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A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings - Megan Whalen Turner After reading a spate of mediocre books, I was relieved to sink into something unreservedly enjoyable. Actually, "sink" isn't all that accurate. Let's say "devour." I read Conspiracy fast, too fast, and I'm sure I missed a lot.

But that's okay. I'll have plenty of opportunity to peruse when I get my hands on the final copy in March.

Let's start with the basics: Conspiracy is told in first and third person from Sophos's point of view. Gen makes a fairly lengthy appearance in the middle of the book, but this isn't like King of Attolia, where Costis was used as a foil to examine Gen: this is Sophos's book, through and through. And boy, does he shine. Sophos isn't Gen: he's reflective, and a bit self-pitying, not quite as physical, and, well, nicer. He has, as he says, one talent: he may often make an ass of himself, but at least he knows when he's doing it.

None of which stops him from being devastatingly effective when pushed, and the events of Conspiracy push him to his limits, as he struggles to extricate Sounis from the unwinnable war that his uncle plunged it into during Queen and King.

One word of caution: despite the new protagonist, this is not a good place to pick up the series for a new reader. Turner doesn't info-dump or review; if you don't have at least some memory of Queen and King, the politics of Conspiracy are going to be quite opaque.

And this is a very political book, with alliances and counter-alliances and plots and betrayals. It's also an adventure book and a coming-of-age story, and maybe a little bit of a romance, though I felt like that part was given short shrift compared to the rest. Maybe that's inevitable; no book can do everything.

I do wonder what a ten year old (the age recommended on the back cover) would make of the book. Yes, there's a lot of action, but there's also fairly intricate negotiations, both personal and political. Turner believes in showing and not telling, and that means the characters' multi-layered motivations remain shadowed, understandable only through inference. I'm not sure younger readers will pick up on all the subtleties; I know I had to reread a number of pages multiple times.

By the way, while I loved Sophos, some of my favorite moments were the grace notes with the characters we met in King: there's a minor subplot with Gen's attendants, and Aris makes one brief appearance by name. Gen may still not be loved in Attolia, but he's definitely making progress. That makes me pleased.