Review: A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner

When I was a little girl, I used to finish a book and turn around and read it all over again.  The Little Princess, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Travel Far, Pay No Fare.  I’m not talking about rereading (I still do loads of rereading), but finishing a book and flipping it over and starting all over again, because you can’t stand the idea of leaving it behind right away.  And look, I was serious about Megan Whalen Turner before.  I loved those books.  When I finished the first three and got the fourth from my ever-obliging big sister, I left the fourth one lying around for several days while I reread the first three.  All of them.  In order.  Picking up on details I hadn’t noticed the first time through.  Only then did I carry on with A Conspiracy of Kings.

A Conspiracy of Kings is about Sophos – remember Sophos?  Darling studious bookworm Sophos from The Thief?  Don’t keep reading this review right now, if you haven’t read the foregoing three books, because I can’t really talk about A Conspiracy of Kings without spoiling the books that have come before.  Again I say unto you, stop reading this review and go do something else, if you have not read Megan Whalen Turner’s other books.

Are you gone?

Okay then.  So Sophos, heir to the king of Sounis, is on the run.  The barons of Sounis and the ambassadors of the Mede are making trouble for Sophos, necessitating a flight to Attolia, where his old friend Gen is now the King.  The book opens with Sophos, whom Gen has believed dead, finally reaching the sanctuary of Attolia – well, relative sanctuary, given that the country of which Sophos is king is at war with the country of which Gen is king.

I’ve read several reviews of A Conspiracy of Kings that expressed regret at the way the narrative shifts away from Gen.  Now look, I enjoy spending time with Gen as much as anybody, but I thought Sophos was a splendid point-of-view character.  In this book, Turner deals with the question of choosing the sort of person you want to be: Sophos has the opportunity to decide whether he wants to go back to his old life.  Or in fact he has several opportunities, and until he’s practically forced by circumstance, he doesn’t step up and take responsibility.  It’s only when he’s got his back against the wall that he makes the decision to grow up.  Sophos.  Bless him.

(Anyway, there’s plenty of Gen.)

What can I say?  Everything I loved about the foregoing books, I loved about this one.  I loved seeing Sophos grow up, especially because he comes to terms with doing things he’d rather not do for the sake of his country, without losing his (can I say this and not make you gag? Only I can’t think of any other way of putting it) sweetness of spirit.  There were further political machinations, and a gaining-the-throne scene that pleased me by being quite unlike Sophos and yet perfectly in line with the arc of his character development.

Have you read this yet?  Do you think it would be a good thing to have one of the queens narrate the fifth book that Megan Whalen Turner is undoubtedly engaged in writing at this very moment so that she can release it tomorrow and fill my life with yet more joy?  I suppose it would be tricky to have Attolia as a POV character, given that she’s so buttoned up, but I think Eddis would be an interesting narrator.

Other reviews:

Book Lust & The Written World
Stella Matutina
Charlotte’s Library (incidentally expresses exactly how I felt when I started reading this book!)
Book Nut
A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy
Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books
Dear Author
One Librarian’s Book Reviews

Did I miss yours?  Tell me if so, and I will add a link!

41 thoughts on “Review: A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner

    • She said that? Two more? (I greedily thought, Only two more? when I first read your comment.) I’d like to have one from Sophos’s little sister, I wanted to see more of her in ACoK. I’d like to see her in Attolia.

  1. Eddis would be an interesting POV, but I also think it should be time for Attolia to unbutton at some point.

    I do that too, sometimes–finish a book and then immediately turn to the first page and start rereading. I did that with The Magicians, in several ways. We’re taking the audiobook version with us on vacation so everyone can “read” it.

    • Well, we saw a few sections from her point of view in The Queen of Attolia, but it was very un-forthcoming. She plays things close to the vest even in third-person omniscient. :p

  2. I really liked this book, and I agree- Sophos is such a great character! I don’t think we are ever going to get back into Gen’s head. That’s ok with me, really, as he’s the puppet master.

    I still haven’t warmed to Attolia, but I think having her POV would not be nearly as interesting as one from Eddis. I didn’t even consider Sophos’s sister! Hmm… I hope MWT writes fast!

    • I don’t need it to be back in his head, but I was sad not even to be around him during most of ACoK. I enjoy to see him being the puppet-master and arranging political events with hits wits.

