50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2010
I enjoyed this book a lot. Turner continues to demonstrate her ability to construct beautiful sentences, moving descriptions of places, events and people, and elegant turns of phrase. There are the (for Turner) typical shining moments when characters reveal themselves, sometimes even to themselves. The reader learns more about Gen's world, its geography and history (the archipelago off the coast of Attolia and the impending all out war with the Medes suggests a future book in which the islands will play a prominent role and the possibility of a Salamis style naval battle with the Medes - I hope). We are reminded that Gen is 1) very young, 2) very very smart, 3) very very gifted, 4) willing to bear the burdens of both kingship and of those he loves, and 5) in need of a male friend to whom he can talk to and love more or less as an equal. We're also reminded that the gods work in subtle ways and that this is a world where violence is taken for granted even when regretted.
One reviewer asked why Gen was so "greedy". This seems a misreading of his motives which have to do with events foretold for Eddis and the impending conflict between the Medes and Eddis/Sounis/Attolia. Another reviewer found the epistolary style of the early part of the book off putting. I thought so too for the first few pages until the character to whom Sophos was writing became clear. One reviewer thought there was too little Gen. Gen isn't "onstage" in every scene, but I felt his presence continually in the actions and dialogue of the other characters. He remains the linchpin of the story. One reviewer questioned Sophos's intelligence and whether he was an interesting character. I read him as a very interesting character and quite smart, just not in a subtle and guarded "Gen" sort of way. One thing that struck me about Sophos as a character was that Turner was able to portray him as "royal" but in a very different way than Gen or Irene or Helen. By the end of _A Conspiracy of Kings_ I had a much better sense as to what made each of the rulers of Souris, Eddis, and Attolia uniquely suited to rule. This is in part to the different ways in which each has been introduced to the reader. One of the great things about this series is the way that Turner varies the point of view and other elements of the narrative structure while continuing the development of the characters, the plot and the setting. The density of the storytelling (which achieves a kind of paradoxical simplicity)contributes to the density of the story. The last scene of the book is utterly charming.
There are a number of fantasy writers whose books I look forward to reading but few writers whose books I look forward to rereading: Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia McKillip, C.J. Cherryh (for the most part), and Megan Whalen Turner.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2010
My relationship with this book started out cool, but now I am convinced it is the best book I will read this year.
Here are a few tips to really enjoy this book - I hope you will have as positive of a reading experience as I did:
Q1) Do you need to read any of MWT's books beforehand to enjoy this book?
A) Probably not, but it sure helps to re-read The Thief. The narrator of the book is Sophos. A secondary character in The Thief who has a charming personality. Refreshing your read of The Thief will bring this character (Sophos) to light as he comes of age and decides what kind of a man he is going to be in this book.
Q2)Should I buy this as an e-book or as a paper book?
A) I actually downloaded this first to my Kindle. Didn't like it that much - couldn't bond with the book. MWT has a wonderful command of the english language and her plots are dense, but light on their feet. It is easier to read this book in paper because it physically slows your reading down and you can refer back to dense (but nimble) sections.
Q3) For Young Adult Readers or for Adults?
A) For all--but it is definitely a mature plot line.
Q4) How does this fit with similar adventure/quest books like JK Rowling/ Harry Potter or Riodian's Lightning Thief?
A) MWTs books do not follow a formulaic structure. There are tremendous benefits to a formulaic structure - It makes for an easy read and easy bonding with the characters. It is easier to dive into those types of books since authors often don't write sequels rapidly. I found myself wishing for that type of familiarity to get me back into the author's mind/character's world. However, a simple re-reading of The Thief got me back there.
I can now say with confidence, I wouldn't trade MWT's structural choice for anything. She is doing something different, more complex and it allows you to get deeper into the world.
I will definitely be re-reading this book as well as the other in the series.
Well done MWT, well done!
55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2010
I'll just say it: I miss my thief. His Majesty, the King of Attolia has become more and more distant as these books progress. First he was Gen, a common thief, telling his story in an endearing first person. I loved him, and I loved that I, too, was tricked by the thief. I turned those last pages with my mouth open in shock that the braggart thief I had grown to respect for his stubbornness and wit was an even greater man than I thought.
