Round 2, Match 3: The King of Attolia vs. The Road Home

2_3Judged 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!


18 thoughts on “Round 2, Match 3: The King of Attolia vs. The Road Home

  1. They are pretty distinct books, aren’t they?

    I probably need to go back and read King of Attolia (and the first two) at some point, but I do think it’s one that I admire more than love. (I do admire it a lot, though! I love the outsider perspective.) The Road Home had much more of an emotional impact on me, which is what I generally want most in books.

    1. This is a really interesting point. The King of Attolia is certainly more intellectually engaging (to such an extent that I see it as equally powerful with regard to The Road Home’s emotional impact) – so why do I love it? I think it’s a response to really careful character and world-building and the brilliance of multiple viewpoints in its storytelling, and its general cleverness and richness.

      And I love Gen, and I both love and am terrified of Attolia, and Eddis is amazing. Amazing. And then there’s Costis, who punched the king in the face. (I half choke every time I read “he went down like a rag doll.” Poor Costis.)

      1. I think we’ve talked about this before, but it’s a weird line for me. Like, Brandon Sanderson is far more intellectually engaging than emotionally engaging for me and you know how much I love him.

        I wonder if some of it for me is the unreliable narration in the MWT books? It’s not the kind of unreliable narration that pisses me off, but it might still create a bit of a distance for me.

        1. And it’s funny when you consider we’re both talking about an emotional response to an intellectual work!

          It could be? Whereas I love unreliable narration – when it’s not gimmicky but actually an intrinsic part of the characterization.

  2. Weird question I know, but how old is Rebecca in The Road Home? Because if she’s a nurse, she is over 18yrs old, yes? Also Beth’s review of it made me intrigued. I like books that pack a emotional punch for me.

    1. YES! I think she’s 20? Possibly 19. She’s a young adult, though, and this is certainly her passage into adulthood; SLJ’s review says it’s for grades 8-12, and Publishers Weekly for 13-up.

      (Did you mean Katie’s or Grace’s review?)

      1. Grace. Ugh sorry, I don’t know why I thought you reviewed them! I’m now even more intrigued by the fact that she’s 21/22 but this book is still classified as YA-ish.

        1. I actually meant to mention this in my review, but I almost read this more as new adult. I know it isn’t classified as that, but it felt very much like new adult in some respects.

        2. Well, new adult is a really new distinction, right? And this book was published in the 1990s. (I’m realizing I don’t love the “new adult” distinction, actually. “Young adult” absolutely should cover up until, say, 22-23, not only address the lives of teenagers.)

          1. Oh, I even labeled Carney’s House Party as new adult once. 😀

            I don’t entirely disagree with you, but my support of new adult as a genre label is I don’t think people WERE writing those stories about 18-22 year olds. Not very often at all. And now they are. I think that’s awesome. (I don’t think most of the new adult books are awesome, but it IS a new distinction. So hopefully the awesome will come.)

          2. They misunderstood what we meant when we said we wanted books about college, Katie. I am forever sad about it.

            (That said, the books that I love I LOVE. But there aren’t a lot of them.)

          3. The direction of the genre seems to be the-romance-of-young-20-somethings, which is a shame, when it could be The Road Home! Oh well. We can make room in YA for it; we’ve also got The Piper’s Son and The Messenger, and I’m sure there are a bunch more I’m forgetting.

          4. IS The Piper’s Son still classed as YA? Because I thought Marchetta called it general fiction. Or I got that label from somewhere and I have no idea where.

  3. Sorry to come late to this, but I had a moment of breathless checking to see which book advanced and then had to fly off. I love your setting out of the reasons for your choice, even if it would have been harder for me to work through my own, being (much) more attached to the Queen’s Thief books. I hope Beth appreciates what we’re going through for her is all… The Road Home is just brilliant though, isn’t it?

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