Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Conspiracy of Kings (The Thief Series, Book 4) by Megan Whalen Turner

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father's villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.

Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the magus—and Eddis—sets out on an Badventure that will change all of their lives forever.
Today is a buddy review with Aarti from Booklust. I should point out that this is the fourth book in the series, so I can't promise there are no spoilers! Read at your own risk! To understand what is going on, though, first you have to visit Aarti's blog to read the first part and then the review carries on here. If this posts in the correct colours, my talking is in blue.

Yes, every time one of them comes on the page, I get excited! I never really liked Attolia very much and I still find that part of the story hard to believe, and her character had to understand. I feel like if she got a POV, then I would feel very differently. But I can't imagine there being a POV in Attolia besides Gen, so I am really hoping for Eddis! It is fascinating to me the way that all these leaders must be so intelligent and yet also keep their counsel and not share their thoughts with others. I feel this series, with the smaller countries trying to unite against a bigger one, really hits home in terms of the way colonialism was. It seems to be very similar to how people must have tried to unite against Roman invasion.

I wouldn't be surprised if Eddis got more page time in future books. She has always sort of been there, but she hasn't really had her time to shine. We know what she is to Gen and we saw a bit of their interaction, but I feel she grew as a character in this book. She wasn't just the queen. She was a real person and I appreciated her more for it. I would love to learn more about her! As for Attolia, I think she is a very complex character. I still find her relationship with Gen a bit odd, but she is growing on me.

I also like that this series is marketed as YA, even though it is so complex! At least, I find it complex. I feel like people sometimes make it seem that YA fantasy is all vampires and werewolves and angsty love, but this series is just so completely different than that, and it is awesome that the publishers went for it and it became such a success!

I am so glad that this series is so different! I get tired of YA books with annoying narrators and predictable storylines. That's not say all of it is like that, but that is what is popular right now, so that is what they are marketing. This series was very refreshing to me. There is a lot going on, and I think you could reread the books a couple times before you picked up on everything.

Yes, absolutely. I definitely think I missed out on some stuff! I feel like things are described sometimes, and then the characters draw conclusions from what happened or what was said. But often... I have no idea what conclusions are being drawn! I often wonder if that's just me being dense or Turner deliberately withholding information or just a complete lack of communication between the author and me. But that didn't mar my enjoyment at all. I like when I feel the author is a complete master and I am sometimes not entirely sure of my footing with the story.

Also, you can tell at moments that the characters are young, but they have enough maturity to not whine and annoy constantly. Maybe because they have all been through a lot and are from a different time, but I find it refreshing. Then, the romances are not all about obsession and a need to be together. They end up together and that's that, it is not the main focus of the storyline.

I like that, too. That there are romantic moments, but the story itself is not a romance. That all the characters realize that love does not really conquer all, and there are other things to consider.

I really enjoyed watching Sophos grow as a character. When we first meet him he has no confidence and has been exiled to an island. He is supposed to the be the heir to the throne, but only until his uncle fathers a child of his own. He is not your typical prince, though. He is interested in poetry, not war. This means that he is a disappointment to his father, and as a result, feels that he is a disappointment to himself. His life changes, though, and he really steps up to it. He might still be young and need other counsel, but he soon learns that he has a lot more potential than anyone ever gave him credit for. As he comes to see that about himself it makes for wonderful character development. You really feel for him. He goes through a lot, but manages to keep his head high.

As the story continued, I really questioned whether Sophos was a disappointment to his father. I think he misjudges his father (as many of us do), and as we see the story through his eyes, it's easy for us to misjudge, too. But I personally don't think Sophos disappointed his father. I sort of think Sophos thought of himself as a disappointment and then projected that disappointment onto others. He often thought people were disappointed in him, but then you're right- he steps up to his role and learns to be confident and strong. But he's not so worldly that he no longer trusts in his friends. I loved that, too. He is not nearly so cynical as everyone else in the story.

That's true. He has an idea of what it is to be king and he doesn't think he is like that, so that would make it seem like he is a disappointment to everyone. I can see that. He's bookish and has no interest in war, but his father still sends him teachers and things, so obviously he feels there is some potential or he wouldn't bother. Sophos is very down-to-earth and I like that in a character.

It really is a great series. I am looking forward to seeing where the next book in the series takes us! Thanks for reviewing the book with me, though, Aarti. It was fun!


  1. I like that you mention that these books don't stick to the formulaic plot pattern that most other YA books seem to adhere to. I bought the first in this series after reading Aarti's great review of it, and the more I read about these books, the more impatient I am to get started with them! Great joint review, it was interesting to see you guys bounce your thoughts off one another.

  2. Thanks for reviewing this with me, Kelly :-) So fun! I still can't find my copy of Middlesex, so you may have to choose a different one for me to read while you read Teresa Edgerton!

  3. wow..this is a wonderful story..worth sharing..

  4. I can say from experience that you do pick up on a lot more on a reread. The books are really complex, with a lot going on on several different levels. I cottoned on to a few things that went right over my head the first time through.

  5. I loved the first three, and probably read them too fast--I enjoyed the feeling that there were clues I wasn't putting together, but the characters were. It made them seem so smart!

  6. I gave away my ARC, and am busily reading the books on hand that absolutly have to be read now, so as to be able to go buy COK and read it again with a clear conscience...I love this series to pieces, and it was great fun reading your thoughts.

  7. One point really struck me: that this book is different from your run-of-the-mill YA in that it's complex, and while there's a love story, it's not a romance. Which, like you, I find really, really refreshing. (Just finished. Finally!)

  8. This is such a fun joint review! The Thief series is one of my absolute favorite. Getting to know Sophos better and Eddis as well was a lovely delight. Megan Whalen Turners writing is so brilliant, Like you said her writing doesn't fit the the norm plot pattern of YA books and the result is simply all consuming--mind, senses, wit, everything. Great review!


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