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A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

I figured we should start the new year out right. And what better way to do that than with a review of what is quite possibly my most anticipated title of 2010? Thanks to my lovely book fairy and the benevolent folks at Greenwillow, I was the giddy recipient of a coveted ARC of Megan Whalen Turner's upcoming A Conspiracy of Kings. For those not in the know, this is the fourth novel in the spectacular Queen's Thief series. The series that effectively robbed me of the ability to form coherent thoughts and/or sentences last February. The series that cast a complete spell over me and whose praises I have felt compelled to sing ever since. The series Ana and I had more than one spontaneous Twitter lovefest over. The series that was, hands down, my best discovery of 2009. So. Here we go.

Sophos has had it rough since parting ways with his old friend Gen after the adventures of The Thief and their narrow escape from the Queen of Attolia's dungeon. In fact, things have gone rather downhill from there for the reluctant heir to the throne of Sounis. Having once again disappointed his father by preferring poetry and philosophy to politics and strategy, Sophos finds himself tutorless and packed off home in disgrace. But when an unidentified armed force storms his family's estate, his mother and sisters disappear and Sophos himself is abducted and sold into slavery. And suddenly the choice of whether or not to take up the mantle of his responsibilities is taken out of his hands and he is able to exist in blissful anonymity, doing manual labor building walls during the day and entertaining his fellow laborers with epic poems and tales around the fire at night. But life will not hold still for Sophos and even he can't fool himself into believing he can watch his country tear itself apart and not want to fight to save it. And so he chooses to fight and to step into the role he's been dreading his whole life. And when it comes to intrigue and subterfuge and playing a part, Sophos knows just the person he can call on.

There is nothing like reading a Megan Whalen Turner book. I mean nothing. You open the book to that first page and you just feel so at peace. Don't get me wrong, you're filled with an almost unbearable paroxysm of anticipation, joy, and anxiety on behalf of these characters you've come to care about so much it's almost a surprise to remember they're not real and you've never met. But you feel at peace, secure in the knowledge that everything is going to play out so beautifully, so perfectly, so achingly subtle, that there's no fear on your part. It's an unmatched reading experience and one to be treasured and taken out on cold nights and experienced all over again. I knew I was going to fall in love with Sophos in this volume. He was clearly so full of potential in book one, a few tantalizing hints here and there, and then he disappeared so utterly that I knew when he did come back, he would come back with a vengeance. And so he does. And so does Gen. And they're all four there in their Sounisian, Eddisian, and Attolian individuality and awesomeness and I quite honestly found it difficult not to stand up and applaud after reading each scene where they're talking or plotting or just sending each other meaningful glances and thinly veiled threats. Which, of course, is kind of every five pages or so. And I tried, I tried to stay on top of things, marking who was scheming what and which hidden motivations belonged to whom. And still, still they all surprised me! Which, of course, is exactly the way I hoped it would be. And the ending? The ending is perfect. The kind of perfect that makes me smile and clasp the book to my chest.

I fretted over which bit to quote for you here. I couldn't not select just one passage to give you a glimpse into what we're dealing with here with Sophos. And so I chose a small scene fairly early on that contains no spoilers except, perhaps, for The Thief. So if you haven't read the first book, definitely skip this bit, which is taken from the uncorrected ARC. Otherwise, enjoy.
When we were adventuring after Hamiathes's Gift, I had watched the magus beat Eugenides. We'd thought he was no more than a common thief named Gen from Sounis's gutters, and had listened to him whine and complain for days. When food was missing, it was easy to blame him. The magus used a riding crop on his back, and holy sacrificial lambs, Gen had come up off the ground like he'd been catapulted. It was as if he was a different person, some stranger who'd manifested in Gen's body. He'd dumped Pol flat onto his back--something I never thought I'd see--and gone for the magus. If Pol hadn't been up again so quickly, the magus was ready to run and dignity be damned. Even with Pol between him and Gen, the magus had been wary.
I thought later that this was the real Gen revealed, the person who'd been hiding behind a screen of complaints and needling humor. But I spent whole days with Eugenides after our adventures, and that Eugenides was exactly the Gen I had traveled with. Maybe I don't know which Gen is real. But I know there was nothing feigned about his emotions after he had been beaten.
Where, I wondered, was my wounded pride? Where was my outrage? My self-respect? Nowhere, it seemed. My back hurt. I lay there on my pallet, hoping it would improve soon and wondering, in a distant, unreproachful sort of way, if I was any kind of man at all and decided that I probably wasn't.
Oh, Sophos. You are so earnest and self-deprecating and you have a good heart. I loved making this journey with you.

Comments

  1. This review is everything I hoped for! Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's still terribly unfair that you got to read it before all the rest of us, but I am so, so, so excited that I can't help emphasizing in threes! :)

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  2. This is definitely my most looked forward to book of 2010, and reading your review makes me just that much more anxious. The snippet is so tantalizing. I'm sure I'll fall in love with Sophos, the dear.

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  3. OMG YOU GOT THE ARC YOU GOT THE ARC AND IT'S GOOD IT DOESN'T SUCK IT DOESN'T *dies* *comes back to life and waits eagerly beside mailbox*

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  4. Okay, I sorta skimmed because I want to go into CoK totally unspoiled, but I couldn't resist reading the excerpt you quoted. And aaaahhhhh...

