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A Conspiracy of Kings: What do you think?

The Attolian Conspiracy

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1wisewoman
Apr 7, 2010, 9:01am Top

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Many of us have already posted reviews and I'm seeing a common thread through them — namely, there has been such a big build-up among fans for this book that a slight feeling of deflation is inevitable. I keep saying that a reread will set me straight and help me get my thoughts clear, but I think I want to wait a little before rereading.

• So what are the things you definitely did not like about the book?

• What are the things you weren't sure about at first, but will probably end up liking very much after rereading?

• And what are the things you unreservedly loved the first time through?

Broad questions, I know. I'll post my answers separately.

2wisewoman
Apr 7, 2010, 9:17am Top

• So what are the things you definitely did not like about the book?

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with The Magicians' Nephew by C. S. Lewis, but there is a part where one of the "villains," Uncle Andrew, talks about his "high and lonely destiny" as a magician. Basically he means that the rules that apply to ordinary people, like morality and honesty and integrity, don't apply to him because he is above all that; his calling releases him from such petty considerations.

I heard more than an echo of this in the part of CoK where Turner talks about kings and queens not having the same standard as commoners because of their huge responsibilities. I don't have the book with me now or I'd look it up and quote it. Usually I can find something worthwhile in the books' underlying philosophy, but this struck me as Turner putting a foot wrong. I understand that kings and queens have pressures that are much different from that of the ordinary citizen, but right and wrong don't change.

I didn't care for Sophos being called "Bunny." It just reminds me of something else...

Oh, and there is a picky thing I did not like about the book: the terrible typo! Did anyone else see it? It's on page 193.

• What are the things you weren't sure about at first, but will probably end up liking very much after rereading?

Hmm. I wasn't sure about Eugenides being a jerk to Sophos; it seemed like he was a totally different person. But I'm already leaning toward liking that element very much. Turner lets us know that Gen doesn't enjoy it. He apologizes to Sophos before it starts, that it has to be that way. And really, he is doing it for Sophos' own good. Sophos has to learn what the world is like for a ruler, and it's better to take your bruises from a friend than from an enemy.

I also wasn't overly enamored of the frequent switches in the narrative voice. When you don't know who is talking (or who he is talking to), it's rather confusing. But I think I will grow to like this device very much as I reread. It keeps the reader in the dark just enough to make the story more compelling.

I didn't really love how Eugenides wanted to swallow up Sounis too and have Sophos be subservient to him, but I can see why this needed to happen. And I think I will become more comfortable with it as I get used to the idea.

• And what are the things you unreservedly loved the first time through?

I really loved when Sophos finally had enough and tripped Eugenides. I wanted to cheer for him! And the last couple sentences of the book were absolutely perfect, such a great snapshot of the relationship.

I loved Attolia holding Eddis' hand.

I loved the two pistols. It was so good in a sad kind of way. That's where it struck me that Eugenides is starting to act like his gods, not manipulating people but knowing them so well... and knowing what they need. He could have just told Sophos what he had to do, but then Sophos wouldn't have learned anything.

The stories are great! They were lighter this time, perhaps in intentional contrast to the overall tone of the story, which I found rather grimmer than the other books.

I'm sure I will think of more things to add as soon as I post this!

3foggidawn
Apr 7, 2010, 9:52am Top

I will have to think about this some more -- and I don't have my book on hand, as I have lent it to a friend. However, there was a line that I absolutely loved. Eddis is talking to Sophos, and she says something along the lines of "We can't all be throwing inkwells." Which, of course, hearkens back to one of my favorite scenes from KoA ("Lo, the transforming power of love.")

I really need to give this book another read-though before I make any sweeping statements about what I liked or didn't like.

4bjappleg8
Edited: Apr 7, 2010, 2:13pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

5veevoxvoom
Edited: Apr 7, 2010, 2:46pm Top

A Conspiracy of Kings isn't my favourite of the series, but I still liked it a lot. It was well-written (of course!) and had a lot of that trademark style that makes me love Megan Whalen Turner so much. And there were definite moments that made me gasp and grip my book tightly (like Sophos with the guns. @#$@!).

