Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kingship and friendship

A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner

This is the fourth book in Megan Whalen Turner's excellent "Thief" series, and the last published so far.  I was almost reluctant to read this book, because when I finished it I would have none left to look forward to.

There will be spoilers here for the earlier books, and possibly for this one as well.

The series is set in three kingdoms, Attolia, Sounis and Eddis, in a land that combines ancient Greece with elements of Byzantium.  Conflict is constantly breaking out between the three countries, and sometimes within each, often at the instigation of an outside power, the Medes, who would like to absorb the kingdoms into their empire.  The central character of the stories is Eugenides, the cousin of the Queen of Eddis, who holds the almost mythical position of "Thief of Eddis" at her court, but he gives that up to marry the Queen of Attolia and rule as her king.  Who Eugenides is, his true character, his capabilities, his heart and mind, are revealed gradually over the course of the stories.  As I mentioned in my review of the third book, The King of Attolia, he reminds me of Dorothy Dunnett's great heroes, Francis Crawford of Lymond and Nicholas de Fleury.

I had forgotten that, at the end of The King of Attolia, someone says of Eugenides: "That one will rule more than just Attolia before he is done. He is an Annux, a king of kings."  In this book, we see this prophecy begin to come to fulfilment.  At the center is Sounis, torn by civil war and rebellion against its king.  Rebel barons kidnap the king's nephew and heir Sophos (whom we met in the first book) to use him as a pawn.  Through the adventures that follow, Sophos constantly accuses himself of weakness and cowardice, but as with Eugenides we see his true character, his strength and courage, revealed.  When the king dies unexpectedly, Sophos suddenly finds himself the new Sounis.  He must secure his throne not just against his barons but also the Medes, who are angling to seize the country from a new, weak king caught in the chaos of civil war.  Sounis turns for help to his friend Eugenides.  His friend is now Attolis, though, and his help has a price: Sounis will become a vassal state.  There is also a different kind of alliance under discussion, with Eddis and its Queen (one of my favorite characters).

Though some readers have complained this book has too much Sophos and too little Eugenides, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I like Sophos, and I hope to see him again in the later books (and I hope we don't have to wait too long for the next one). I dote on Eugenides though. I want to see him vanquish his enemies,  particularly those evil Medes, and triumph as Annux.  And I can't wait to see him as a father.

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Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!