Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

Book: A Conspiracy of Kings
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Published: 2010
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

Sophos never really wanted to be king. But due to an agreement his father made with his uncle, he doesn't have any choice in the matter. He also never wanted to be a slave. But after being kidnapped and pressed into service on the estate of the king's worst enemy, he doesn't see any way out. When he finally escapes slavery, it's a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. He's got enemies on all sides in a country exploding into war, and nobody's making the decisions for him anymore. All his life, things have just sort of happened to Sophos. It's time for him to take control and for once to be the one who makes things happen, for himself and for his country.

Honestly? I squeed and danced my fangirl dance when I heard this book was coming out, because, hey, Megan Whalen Turner. But underneath that, I went, "Really? Sophos?" Because he didn't impress me all that much in The Thief. He was sort of a naive little boy, looking on goggle-eyed at Eugenides's antics. He wasn't even present in The Queen of Attolia or The King of Attolia. Suffice it to say, I could think of a few other characters I'd rather read about. A lot of other characters I'd rather read about.

Oh, MWT. I will never doubt you again.

She started from the very thing that made me doubt--Sophos' passivity and naivete--and threw this untested boy into all manner of trouble. This had a character arc like you wouldn't believe. I literally felt as if I were reading about a different person at the end than at the beginning. From a boy who flailed and scrambled and, all right, whined, to a young king doing what he had to do

I loved the clear line of demarcation she drew between being a king and being a man, and how hard Sophos had to learn that lesson. At one point, he goes to Eugenides for help, knowing that their countries are at war. He is a young man turning to a friend, but what he must learn is that both he and Eugenides are kings first--must be kings first. They have to be men, with friendships and loyalties and acts of mercy and aid, second.

In this book, it is not good to be king. Being royalty means doing a lot of things you don't want to do. Like, really don't want to do. But there's a difference in the way you approach them. You can be like beginning-of-the-book Sophos, dragged along unwilling but passive, or you can examine all your options and then do what you gotta do. It's more subtle, but even Gen is struggling with the balance between friendship and kingly duty. For a short time, he reacts by pulling away, hard, trying to snap the bond so it's not so difficult to be the total bastard he has to be. Sophos eventually gets annoyed with Gen's aloofness and literally dumps him on his ass to catch his attention. Hysterically funny, but also a mark of how much Sophos has learned to take an active role in his life and relationships.

Honestly, this wasn't my favorite of the series, but it's amazing in its own specific way. And it's Megan Whalen Turner, who joins a fairly select club of authors whose books I intend to own, no question.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I was also not looking forward to reading a book from Sophos's point of view, but he grew up a lot over the course of the book. I also thought it was really touching how much he admired and looked up to Gen, but how that relationship grew more complicated than hero worship as the book went on. I hope Megan Whalen Turner writes a fifth one very soon!