    So hmmmm 11 more weeks?

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  5. Per. Fec. Tion. And I absolutely cannot wait. Love the quote, love that we get more Sophos, and am thinking that I couldn't love Gen more.

    thanks Angie!!

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  6. OMG, I want I neet this!!! Angie!!!!

    I knew it was about Sophos and I wondered if it was his PoV, glad to see it is. *ninja*

    Yay! Can't wait for my copy to arrive!

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  7. Nikki, so glad the review came through for you. The book will knock your socks off. And I agree. It is terribly unfair. *hangs head* But it's so, so, so good! ;)

    Sandy, you will. You really will. And he is a dear. I was so proud of him by the end of the book.

    Dannie, that was approximately my exact reaction when it showed up in the mail! It is so very good...

    Li, skim away. I would feel awful if I ruined it for anyone. Wasn't the snippet good? And there are so many exquisite scenes throughout.

    Michelle, my absolute pleasure. Just when I think I've maxed out, my love for Gen grows with every book.

    Ana, you have GOT to run down your ARC. My goodness, woman. ;)

    It is his POV, but it's told in a particularly unique format, which I will allow you to discover all on your own. Trust MWT to surprise us with every installment in this beautiful series.

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  8. Um...wow. *clears throat* Is this available?

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  9. An excellent and respectfully circumspect review. Makes me want to read my copy again at once (I suspected I'd love Sophos, but... *sigh*). I swore, though, that were I so lucky as to receive an ARC, I'd share my good fortune. I send it off Monday to the first of several internet friends/MWT devotees.

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  10. Awww.. It's Sophos! Now I'm even more excited for March!

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  11. I skimmed because I'm currently reading 'The Thief' and didn't want to spoil myself.

    Seeing that you've enjoyed the series and this fourth book so much makes me excited about the rest of the series and catching up before the March release.

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  12. Holly, so my copy is currently out of the country with my MIL who grabbed it up the second I could bear to let it out of my hands. But you are next in line if you'd like. I'll let you know as soon as it's back. :)

    ladyjoust, you're so kind. I'm glad the MWT is being spread around. I already miss my copy as well...

    Bien, I know. I just seem to have this soft spot for Sophos. This one only enlarged that spot.

    kanishk, it'll be worth it. I guarantee it.

    Brie, oh, perfect! I'll be interested to see what you think upon finishing THE THIEF. My advice is to jump right into QUEEN which is when things get so awesome so fast it'll make your head spin.

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  13. I enjoyed reading the first two books in this series last year (still feels strange saying that) and I am hoping to read the third soon, just in time to pick this up when it comes out!

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  14. I must confess I've only read The Thief....I know, I know, but I'm horrible at reading series. I'll get right on it. :)

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  15. Marg, you've read the first 2!? Woo-hoo! Don't you love the end of QUEEN? *sigh* I hereby order you to come back and tell me what you think of KING. :)

    Raspberry, ohmygoodness, you must hie thee to the bookstore/library/whathaveyou and read book 2 Right. Now. :) It's...there are no words.

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  16. Dishonor8:42 PM

    OH MY GOSH SOOPHOOOOOS! Was it as good as King? Better, if that's even possible? SOOOPHOOOOOS! I'm so incredibly jealous!

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  17. I'm sooo glad you enjoyed the book! I can't wait till March to get my hand on this book!! Why is it so far away?

    By the way, after reading this book... do you think there will be another book in this series?

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  18. Dishonor, YES. SOPHOS! It's another MWT winner for sure.

    nath, you are gonna love it. And, yes, I do think there will be more books in the series. After reading this one, I think we can pretty much count on it. ;)

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  19. God, you are killing me here. I can't wait until March!

    This has been my absolute favorite book series ever since I picked up a copy of "The Thief" in elementary school. I love Meg Turner's work, but why does she have to take so long?! 14 years to write 4 books? I'm in grad school by now, for goodness' sakes!

    I guess you can't rush perfection, but it's giving me an ulcer. Gah!

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  20. Ohmigosh, I am SO EXCITED about this book! I loved Sophos in book one and I was lucky enough to gobble all three books very quickly last year. I loved them. I'm so pumped about the next book. Maybe that will be my birthday gift to myself! Great review :-)

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  21. Rachel, I am so sorry! I know how desperately people need to get a hold of this book. And I know what you mean. I feel lucky, in some ways, to have only discovered the series last year so I didn't have the agonizingly long waits. I can't believe you were in elementary and now grad school when book 4 comes out. I agree with the perfection comment, though. Damn fine books.

    Aarti, yay! You are going to adore Sophos in this one then. And I think it will be the perfect birthday gift.

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  22. Anonymous6:53 PM

    Angie your beautiful reviews for this series had me jumping up and down in anticipation and running for the library- I have just finished the King Of Attolia and I am just speechless- thankyouthankyouthankyou for recommending these literary masterpieces! And now I can rest assured that Conspiracy of Kings will finnish with nothing less than the genius MWT has shown throughout this series :)
    Cant wait

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