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
anthiMarch 29, 2010 at 3:51 am
I picked these books because of your rave review!!! i’ve the 3 first books in a duration of 4 days and fell in love with them and Gen, who is an amazing, fascinating and intriguing character!!! i can’t wait for the conspiracy of kings and Sofo’s story. Unfortunately i noticed that Turner publishes a new book every 4years (my heart is broken already ni the thought that i will have to wait that long until i read again about this amazing world) 🙁
AkinMarch 29, 2010 at 4:01 am
I knew you guys were going to give this a 9 hahaha! Anything less and i would have been very unhappy. I haven’t read the review cos I have to read two other books of the series. But I’m glad you loved this one. Looking forward to reading it
kellyMarch 29, 2010 at 7:47 am
I, too, shamelessly begged for an ARC (from a friend who works with the B&N buyers). In light of my good fortune, once I finished I sent it off to a string of online friends/fellow MWT fans. My only regret is that I didn’t have the chance to reread it at once; your excellent review has only intensified that regret.
I think I need to go to the bookstore. 🙂
AngieMarch 29, 2010 at 8:23 am
*wipes away a tear* Such a lovely review.
Such a stunning series. I adored this installment.
PamMarch 29, 2010 at 8:41 am
Still waiting on my copy that Harper said they were sending 🙁
StephanieMarch 29, 2010 at 11:23 am
Agh! I agree with everything in your review and yet I’m still conflicted over how I feel about this book. When I reread it for a second (and third, and fourth…) time I’ll pick up on all of the subtlety I missed the first time, so maybe my opinion will improve, but still…this was the first of MWT’s books that left me unsatisfied.
Sophos was a great narrator so I was mostly ok with less of Gen but what bugged me was that there was no Costis. Even Aris and the king’s attendants were mentioned, but not one word was said of the NARRATOR of the last book? I love Costis!!
LiMarch 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm
Ana, I love how your review covers all the important points but yet avoids anything spoiler-y. Now that’s a talent!
I’m not sure if I agree that ACoK can be read as a standalone though. Possibly yes in terms of the political conflicts and events taking place, but I think not having followed the characters through the previous three books means you miss out on some of the subtleties that really make the book.
DishonorMarch 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm
OH MY GOD.
SOPHOS SOPHOS SOPHOS SOPHOS!
Now that I’m done with my fangirl freakout, I’d just like to seethe a bit with helpless jealousy (my local bookstore is being recalcitrant about stocking A Conspiracy of Kings).
Which is your favorite in the series? Because my darling bookstore (-drips sarcasm-) isn’t letting me get my newest MWT fix, my favorite remains King of Attolia.
I love Gen so much that I’d consider literary adultery if his wife wasn’t such a scary (but awesome) chopper of hands.
KMontMarch 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm
I dunno when I’ll have time to read a book on the computer, but I’m going to try. I did actually try to buy The Thief today in the bookstore before I realized it was free online. The stores here have never carried the series.
ChachicMarch 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm
Awesome review! I have to agree with everything that you said. I did miss Gen in this book but I’m glad that Sophos got to tell his story and Gen was there in the sidelines. Can’t wait for the next two books! I wonder when the next book will come out, probably in five years or so?
anthiMarch 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm
So two more books remain for the series to end? Great!!! I guess in ten years from now we’ll be reading them 😕
AnaMarch 29, 2010 at 11:34 pm
Thanks for all the comments guys, I love to see the lurve for this series!
Stephanie – I loved Costis as well but never once did I think about him – It might sound calous but I think his role was that of an abserver of Eugenides. Even though he was the narrator of book 3, the story was largely Eugenides’?
Dishonor – what a question! I honestly can’t say. The first book was awesome and with that Twist! *thud* The second book was fascinating and OMG the romance and the twist *thud*, the third book was amazing and and that scene when Costis realises everything when he sees Gen and his lady together? *swoon*…ok maybe book 3.
AnaMarch 29, 2010 at 11:35 pm
Oh, forgot to say: yes, she usually takes 4 years to write a new book…gaah. The wait is going to kill me. 😆
Kate CoombsMarch 30, 2010 at 7:05 am
Brilliant review–thank you!
BienApril 1, 2010 at 12:40 am
Great review! I read it just yesterday and I, too, have a newfound love for Sophos! Reluctant he may be to be Sounis, he does it very well in the end. I also liked how his relationship with Gen changed as he(Sophos) became Sounis. But the part that moved me the most was the realization of Gen’s parting gift. It was such a pivoting point of for Sophos <3
PetaApril 2, 2010 at 12:47 am
I read the first three books last weekend and am now waiting (very impatiently!) to get my hands on this one too.
LApril 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm
Thanks for the review, I really liked your point about Gen’s constant presence in the scenes he orchestrated without our actually seeing him.
Stephanie, as to Costis, I think his whereabouts will be explained later, most likely related to the errand that was discussed at the end of book three.
JadeDecember 11, 2010 at 9:12 pm
Just popping in to say–love your review, but please please tell me you’ve read the published version now that it’s out? Because there are some VERY AWESOME SCENES that are NOT IN THE ARC and it pains me to think that anyone missed them.
ANYWAY, YES THESE ARE PRETTY MUCH THE BEST BOOKS EVER, EVERYONE SHOULD READ THEM, CARRY ON.
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