I do think, though, that what made the book not a favourite was simply that Sophos is not one of my favourite characters. I like him, but he was never one of the reasons why I read the series. If you had given me a choice, I would have preferred Gen or Attolia or Eddis over him. Also, because we haven't seen Sophos for so long, I had trouble feeling an emotional attachment to him for the first part of the book. He was almost like a stranger and a not particularly interesting stranger at that. He develops into someone more interesting later on, but it was a bit of a slow start, now that I'm thinking about it.

One the things I keep waiting for in the series is more info about the Medes. I feel the Mede characters haven't been developed as much as they could be. Right now they're just this dark, ominous, villainous presence. And the thing is, unlike the other countries, the Medes are a real historical people, based in the Middle East and closely related to the Persians. It makes me a bit uncomfortable when I see books where it's Western civilization vs. the Middle East. Not that I think Turner is doing it purposefully, but I see ways in which her books could be interpreted as such.

6wisewoman
Edited: Apr 8, 2010, 11:05am Top

The Medes remind me a little of the Calormenes in C. S. Lewis' Narnia books, especially The Horse and His Boy. There has been a lot of criticism leveled at his depiction of their culture as decadent and cruel, but it's important to note that he introduces several "good guys" who are Calormenes (Aravis and Emeth, principally). And it makes me wonder if Turner is going to do the same thing, bring in a character of Medean origin who becomes someone to root for.

And I wonder what the Medean women are like. Are they second-class citizens in a chauvinistic culture, or are they as imperious and powerful as their men?

7Cailiosa
Apr 8, 2010, 1:05pm Top

wisewoman

Based on the way the Medes underestimated the cunning of both Attolia and Eddis, something tells me that their empire is more than likely a boys club.

As for the other questions, I think I need a bit of time to ponder before I answer.

8bell7
Apr 8, 2010, 5:18pm Top

What I didn't like...
Basically, there is not enough Eugenides. I admit that I would probably back off on feeling so strongly after a second read, but that's probably the main thing that disappointed me.

What I did like...
I liked the continuing complexity of characters and politics. I like that characters' behavior always seems true to themselves, and thought it was interesting to see a new angle of Gen - through Sophos' eyes this time, at first as someone he looked up to and later as someone he's going to have a much more complex relationship with.

I kind of liked the comment about kings and queens having a different set of rules - I'm not sure I agree with it, but it gave me a lot to ponder in relation to the story. It reminded me of Crime and Punishment, too, as Rodya puts forth his idea of murder being OK for someone great, like Napoleon, but not right for just an ordinary man.

What I'm not sure about...
The story being told from Sophos' point of view. While I have to give MWT props for introducing something new to the series and convincing me that this was Sophos speaking, he isn't the character in the story that interests me the most. Between The King of Attolia and the prologue to Conspiracy of Kings, I already knew the backbone of the first half of the story, and having it in first person means I know Sophos won't die before he ends up in Attolia. I was surprised, because I really like Gen's narrating The Thief, but I preferred the parts of the story in third person.

9LadyE
Apr 13, 2010, 11:53pm Top

wisewoman:

"I didn't really love how Eugenides wanted to swallow up Sounis too and have Sophos be subservient to him, but I can see why this needed to happen. And I think I will become more comfortable with it as I get used to the idea."

I don't think Gen wants this terribly, actually. As he says to Sophos on p. 185, after Sophos mentions stabbing him in the alley and becoming annux of Attolia and Sounis instead, "you can have the annux part with my goodwill." Despite his ruthless behavior, I don't think he wants to snatch Sounis away from Sophos anymore than he wanted to be king... but I think the gods have decreed it. Everything's fallen into place for the Eddis, Attolia and Sounis alliance.

"I really loved when Sophos finally had enough and tripped Eugenides. I wanted to cheer for him! And the last couple sentences of the book were absolutely perfect, such a great snapshot of the relationship."

The last sentences actually didn't do much for me. It definitely wasn't as great an ending as the other books had. Maybe it's because the joke was a repeat from page 297... Maybe they'll be better on a reread. I loved the ending scene in the library though.

Couldn't find the typo... page 193, you say? Do you possibly mean "ganched" vs. "granched," as it's spelled when in one of Gen's threats after he climbs the tower? Megan's actually admitted that it was misspelled in KoA, so "ganched" should be right. I did see a couple of quotes that ended oddly... with an exclamation point or quotation mark *and* a comma, for example, though I can't cite a page number.

@jibrailis:

"I do think, though, that what made the book not a favourite was simply that Sophos is not one of my favourite characters."

