I’ve now read A Conspiracy of Kings (twice!), and felt compelled by its awesomeness to write a review, which is impossible without at least mentioning the previous three books in the series.
So I’m going to attempt reviewing the entire series.
With as few spoilers as possible.
Which will be a trick. 🙂
After bragging that he can steal anything—and flaunting the pilfered king’s seal in a tavern to prove it—Gen winds up in prison. Fortunately, the king’s adviser, the magus, needs him, and Gen finds himself bundled along on a cross-country trek in pursuit of the mythical Hamiathes’ Gift, an object which can only be retrieved by a thief.
But this isn’t just a straightforward adventure story. Set in the three countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia, MWT gives us a wonderfully-drawn world inspired by the landscape and culture of ancient Greece, complete with her own pantheon of gods. She’s so exact in her story-telling, so deft with her characterization and so careful with every single word, that you don’t notice the subtleties of her impossibly tight plot until it whacks you up top the head at the end and you find your jaw sitting involuntarily on the floor.
This would be why The Thief garnered a Newberry Honor.
In many respects, The Queen of Attolia feels completely different from The Thief. It reads more like a YA novel, and is told in third person instead of first. Gen—or Eugenides as he’s referred to in this book—is still the main character, but the third person POV changes things a bit.
In Queen, Eugenides is forced to deal with a terrible loss, and the third person POV gives a certain amount of needed distance from this loss. We learn as much or more about Eugenides’s character than we did in The Thief, but the focus is slightly different. He’s vulnerable in a way he wasn’t in the first book, and as we mourn for him we wonder if he can go back to the way he was, we wonder if that’s even possible.
And while we’re worrying about Eugenides, MWT is busy with her careful descriptions and meticulous character studies and oh-so-subtle-and-understated plot threads. There’s war, political machinations, a new threat to our trio of countries in the form of Nahusersh, the oily ambassador from the Mede empire, and last—but certainly not least—one of the most intriguing romances ever to grace the boundaries of fiction. We’re talking rivaling Eowyn/Faramir and Doctor/Rose, here, so you know I mean it.
Oh, and I started reading this series because of Queen’s cover. Intriguing, no?
This is the book I can say the least about without completely giving everything away. It’s narrated in third person by a young soldier named Costis, but is still very much about Eugenides—we get an even further wide-angled view of him than we did in Queen. It’s a great, great book, filled with all the MWT surprises and subtleties and complexities and heart we’ve come to expect.
And that’s really all I can say. 🙂
Narrated largely in first person by Sophos, a character from The Thief, this, again, is a different book entirely from the other three in the series. Eugenides is important but even more distant than before, and for once this isn’t his story—it’s Sophos’s. We find out what he’s been up to since the first book, and follow his journey from timid, insecure boy, to mature, hardened-yet-vulnerable king.
Sophos is a great character, albeit very different from Eugenides (whom he sort of hero-worships, which is adorable), and I really enjoyed getting to know him. I read Conpsiracy last Wednesday and again over the weekend because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
You really almost have to read these books multiple times to understand/appreciate all the subtleties and motivations; MWT is a careful, meticulous writer, which is why rereading her books is so rewarding—you inevitably find things you missed the first (or second, or third) time around.
There’s a definite sense in Conspiracy of things-being-set-in-motion-for-epic-ness-to-come (there’s two more books planned in the series), which left me feeling a ttiiiiiiny bit unsatisfied, because I know there’s going to be a long wait to find out what happens next.
But only a tiny bit. 🙂
That was hard. I started this post on Tuesday.