I finally got to Megan Whelan Turner’s A Conspiracy of Kings. This is the latest in her fantasy series that began with the Newbery honor book The Thief. The Thief was an extraordinarily good read. It interwove mythological stories into the text as characters told the tales that had clear parallels to their own situation. The ending of the story has an excellent twist that can make a reread satisfying as well. The two volumes after The Thief built on the first. The Queen of Attolia was nearly as good as the first. The King of Attolia was good, though it lacked some of the tightness that marked the first two. This latest story was enjoyable for me, but not nearly as good as the others in the series.
A Conspiracy of Kings follows Sophos in his quest to become the king of Sounis. Sophos has never had the charisma to be a real leader and when he inherits his uncle’s throne, he finds his country in shambles. Part of the problem with this book is that Sophos simply isn’t as compelling a character as Eugenides, who was the central figure in the other three volumes. Not only that, but a shifting perspective between first and third person dragged down the narrative for me. When Sophos recounts what happened to him, there’s too much telling and not enough showing. When the narrative comes to life with action, it’s wonderful, and Sophos’s voice and Turner’s writing style are strong enough to carry some of the feeling of summary, but not all of it. But that said, glimpses of Eugenides and seeing Sophos grapple through how to take back his country made the book well worth the read for me.
Even though this particular sequel wasn’t the most amazing entry into the series, the series itself is among the really great upper middle grade, early young adult fantasy series out there. I rank it alongside works like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown. If you’ve got a fantasy loving kid who hasn’t read it yet, then absolutely go out and start them on The Thief.