I’ve been reading one of these a week since I finished The Thief. This one I finished in one day during our cruise. I’m going to try to review this one without spoilers, but if you haven’t read this series before, here are my reviews for the first three books:
This is a review of an ARC copy another blogger passed along, but I need to get the finished copy since I hear that there’s new (and possibly awesome) scenes in the finished copy that aren’t in the ARC.
The Premise: This time the focus shifts away from Eugenides and towards his friend Sophos (who was introduced in The Thief). Sophos is the heir of Sounis, but he’s not very keen on becoming king. He’d be happy if he uncle marries and produces another heir. In the meantime, he would rather spend his time with his books and poetry than on learning how to govern. Then one day his uncle’s barons change the game by attacking his family’s villa. Betrayed by those he trusted, Sophos finds himself getting exactly what he wanted: to be absolutely nobody.
My Thoughts: Megan Whalen Turner goes back to the first person point of view again with A Conspiracy of Kings, and yeah, I kind of missed this. I like a good first person POV, and while Sophos’ voice isn’t as sarcastic as Gen’s, he has his moments. He’s a very affable person. Sophos is that guy that almost everyone likes because he’s such a sweet soul. He even befriends Gen all the way back in The Thief, and Gen notes then that Sophos “was much too nice to be a duke”. Unfortunately for Sophos, he is a duke, and not just a duke; he is the heir of Sounis. While he’d love to bury himself in poetry and books, his father and uncle want him to toughen up. They send Sophos to the island of Letnos, far from the influence of Sophos’ favorite mentor, the magus, but Sophos just isn’t interested in war and how to wage it. He chafes under the revolving door of tutors and wants to be allowed to follow his own interests. He wishes that his uncle would marry and quickly produce another heir.
His wish is not granted. Instead, Sophos and his family are attacked at the villa and Sophos is spirited off. Now he’s nameless, helpless, and no one can find him, all while his country is weakened and vulnerable to it’s enemies. Sophos realizes with bitterness the cost of not being Heir to Sounis, but he has the choice to reverse his fortune. Sophos can fade into obscurity and be free from the responsibilities he said he never wanted, or stride towards the destiny he once shied from.
This is essentially a story about Sophos growing up and making a conscious decision about who he wants to be. Before this book, I’d always sympathized with Sophos as an heir to a warmongering king (and there is at least one other character in this series who doesn’t love being royalty), but here for the first time I saw the argument that his detractors had been trying to make. To avoid his responsibilities and education as heir is the act of a boy who cannot see beyond his own personal problems, not that of a man who has to lead a nation. I think that Sophos’ likability in The Thief obscured this flaw a little, but I love how it becomes center-stage in A Conspiracy of Kings, and how the story handles Sophos’ character development.
Sophos is the main character in A Conspiracy of Kings, and much of his story is of his own journey but we do see reappearances from characters from earlier books, and yes, that does include Gen. From Sophos’ perspective the brief glimpses of Gen show yet again a different facet of his character. I have mixed feelings about that, but I couldn’t really fault his behavior, since his character seems to be constantly evolving. I think that while you probably could read this series out of order, there is an evolution that is better when it’s followed in the correct sequence. The character growth is a large part of that, but I also think that the understanding of the overarching plot arc and the world building is worlds better when you read this series in order.
I’m looking over this review and wondering if I’m leaving out one essential point, which is that I really liked A Conspiracy of Kings! I like good guys like Sophos, and rooting for him was easy. I was turning these pages like crazy person to see if he would be alright. Megan Whalen Turner throws in a couple of twists and turns along the way, including a whopper which will likely impact as-of-yet untitled Book 5, but I was left feeling quite pleased with how things turned out.
Overall: Another good one (at this point, was there a doubt?), with the same great storytelling, character development, and surprise twists as the earlier books. I enjoyed the return to a first person point of view, even if Gen wasn’t the main character. Sophos is a nice guy that I could root for and I still got my Gen fix. Each installment adds a little more to the whole series, and while A Conspiracy of Kings ended satisfactorily, it has me very curious about what we’ll see in Book 5.
(Yes, I know the next book may not be out for a couple/few years, but I’m willing to wait).
The Book Smugglers – 9 (Damn near perfection)
See Michelle Read – positive
Fantasy Literature – 5 stars (out of 5)
Chachic’s Book Nook – positive
The Book Bluff – positive
fully_immersed – 4 out of 5
Stella Matutina – 4 (out of 5)