For "The Queen of Attolia" he became Eugenides, a man whose life is related in third person, his thoughts a mystery, but the story at least told from his perspective. Then, in "The King of Attolia", I was denied even that. I was forced to sit and observe from the perspective of Costis, to be lured into his misconceptions and prejudices against the "King of Attolia," when I knew better. And now, in "A Conspiracy of Kings", he is donned (even more impersonally) "Attolis" and I see so little of the man I came here for. I am forced to snatch glances of the King through the eyes of Sophos, and desperately wish for more.
Sophos is not nearly the hero that Eugenides was.
His voice seems whiny and I found myself, if not skimming, at least hurrying through his story, which dominates the book. I just didn't care. I wanted to see the thief. Even the romance between Sophos and Eddis is not really fulfilling when I've already been privy to the complex relationship between Gen and Attolia. Can you imagine having to face the fact that you stole THE RIGHT HAND of the person you love? It seems unfathomable, unthinkable and yet, there it is, greeting Attolia every morning. I loved reading about it. I loved the scene in "The King of Attolia" where the queen touches the thief's face and he forgets, for an instant, that he is safe, he is loved, and believes he is once again at the mercy of a merciless queen. In comparison, Sophos and Eddis seem boring.
I want to read about the man who had the Queen of Attolia at his mercy--the woman who CUT OFF HIS GODDAMN HAND--and not only left her whole, but loved her. I came for the man who, mere pages after so successfully stealing the queen, was forced to stand imprisoned before Attolia, powerless, a pathetic sight, and swallow the knowledge that he would never die with dignity, he would lose everything--sight, sound, mind--and that the woman he loved would take it from him. And yet, he still had the courage to bait Attolia once more: "From shadow queen to puppet queen in one rule--that's very impressive."
"A Conspiracy of Kings" had all the classic elements I've seen--and loved--in Megan Whalen Turner's work: political intrigue, traitors, plot twists, romance, revelations, kidnapping, royal court drama--but it all seemed lacking without more of the thief. His personality is what draws me back. I spent the book longing for his appearances and however brief they were--I loved every second of them.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Whenever people complain about YA fantasy today- that it's full of vampires, werewolves, drugs and unhealthy relationships- I think of Megan Whalen Turner's series and sigh with relief. These books are SO GOOD. A Conspiracy of Kings was by far my most anticipated release of 2010 and Turner does not disappoint. Throughout this series, I have known myself to be in the hands of a deft storyteller who knows exactly where she wants her story to go and how to take her readers there. She does not talk down to her audience. I'm well over the YA age by now, and found myself going backwards and trying to sort out everything that happened.
Turner's series reminds me so much of what I imagine Ancient Greece must have been like, with the gods just as wrapped up in the action (though not so obviously) as the people. This book is no exception, though since it is not told from Gen's point of view, we do not have as much knowledge about that. It's a story of people, yes, but also families and countries and the fates. I know that many are upset that Gen isn't in this book as much. I miss him, too, but I love the way we are getting the perspective of so many different people, too. I got to know Sophos so much better in this book and I hope that in the next book, Turner takes on one of her female characters and gives us their perspective. And Sophos is a strong character. He comes into his own here, and I really liked being there with him as it happened.
And I LOVE how Turner's female characters are so strong and intelligent and secure. They are just as much movers and shakers as the men are. That is played up a great deal in this book, as Sophos must decide whether some women are trustworthy and intelligent. I also love how Turner uses the first person and third person. Often, I feel that authors change person just to be "literary" or different, but she uses it to such great effect, and it was very powerful.
I believe this book is in the middle of the series- supposedly there are two more planned. In that way, it sets things up more than it does much else. The plot is resolved, yes, but it is just one move in a very complicated chess game. I am excited to see what happens next, and I look forward to the next books in the series. Hopefully it won't be too long of a wait!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2010
First of all, in order to appreciate this book fully, we just have to understand that this one is not "another Eugenides' escapade", but rather another chapter in the turbelent history of the three kingdom.
Then you'll love it as much as I do.
Sophos is definitely no Gen (who can be?) but he's endearing in his own ways. I love how his character were developing along the story. The difference between the inane and rather childish heir of Sounis and His Majesty, the Lion of Sounis is immense but also utterly believable.
For me, the developing of Sophos as a character is really important to keep the story going. As a king, Gen can't really work single-handedly any more (no pun intended!). He also really need a friend who is his peer as well. To Eddis, he will always be her Thief while he must be the King for Attolia. The old sheltered and pampered Sophos would have no place in this world of political intrigue and would not be worthy of Attolis's trust or Eddis' love, not to mention being an ally against the Medes. No more worry about that.
I also love how the differences between Sophos and Gen were portrayed and how much they resembled each other at the end. Sophos has never been comfortable with his title and always worried about his own competence, while Gen is born to be Thief of Eddis and always sure of himself. However, they both accept the weight of kingship eventhough they would preferred it the other ways.
As usual, Turner's prose is succinct but beautiful and the book is full of those gorgeously crafted scene where the characters truly shine (Sophos's theatre scene took my breath away), where the touching emotions showed (Eddis' farewell) and where it's just utterly hilarious and true to the characters (That tripping and shoving maneuver make me laugh out loud).
I disagree with some of the comments on the action of Gen and Eddis. We have seen it coming that there would be a merge between Eddis and others, both from the visions on volcano that Gen and Eddis have and what the gods said to young princess Helen in the short story in book 2. The only way to save the population of Eddis is to move them. I'm starting to see that as the political reason of why Gen need to be Attolis as well. Combining with the land of Sounis that Eddis would secure by marriage, the Eddisian would surely survive. Plus, to fight off the Medes, they truly have to fight as one. The annux title would give Gen the right to wield all the forces. The change of relationship also was foreshadowed since the beginning, when Gen expressed his sadness that Sophos is already Sounis. Like what Eddis said afterward, the moral and honor of sovereigns are different from those of philosophers
On Eddis being lovesick and doing nothing but wrinkling her hand, well she's not in her own country! Since everything is happening in Attolia, it's only right that the visiting monarch can't do much. However, it was hinted all the way through that Gen discussed every move with her and they even manipulate Sophos together.
The only thing I hate about this book is that it rendered me unable to read any new stuff for a while. The vivid world of Turner's truly stuck in my head. Help!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It takes a certain kind of person to rule a country. Few men manage to make themselves into successful kings. Fewer still are born to be kings.
A lover of what his father calls intellectual pretension, Sophos knows a great many things. He has a firm knowledge of botany, poetry, languages, and even diplomacy. He also knows, with certainty, that he does not want to be king of Sounis. A disgrace to his father and his uncle, the current king, Sophos has always known that he was too fond of scholarly pursuits instead of fighting, too eager to write poetry instead of study battle plans.
Really, it's no surprise that he has been exiled to the island of Letnos since parting ways with the magus and a thief who proved too clever for his own good. Exile isn't such a terrible thing. It's better surely to spend his days reading poetry and contemplating philosophy even if it is in the company of an odious tutor.
For all of his life, Sophos has been told what he should and should not do. When an end to his exile is finally in sight, Sophos is given an unlikely choice. Attacked and abducted, hidden away and rendered unrecognizable, Sophos finally seems to have a chance to get away from his future as a king.
It is not easy to become a king. But it turns out it's even harder to forsake your own country. Navigating the murky waters of friendship and sovereignty, Sophos will have to decide if old friends can become new allies and whether or not honor, or for that matter freedom, have anything to do with ruling a country in A Conspiracy of Kings (2010) by Megan Whalen Turner.
A Conspiracy of Kings is the fourth book in Turner's series about Eugenides, the former Thief of Eddis, his friends, and his world. (The series began with Turner's Newbery honor book The Thief folloeed by The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. Readers of Turner's earlier books might be well advised to re-read the earlier titles to get a better sense of the big picture of the series.)
Sounis isn't a real country any more than Eddis or Attolia are, but there is something inordinately compelling about these countries and the struggles of their monarchs. Despite the incongruity with the lives of readers, A Conspiracy of Kings-liked Turner's other books-remains relevant and arresting with evocative prose and characters that are guaranteed to resonate.
This latest installment is particularly engrossing thanks to its second person narrative structure that gives readers full insight into Sophos' situation as well as his internal struggles as he tries to reconcile his understanding that he is nothing like an ideal king to the reality that, regardless of that fact, he is a king and responsible for a country. If the earlier books in the series showed Eugenides' journey from boy to man (and by extension from man to king), A Conspiracy of Kings shows a young man acknowledging not only that he is a king but also that he was meant to be a king all along.
Turner fans need not fret, all of the old favorites in the series make return appearances here even though Sophos' story remains the lens through which everything is viewed. Gen, Attolia, and Eddis all play their part among others to make A Conspiracy of Kings another satisfying story filled with wit, intrigue, stories, and even some romance with more than a few twists and turns along the way for good measure.
Possible Pairings: Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox, Lirael by Garth Nix, The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2010
Like many of you out there, I am a huge fan of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series - though perhaps what I should really say is that I am a huge fan of her clever thief Eugenides. Ever since Ms. Turner turned my world upside-down after reading The King of Attolia, I have been waiting none too patiently for another installment of Gen. So it should come as no surprise that I'll admit to being the teeniest bit disappointed upon learning that the bulk of "A Conspiracy of Kings" follows the bookish Sophos from "The Thief" instead of Gen. And then I gave myself a mental face-slap and got down to business after reminding myself: it's Megan Whalen Turner and I will follow that woman anywhere she leads.
Sophos has never really wanted his life. Next in line to the throne of Sounis, he'd rather spend his days reading poetry than learning how to fight or the best way to converse with an ambassador. But to Sophos' credit, he's still trying to learn all that his father and uncle, the king, want - knowing even as he does so, that he's still a disappointment to them. But when his family is unexpectedly attacked by rebels - his sisters and mother gone and Sophos himself captured and brutalized and sold into slavery - does Sophos find himself relying on his training as a fighter and a leader in order to find the strength to fight for the country he loves.
What I love most about Megan Whalen Turner's books is that she expects a lot from her readers. She expects everyone to be intelligent as Sophos, the Magus, and Gen (although no one really ever could be as smart as Gen). Consequently I find myself often rereading passages so brilliant in their subtly that are never predictable except in their ability to render me speechless. And of course, there are many references to Gen - throwing ink pots and adoring his boots - but Sophos is the real star of A Conspiracy of Kings and he lives up to his role absolutely. Sophos is so genuine and determined and I love his humor and loyalty without hesitation.
Most likely due to his rough upbringing, Sophos is constantly plagued with feelings of self-doubt coupled with an immense sense of duty. Although he would much prefer to be left alone with his poetry and books, Sophos never ever backs down from his responsibilities to country and family. Even to the detriment of his own happiness. Take this passage on making tough decisions for example:
"What would I choose if I could have anything? Well, I wouldn't be useless. I would be the statesman my father wanted and the prince my country needed. But that wasn't what I was offered. I was still the same poor excuse for a prince that I had always been. Quite likely I would fail to be of any use at all -- to my father or anyone. When the rebelling barons were put down, I would see my uncle marry and produce an heir far superior to me, and I would be despised and useless and unwelcome even in my own home. That was what I was choosing.
I wonder if people always choose what will make them unhappy."
Sophos is sitting there, about to make what will become the most life-altering decision of his life and even though he knows it will be hard and will make him unhappy, he still CHOOSES WHAT IS HARDEST because he knows it to be the most necessary. And it's not just this once Sophos does this: he makes these hard choices again and again - knowing people may not love him for it, but knowing that it just needs to be done. A better man you could not find.
Also: The cover artwork for "A Conspiracy of Kings" is simply beautiful - the entire series has had superb covers actually, each one subtly foreshadowing little bits of the story perfectly. In this case, I think the man on the horse is a little too pretty to be Sophos but you have to agree that his detailed red coat is stunning and the movement of the horse and rider exquisite. Although what draws me to this cover above all is the tightly clenched fist, firmly wearing the golden lion signet ring. There is such power and determination in that single fist that captures Sophos spot-on.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The thing about the Queen's Thief books is that Megan Whalen Turner is so much better than just about anybody else writing children's fantasy, let alone fantasy for grown-ups, that when she's just really good instead of stupendous, it feels like a let-down. So yeah, I liked The King of Attolia best of all and yeah, I missed seeing more of Gen in this new book.
But Sophos's coming-of-age story is still very, very good. For one thing, no other writer raises questions about what it means to be human quite like Turner does. What if you don't like your fate? Is it okay to just kind of opt out? What does it mean to trust somebody, especially if that person is by definition untrustworthy? What is a friend, and when does power trump friendship--or does it? And what does that Spiderman theme really mean, "With great power comes great responsibility?"
For those of you who worry that Gen is exploiting Sophos and Eddis, I refer you to the title, A Conspiracy of Kings. Gen and Eddis are already conspiring when the book starts, and they push Sophos to grow up so that he can conspire with them. Because the mountain really IS going to fall down on Eddis, and the Medes really ARE going to invade these three smaller countries one of these days. Is Gen the king of kings here? Well, yeah--but we were told about that on the last few pages of The King of Attolia. (And Sophos would have been killed by a Mede or one of his barons in about five minutes if he'd tried to take the throne of Sounis without Gen as an ally.)
Then we have Turner's romances, in which political expediency necessarily plays a part, and people are awkward and have more than one motive, unlike in that whole traditional Barbie/Cinderella love story. (I mean, I'm a romantic, and I still know the real thing when I see it!)
When it comes to rich characterization, intricate plotting, thought-provoking explorations of human dilemmas, and finely tuned craftsmanship, Megan Whalen Turner is still unbeatable. Which is why, not just fantasy readers, but other fantasy authors look up to her.
Let's face it, we Megan Whalen Turner fans are spoiled. But that's a GOOD thing. And I'm happy to report that the author apparently has plans for two more books--more Gen to come!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2012
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner is the fourth book in The Queen's Thief series. I believe I mention that the books just keep getting better and better as the series progresses, because Eugenides is just totally hardcore like that, and I love watching his mind work.
Although Eugenides is in this book, he is no longer our main character. This is, instead, the story of Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis. He goes missing sometime during either Queen or King, and this is the story of what happened after his disappearance.
I enjoyed this one, really, I did. It's just that, I don't like Sophos the same way I like Eugenides. He's a great person, and interesting to read about, he just doesn't have the same appeal that Gen does. Part of that is because I expect a certain something out of these books, largely because of how Gen's mind works, and that was missing from this book. And, because the book is told by Sophos, we see a different side of Gen. Not that he's changed any, but the attitude of the viewer is different, which means I didn't much care for the Gen we see in this book, and that made me very sad.
Although I missed Gen, I did really like watching Sophos grow and develop as a person, and as a ruler. When we first meet him in Thief, and at the beginning of this story he is almost completely lacking in confidence, and he's a little bit awkward. But after being kidnapped, and sold into slavery, he finds himself and begins to grow and change into a strong character, who will eventually make a very strong king of Sounis.
The political intrigue was even more layered in this book than in the previous books, because you are dealing with the intrigue in Gen's palace, Sounis in general, and among the Souni Barons who kidnapped Sophos in the first place, not to mention those pesky foreigners that keep popping up. I thought it was handled very well. The resolution gave me shivers, which can only mean good things for a book like this.
Although I do prefer Gen as the main or focal character, there is no denying that this is still an excellent addition to the series. Turner is a great writer, able to craft a brilliant story and really draw the reader in. I recommend giving the series a chance if you haven't already. I know there's a 5th novel planned for the series, and, as much as I love Sophos, I really hope Turner takes us back to Gen.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2010
The best thing about this book is that you will be able to read and reread it, and each time you'll have an 'aha!' moment where something that didn't make sense before, makes sense to you now. Or you will understand another subtle facet of these most real, deeply compelling and very very human characters.
I've read elsewhere complaints of a lack of Eugenides. It's true he doesn't make much of an appearance, but his presence is there like a lodestone, exerting a subtle pull. Eugenides is such an dashing, admirable character (hard to say likeable, because really he isn't if you think about it), it is very very easy for him to outshine and obscure the people around him. To me, if you want Eugenides, read the first and second book again, maybe even the third, but The Conspiracy of Kings is not for you.
This book is about Sophos.
Sophos whose very nature is sweet. Sophos who 'couldn't offend the gods with a pointed stick'. There is such bone-deep humility in his character. There is soemthing utterly compelling about his complete lack of dignity (ego), his idealistic, poetic nature that becomes clearly at odds with his scarred face, man-killer grin and tiny-shovel-by-tiny-shovel-won musculature. His seeming unsuitability to be a Sovereign of any sort. Frankly speaking, Sophos is a far more likeable character than Eugenides. On the surface, he is not nearly as riveting, but as the story develops, if you give him a chance, you will find in him, a surprising depth of courage and kingliness.
To me the key to understanding Sophos lies on page 55 (note: please see end of review). By this time, I had read the book more than once, believe me the first pass I was undecided as to whether I liked it or not. Oddly enough, it was this really rather unexciting scene that was the turning point that made me fall in love with this book, that made me understand his worthiness to be a King; And not just any King, but a worthy one.
(I mean page 55 of the hardcover, the scene itself is during a tutoring session between Moira and Sophos)