Second Time Through

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“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

~Oscar Wilde

As much as I adore Oscar Wilde, I’d modify his quote a little. I’d say there’s no use in owning a book you can’t enjoy reading over and over. There are plenty I’ve checked out from the library and been glad I read but not interested in going back to. But my personal library is full of the books I turn to when I’m in the mood to reunite with particular characters and their story.

This week I’ve been laid low with the kind of head cold that just keeps giving. First came the sinus headache for a few days. Then the cough charged in so hard and fast it made my chest ache. And after two days of that, the nasal congestion pounced.

But, being an eternal optimistic, I like to think that the positive side of a cold is having the excuse to sit around and read, and this weekend I’ve indulged in rereading my favorite series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, set in fictional kingdoms based on the Mediterranean empires of the middle ages with Greek-sounding names and gods.

These are books I’ve been dying to reread ever since I finished them over a year ago, but I promised myself I would wait until the next one came out. Now the wait is almost over. A Conspiracy of Kings hits shelves this Tuesday! I reserved a copy with my favorite bookstore weeks ago (the soonest they’d let me), and you’d better believe that I’m going to jump in my car and go buy it the second they call to tell me it’s in.

But in the mean time, to keep myself from getting too antsy, I’m revisiting the first three.

Rereading a book is one of my favorite pleasures. Rather than racing through the pages, frantic to know how the plot works out, I get to sit back and enjoy the characters and descriptions, tuned in to every detail.

For example, I’d missed so much of the humor of Eugenides’s voice the first time I read The Thief. Listen to how Turner ends the very first paragraph:

“I reviewed over and over the plans that had seemed so straightforward before I arrived in jail, and I swore to myself and every god I knew that if I got out alive, I would never never never take any risks that were so abysmally stupid again.”

Except, of course, he does, and we love him for his calculated risks — or just for his calculations, period, which make for such fantastic plot twists. And this time around, I got to watch the workings of them, noticing the hints that I’d missed before.

But the real treat, of course, is just being with the characters again and reliving my favorite moments, like this non-spoilery one in The Queen of Attolia:

“Oh, I’ll watch my tongue,” said Eugenides. “I have learned how, and I don’t want the clouds to part and Moira [the messenger goddess] to arrive on a band of sunlight to tell me to shut up, but I wish I knew if we’re at war and people are dying because the gods choose to have it so. Is this the will of the Great Goddess, that Eddis [the kingdom] be destroyed?”

Eddis [the queen] shook her head. “We are Hephestia’s people still. I believe that. Beyond that I don’t know. Nothing I’ve ever learned from a priest makes me think I know just what the gods are or what they can accomplish, but, Gen, I know my decisions are my own responsibility. If I am a pawn of the gods, it is because they know me so well, not because they make up my mind for me.” She remembered the properties of the stone of Hamiathes and said, “We can’t ask the gods to explain themselves, and I, for one, don’t want to.”

And then, because I think each book in the series just gets exponentially better, I hope you’ll forgive me for indulging in one more quote, equally non-spoilery, from The King of Attolia:

“Oh, that,” said the king with a shrug. “That isn’t your honor, Costis. That’s the public perception of your honor. It has nothing to do with anything important, except perhaps for manipulating fools who mistake honor for its bright, shiny trappings. You can always change the perception of fools.”

What do you love about reading books a second time? Which are your favorites to reread? AND WHO’S FREAKING JUMPING OUT OF THEIR SEAT THEY’RE SO EXCITED ABOUT A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS?? *raises both hands, waving them wildly*

Leave a comment!

UPDATE: Somehow I didn’t notice this before, but A Conspiracy of Kings got FOUR starred reviews: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Horn Book. If you know anything about starred reviews, you know that’s a big deal! Hooray for Megan Whalen Turner!

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8 responses »

  1. I also prefer only buying the books I know I will come back to again and again. There’s only so much shelf space in a two bedroom apartment.

    I actually think rereading favorite stories can be more fun than hunting down new ones because you already know what you’re going to get out of the experience. But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in new series… I’m putting Megan Whalen Turner’s book on hold at the library now!

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  2. Okay, I have heard way too much about this series to not have read it! (Wow, that sentence is confusing). I’m going to order the first one on Amazon right now, because unlike you, I don’t have the patience for the library… and I’m lazy.

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    • Awesome! You will love them. Be warned that the first book takes the longest to “get into.” I tell people not to give up on it. Read all the way to the end before you decide what you think of it. And know that each sequel is twice as good as the one before it!

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