      I wouldn’t count on MWT writing fast – there have been at least four years between every book in this series, and six years between The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. :/

  3. Ok, I haven’t read anything past The Thief since I’m still on the waiting list at the library for the next two, but I stuck around and read anyway cuz I like spoilers. I really can’t wait to get my hands on these books. Library, are you listening?!

    • Okay, well, I told some pretty big spoilers up there, so I hope you really don’t mind spoilers. I hate it when I’m waiting for a book at the library and it’s a long wait – I’m always afraid I won’t be in the mood any more by the time the book comes in.

  4. There is really only one book I can think of that after I finished I was tempted to go back and reread it right away, and that was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Though the equivalent for me is to go out and purchase a book that I had borrowed and read because I loved the book so much that I had to own it.
    And the fact that you feel so strongly about these books really makes me want to read them now.

    • Well, I’ve done the returning a library book and immediately trotting out and buying it thing. Sometimes I find I just can’t bear to not have a certain book in my possession.

      I hope you like them! I think they are swell, and I can’t wait to get home and buy lovely matching copies of them all.

    • YUP. You won’t regret it! There are four of them, which is nice because you can read them all in a row and not have to wait a total of nearly fifteen years for all the sequels to come out, like the people who read The Thief when it came out in 1996.

  5. I always re-read the earlier books in a series when there’s a new one due out. I can practically recite the first “Harry Potter’ off by heart! I haven’t heard of Whalen Turner, but she seems to be popping up all over the place at the moment, so I’m going to have to go and do some investigating.

    • I reread Harry Potter all the time anyway, but when they weren’t all out yet, I used to reread each summer a new one was due to arrive. Good times…

      *misses Harry Potter*

  6. I do the same thing! (The rereading). When I get a new book in a series I ALWAYS reread all of the previous book in order, it make it last longer :).

    • The downside to making it last longer is that I’m even sadder when it’s over, because then I know I have no way to spin it out for longer.

  7. Oh, I agree! Re-reading is like being able to relive a wonderful day/week/year of your life – the privilege that real life doesn’t offer, but books do.

  8. I used to do the same thing as a child with books that I loved! I couldn’t get enough of the books I was reading like The Secret Garden and The Little House on the Prairie Series. I am so glad I am not alone! I don’t do this anymore though now. Although, for me it’s now if a book is so good for me to make space for it in my tight bookshelves after I’ve read it to keep owning it that means it must be great.

    • You don’t reread anymore at all? Or just you don’t flip back to the beginning of a book once you’ve finished it, to read it all over? My life would be barren and woeful if I never reread books at all.

  9. I didn’t remember Sophos from The Thief (which I read years and years ago), but I fell in love with him in this book! Gen is of course the main character of the entire series, but I think Sophos was the perfect choice to narrate this part of the story.

    • And I had forgotten all about him by then! I mean, not that I’d forgotten him exactly, I remembered him as a character, but I wasn’t thinking that he’d ever become important again. Bless his sweet heart.

  10. My votes are for Eddis and Attolia for the final two books! Or maybe just one of those and then Gen again for the final book, yeah?

    I’m so excited!

    • But do you think it would work to have Gen back as a pov character? I want to have him AROUND for the bulk of the book, but he’s so in control of things all the time these days, I’m not sure he’d be a sympathetic point of view dude. Eddis though! Definitely Eddis!

      • I really liked having an initially uninvolved character POV in Costis. It let you see reactions of people around Gen a bit more.

  11. PS. I just finished a book that I immediately want to re-read. This is only the second time this has ever happened to me. Unfort., I have too many books I want to read and can’t decide what to do!

    • You should definitely reread it. You will always have too many other books you want to read, but you will not always be fresh from reading a book so wonderful that it makes you want to experience it all over again. Reread it straight away. You know you wanna.

  12. Usually when I get to the end of a book I want to read something exactly like it, but different, so reading Wives and Daughters will make me want to read The Last Chronicle of Barset, and reading one Elizabeth Peters novel will send me on a hunt for all the Elizabeth Peters in the house. But occasionally I finish a book, want to read something like it and realize that there is nothing like it – and that’s when the urge to re-read it immediately sets in. I don’t usually make it all the way through on the second read, though. Occasionally I’ll keep a book around for days or even (as when I was twelve and obsessed with Gaudy Night) weeks, dipping into it at random until I have the whole book practically memorized.

    • I have that exact thing. I always read Rebecca right after Jane Eyre, and The Seagulls Woke Me after Greensleeves, and Tam Lin after Fire and Hemlock. It’s sad when there’s nothing to read next that’s of equal awesome.

  13. I didn’t gag at the sweetness of spirit. I nodded, knowingly. And I loved the gaining-the-throne scene too*. It was the moment when I fell head over heels in love with the book. Before that I–shocking confession coming up–just really liked it.

    I’d love to see one of the women narrate the next one. In my ideal world, Turner cycles through a couple more characters, then ends the series with another book from Gen’s first person POV. I think that’d be a pretty awesome bookend.

    Also: I reviewed it!

    • Dude, you put an asterisk and then didn’t put anything to go with the asterisk. Have you hidden the footnote somewhere on the internet? I NEED TO KNOW THE FOOTNOTE NOW.

      But yeah, the gaining the throne scene was great. I was kind of ashamed of myself for cheering and feeling massively fond of Sophos for doing a deed that in real life I would think was totally wicked! I appreciate it that Megan Whalen Turner doesn’t let her characters do momentous deeds without worrying about them afterward.

      In my ideal world, Megan Whalen Turner never ever stops writing these books. She writes one of these books every (I’m not greedy) two years, with much worldbuilding and maybe a fresh generation of characters, and they continue to be awesome forever until I die.

      I do not know how I missed your review! I remember thinking, Ah, yes, here’s Memory’s review, and copying the link. Obviously I got distracted and never pasted it. That’s what happens when I write reviews on weekends while watching Hustle. It’s in there now!

      • Argh, you caught my redacted footnote!

        When I typed up my comment, I accidentally wrote gaining-the-thrown instead of gaining-the-throne. When I proofread (which I don’t always do), I caught the stupid mistake and thought, “Hey, that’s funny! I’ll share that with the world!” So I added the footnote, then decided that maybe the world didn’t need to know about that particular piece of stupidity (because, let’s face it, that was a pretty durned stupid mistake). I deleted the footnote, but I forgot to delete the asterisk denoting the footnote because I didn’t re-proofread.

        Also: I think I like your ideal world better. Lots more books to look forward to.

  14. I skimmed the review (closing my mind’s eye so as not to see spoilers). I love this series! Turner does some of the best fantasy around for any age. Can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

    • I hope your library has it, or gets it in soon! I almost wish I’d waited a few more years to discover this series, considering how long it takes Turner to write each one – now I can’t wait for the fifth book!

  15. Attolia would be a perfect POV character for Turner. A virtuoso exercise. Half of Attolia’s appeal is her inscrutability and intensity and pure FORCE, combined with her really, really, hidden vulnerabilities. A lesser author would just psychoanalyse her into a puddle of boring. I think Turner might be able to pull back and sort of come at her sideways–even in Attolia’s own voice–just enough that her central mystery would remain intact for readers, while they came to understand her a bit better.

    Sweetness of spirit is the only way to say it, about Sophos. Reading this post made me feel kind feelings for him all over again.

    You can link to my review if you like. It feels a bit wordy and abstracted to me now.

  16. Jenny? I have a confession to make.

    In international humanitarian law, I naturally took notes, and since the Geneva Conventions were big in that class, I naturally abbreviated them to be Gen. And now, inside my head, I have a picture of a hook-handed ThiefKing enforcing the laws of war sneakily in the background whenever I think of the Geneva Conventions.

  17. I loved reading the fourth book. I enjoyed Sophos’ point of view and I agree with you that what Ms. Turner was aiming for was accomplished. I certainly hope there is a fifth book! And I think Attolia/Irene wouldn’t be so boring. She is very reserved on the outside, true, but I can’t help but think that there is a lot going on inside her head. Turner could always expound on that and it would make for some humorous reading when Attolia and Gen are going at it. =)

  18. I want to see more interaction between the following characters.
    Eugenides and his father.
    We only ever know he’s the “minister of war” and he’s a badass. More please. I want to see some father-son Mede ass-kicking.

    Gen and Ornon
    What happened to Ornan’s sheep?

    Gen and Nahuaseresh

    Gen and Irene
    One of the most interesting, substantial, and romantic relationships I’ve read about in a long time.

    Eugenides and Eugenidies
    Some more God of Thieves action please.

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