Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Genre: YA/ Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: March 23, 2010
Hardcover: 336 pages
Stand Alone or series: Book 4 in the Queen’s Thief series. Although in theory it can be read as stand alone but WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? hummm? This is one of the best series EVER.
Sophos, heir to Sounis, doesn’t look like much of a prince. At least, according to those in power. At least, to those who do not know him or the size of his heart and the depth of his courage, loyalty, and love. But Helen, Queen of Eddis, knows him, and so does Gen, the queen’s Thief, who is now King of Attolia. Gen and the queen believe that Sophos is dead. But they also believe in hope, especially since a body was never found. So when Sophos is discovered in Attolia, the obvious question becomes: where has he been all this time?
Why did I read the book: This is basically my MOST anticipated read of 2010 ever since I read the first three books in the series last year.
How did I get this book: I will not lie. I basically BEGGED for an arc from the publisher. They were nice enough to say yes.
Review: I discovered the Queen’s Thief series last year and fell irrevocably in love with it – suffice to say that in a scale between 1 and 10 of book awesomeness, they are certainly … 11. A Conspiracy of Kings ,the fourth book in the series was easily my most anticipated read of 2010 , one which I waited for with fervour and passion hoping for another perfectly excellent read from Megan Whalen Turner. It is with the utmost enthusiasm that I report that yes, this is another GREAT ONE. The prologue alone, made me want to cry with happiness. I read it and I said to myself: YES, This. This is what I was waiting for.
Before I go any further though, rest assured that I shan’t be spoiling this book or any other book in the series – these need to be read without the reader being spoiled for their surprises – but there will be some minor spoilers for book 1, The Thief. Overall though, this review will be more of an overlook of the book and its themes than an in-depth look at the details of plot for example (because again, this needs to remain unspoiled) .
I will just start by saying: A Conspiracy of Kings is Sophos’ book. And I mean it: it is his book, his coming of age story, his story to tell. This means that Eugenides, the awesome, incredible protagonist of the other three books, is not as present as I am sure, most readers hoped for. This does not mean that he doesn’t have a central, important role, because he does. But he is a co-pilot to Sophos’ journey.
Sophos, the reluctant heir to the kingdom of Sounis first appeared in The Thief and became Gen’s friend, only to disappear during the events of The Queen of Attolia . In this instalment we learn what has happened to Sophos, how he goes from a poetry-loving boy, to slave, to King and what does exactly his journey does to him, and what being the new Sounis means to the neighbouring countries of Attolia and Eddis.
This is above all, a story about identity. Sophos could not be more different from Eugenides. He is as self-deprecating and self-doubting as Eugenides is daring and reckless. His journey to becoming a worthy King is not without hardship and heartbreak. It is about roles one has to play, about finding out who is friend and who is foe, how much you can rely on people, if you can really rely on them. Sophos has to make many difficult choices and once they are done, there is no turning back.
Once he becomes Sounis, he is in an impossible situation – his country is nearly lost and to get it back is no easy task.
When I reviewed the first three books in the series, I said that Eugenides stole several things throughout the books: a gift; a man; a woman; peace; a kingdom. This time around, Eugenides does something he’s never done before – he helps two other people to steal what they need. One character needs his country back and another needs her people’s safety and by helping them achieving that, Gen also aids them stealing each other’s hearts and finally, he aids his own side. If that is not another masterful plan, I don’t know what is.
The fact that he does all that without even being in most pages, just proves to me what an amazing writer MWT is. She could have easily written another book with Eugenides as the protagonist, at the centre of the story, to appease and satisfy fans. But instead of being comfortable, she just takes a step further, distancing herself from her main, most beloved character to tell someone else’s story. That is a ballsy move and one that pays off. Nothing tells more of the growth of a writer than the attempt at doing something new and different. Even though I did miss Eugenides, I loved this mature, wonderful book for what it was and I cannot wish for something different when what I got was this heart-warming story.
The fact that the protagonist is so different does not mean that the same quality of writing, the same amazing storytelling skills that include twists and subterfuge and all the subtle yet passionate feelings one can have for friends and loved ones are not present. They are. There are amazing romantic scenes in this book to rival those in Queen’s. It is in the narrative itself, it is in the way one friend holds the hand of another for example. And a letter that is rushed to be delivered and yet is never displayed to the reader’s eyes because it is so intimate. If you read the other books in the series you know who is Sophos’ lady and you also know what to expect from MWT when it comes to romance.
Furthermore, in this book, MWT combines the two narrative modes that she so expertly mastered in the previous books as the story is half told in first person by Sophos and half in third person by an overseeing narrator. And the way the two narratives are woven together is amazing. Oh, and then there is this one moment when the reader realises what the author is doing, and whom to and why (oh, the why, it is so important) Sophos is narrating his story, that a-ha moment, it is awesome. As per usual.
Character wise, the book is about identity but plot-wise A conspiracy of Kings is a very political book, in the vein of Queen of Attolia .The story has reached a point where the three countries must make hard choices or succumb to invasion to the Mede. It is a hard reality to appreciate and to endure especially because who these kings and queens are. But the end game is this: what exactly these three countries must do to ensure they remain Sounis, Eddis and Attolia. One of them does come out as the apparent winner and sovereign, but because I know and love that person so much, I am also sure of the reasons behind the intricate game that is played. I also know much will it cost the other two rulers to live up to what they must do.
In the end, Sophos grows up and becomes a man. Granted, a man who is still capable of making an ass of himself (and the scene where he lays it all out, about what it means to know one can be stupid is so amazing and heart-warming) but still someone who is loyal and astute and can make decisions at the time of need.
He also grew on me and I found a place in my heart for this character – that same heart that has been stolen by the Thief and remains his. The last pages of the book are of a perfection that I hardly ever see and which made me hug the book and beg for more, please.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: The difference between Gen and Sophos as described by the latter:
When we were adventuring after Hamiathes’s Gift, I had watched the magus beat Eugenides. We’d thought he was no more than a common thief named Gen from Sounis’s gutters, and had listened to him whine and complain for days. When food was missing, it was easy to blame him. The magus used a riding crop on his back, and holy sacrificial lambs, Gen had come up off the ground like he’d been catapulted. It was as if he was a different person, some stranger who’d manifested in Gen’s body. He’d dumped Pol flat onto his back–something I never thought I’d see–and gone for the magus. If Pol hadn’t been up again so quickly, the magus was ready to run and dignity be damned. Even with Pol between him and Gen, the magus had been wary.
I thought later that this was the real Gen revealed, the person who’d been hiding behind a screen of complaints and needling humor. But I spent whole days with Eugenides after our adventures, and that Eugenides was exactly the Gen I had traveled with. Maybe I don’t know which Gen is real. But I know there was nothing feigned about his emotions after he had been beaten.
Where, I wondered, was my wounded pride? Where was my outrage? My self-respect? Nowhere, it seemed. My back hurt. I lay there on my pallet, hoping it would improve soon and wondering, in a distant, unreproachful sort of way, if I was any kind of man at all and decided that I probably wasn’t.
Additional Thoughts: I love the trailer for this one:
AND, Harper Collins has made the first book of the series available for a short period of time: you can read The Thief online for free here.
Verdict: Another winner by Megan Whalen Turner and this series. I remain an unabashed fan, waiting for more.
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfection
Reading Next: The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan