Conspiracy of Kings by Meghan Whelan TurnerNovember 14, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | 3 Comments
Tags: Megan Whelan Turner
When reviewing this series’ previous book, King of Attolia, I commented that I was impressed Megan Whelan Turner didn’t just churn out books similar to The Thief but instead kept developing her characters and taking them to new places. She does that again in the series’ fourth book, Conspiracy of Kings, but also takes the even bolder step of demoting Eugenides into a supporting role and making Sophos the main character. I suppose it would be easy to overstate the risk here, since the series has acquired most of its fans not through Eugenides’ particular traits but instead through Turner’s depth of characterization, and that is definitely on display once again.
Like many fantasy protagonists, Sophos has an interest in books instead of fighting and horseback riding and thus is a disappointment to his father. Unfortunately for his hopes of living a quiet life, he finds himself tangled in the schemes of barons hoping to replace the King of Sounis with a puppet they can control. Since Sophos doesn’t have the physical gifts Eugenides’ does, he’s a more thoughtful adventurer, enduring hardship but wondering as he does whether his goals justify his sacrifices. His friendship with Eugenides is his one chance of coming out on top of the situation, but they have to figure out how to position their friendship against the needs of their respective countries first.
If I had to criticize the book, it would probably be for the way it feels “small” despite a reasonably epic storyline. Sophos meets a number of people in his adventures, but it seems like his only lasting acquaintances are the royalty of Eddis and Attolia. The same is true for those monarchs as well…they seem to know each other far better than they know anyone in their actual countries. However, in a genre usually featuring sprawling casts and overcomplicated stories (adult fantasy that is), the economy on display in Turner’s books is a little refreshing. Maybe I should read more YA fantasy.
Anyone who enjoyed the previous three books in the series will like this one too. It’s a much more straightforward novel than King of Attolia, but it still handles its central character conflict with an impressive degree of subtlety. I feel like the interactions between Sophos and Eugenides would have gone straight over my head when I was reading YA books, but perhaps I’m selling kids short. Readers new to the series should start with The Thief.