eugenides/Attolia, and I’m still a little bit at a loss to explain why. Some of that is definitely related to how the relationship is established in the first place, although content-wise that’s more related to the previous two books in the series, but it’s always been more than just that.
I wish I had a better or more detailed reason as to why it didn’t quite get there for me, but after this reread I think it might be one of those things I just file away and wish I could love the way everyone else seems to.
That said, I really do like The King of Attolia, but from the first sentences of The Road Home, I already knew which book I was likely to choose.
On Christmas morning, Rebecca lost her moral virginity, her sense of humor – and her two best friends. But, other than that, it was a hell of a holiday.
The Road Home is the story of Rebecca Phillips, an army nurse during the Vietnam War, and it captured me immediately. It’s a difficult book because it feels very real. It deals with very serious subjects and trauma, and it doesn’t shy away from those things. Rebecca struggles in Vietnam, and she struggles learning how to be home again. One of the things I really thought was well done about this book was that it split the time fairly evenly between Rebecca’s experiences in her army hospital and her experiences readjusting when she returns home. The first half of the story was very tense and it throws you right into the action of Vietnam, while the second half of the story has a very raw quality as Rebecca tries to reconcile the changes she’s undergone with the expectations of family and friends, returning to the World.
There’s a lot more to this story than just the war itself, though. The Road Home focuses on Rebecca’s relationships and how those change. She forms relationships in Vietnam with people she might not have connected to in the World, and those connections are at times uncertain and difficult to maintain. She also struggles to relate to her family and friends from before because she isn’t the same person she was before she left, and she has a lot of guilt and anger that she doesn’t know how to deal with. She feels like she can’t be honest with these people, although she’s frequently having just as much trouble being honest with herself.
As heavy a book as this is and as many difficult issues as it deals with, there’s a very real, grounded sense of hope that builds through to the ending, and I found that to be immensely satisfying.
One last comment I have on this story was that I really enjoyed Rebecca’s voice. Even though The Road Home is written in third person, it read very much to me as though her voice were very much a part of the narration. Her wit and personality (and sarcasm) shone through for me, and I found that to be very compelling.
The King of Attolia and The Road Home are two very different stories, so on some levels, it feels strange to compare them. I do have to make a choice though, and while I like The King of Attolia, my personal preference is very clearly The Road Home.
Congratulations to The Road Home, which moves on to Round 3!