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A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and stategizes 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.

Eugenides  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 memories of Gen, Pol, the magus — and Eddis — sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

After bugging you all non-stop over my anticipation of this book, I finally received and was able to read The Conspiracy of Kings. I think it’s hard for any book to truly live up to your expectations of them, especially when the author has set such a high standard her previous work, but COK comes awfully close.

One thing I admire about Megan Whalen Turner is her decision to constantly try new approaches in her writing, which assures that her work is never stale or repetitive. The Thief allowed us to get directly in Gen’s head, while The Queen of Attolia had us following both Eugenides and the Queen of Attolia, albeit from the more distant third person limited perspective. The King of Attolia took us in a different direction entirely by introducing us to a completely new character and showing us how his view of Eugenides evolved over time. The Conspiracy of Kings is the coming-of-age story of Sophos, a character we last saw all the way back in The Thief.

Now will I lie and say I’m not a bit disappointed that MWT seems to be distancing herself from the character of Eugenides? Of course not. Gen was an amazing character from the get go and became even more so the more we learned about him. Sophos was, well, a bit of a weeny. A loveable, endearing weeny to be sure, but a weeny nonetheless.

That’s what is so great about this book, though. We get to see Sophos transform from this meek, poetry loving, can’t-ride-or-fight-to-save-his-life little lamb into this bold, canny, lion-hearted young man who will do whatever it takes to see his country redeemed, even if the cost of it is his own innocence. My heart broke for Sophos once he realize what kind of path he would have to go down in order to take up the reins of his nation, but I admired the fact that he was still able to retain that compassion for others. He could have easily put up a wall and become icy like a certain other monarch with whom readers of this series are familiar, or ruthless and brutal like his uncle who was Sounis before him. But because he felt regret and grief over the lives that were lost on his behalf or the blood he was forced to shed in order to become king, he was still Sophos.

This isn’t to say that A Conspiracy of Kings is nothing but gloom and doom and moroseness. Please, a sassy pants like Eugenides is never satisfied unless he’s gotten in a few zingers, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in this book. He and Sophos had me fit to be tied a number of times with their bantering, much to the chagrin of those around me who had to hear me giggling like a little girl at nearly every turn of the page. There are so many passages I wish I could share with you, but I’ll try to contain myself to keep from spoiling you all (my co-worker was not so lucky — I just had to read him a particularly funny scene, but  I was at least kind enough to supply pseudonyms for the characters in order to keep it somewhat of a surprise for him).

A Conspiracy of Kings is certainly a treasure, one to be savored with each subsequent reading. Finishing this book leaves me in the mood to begin the journey all over again from the very beginning, but I unfortunately lent out my copies of the series to a co-worker at Christmas time and he has yet to finish them (why, oh, why did I loan him all three books at once?). Darn it. Patience is a virtue, I suppose.

Challenges
100+ Reading Challenge

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