This was a problem I had at first with KoA... I was frustrated at the distance it put between Gen and the readers through Costis, and I felt quite cold toward the character. He just wasn't terribly interesting to me. But I like him much better now. Sophos isn't a favorite either — who could be, compared to Gen? — but he is important.

I'll have to think a bit before posting something longer about what I loved and didn't.

10wisewoman
Apr 15, 2010, 9:25am Top

Cailiosa, you are probably right about the "boys' club" called the Mede empire. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Lady E, you are perfectly correct about "granch" versus "ganch." Serves me right! :D I learned the word from KoA and apparently learned the typo-ed spelling. See the damage one little misplaced letter can do?

I didn't phrase my thoughts about Gen wanting to take over the other kingdoms very well. I agree he doesn't really want to do it (this is especially apparent in KoA when he goes to the priestess). But he does want to save the three countries from the influence of the Medes, and so he does, in a sense, want to do whatever it takes to prevent the Medes from invading. I'm accepting it... just kind of slowly, like he did.

I don't know if we will ever get close to Gen in the narrative voice again. Turner likes to surprise us with what he does, and she can't do that so much if we are in his head.

So from whose perspective do you guys think Turner will write the next book? Cailiosa had mentioned Eddis at one point. I like that idea.

11foggidawn
Apr 15, 2010, 10:14am Top

I would love a book from the perspective of Eddis, but I'm not sure if she would do that, since in the last two books she's taken a more minor character as the narrative voice.

12Maid_Marian
Apr 18, 2010, 12:27am Top

A Conspiracy of Kings was definitely not my favourite of the series (that spot is still reserved for The Queen of Attolia), but it's solid, nonetheless. Obviously it was never going to measure up to the others because there is simply not enough of Gen in it, but Sophos was still very likeable. I enjoyed seeing him change and mature - actually, I was finding him quite sexy towards the end there, what with his scars and 'broad shoulders' and being 'as tall as the Magus' (who, I recall, is quite tall himself), and roaring at people (not to mention shooting them) and acting all kingly ;)
I also liked the fact that Sophos used violence to restore his kingdom and assure his throne, not because I like violence, but because it shows that actually, Attolia wasn't such a monster with all her harsh measures, they were necessary (well, ok, maybe not all of them) for her to remain queen. And Gen even admits it, that in some cases, there is no other alternative.
I feel that the romance was.... nice, but that's not really what you want from a fictional romance, is it? Gen and Attolia's made me breathless and weepy, and that was without so much as them brushing hands (or hooks, in the case of Gen, har har) - the only bit that made it seem as though maybe Sophos and Eddis did have more than friendly feelings towards each other was when Eddis felt ill when Sophos had to leave (incidentally, I too liked that Attolia held her hand then.... bit by bit, we are shown her softer side), the rest of the time....meh. But it was far more of a subplot than Gen's, I suppose. Look at me, comparing everything to Gen and Attolia! And there for me, is the book's biggest problem - they are by far the most interesting characters in Megan Whalen Turner's imaginary world, yet they are sidelined for most of the story.

13Nikkles
Jun 5, 2010, 1:45pm Top

I liked the book. I agree that it to a bit for me to warm up to Sophos the narrator, but I got there in the end. I think the view point and lack of Gen's was important to remind Sophos and the audience that as the choose one of the God's and as Kingm, Gen will do what he has to. Period. I personally was reminded to be a little frightened of what he might do.

14ncgraham
Jul 5, 2010, 3:56pm Top

I'm in the middle of the book right now, so I've not read everyone's posts because of spoilers, but I have to say I'm loving it so far! I'll post something more substantial when I'm finished.

15ncgraham
Jul 12, 2010, 10:55pm Top

Okay, here we go.

• So what are the things you definitely did not like about the book?

That passage wisewoman mentioned, when Eddis tells Sophos that "the rules that govern our behavior are not the rules for other men, and our honor, I think, is a different thing entirely, difficult for anyone but the historians and the gods to judge." It made me think of The Magician's Nephew too. (Am I a Narnia fan or what?) If anything, I would say that the rules that govern everybody apply even more in the case of kings, simply because of their increased responsibility. Also, it seems to go against what I perceive as the main idea of the story—that "we are not defined by our circumstances."

I also agree with Lady E about the ending. If Turner was going to end with a joke, she should have used a new one, or at least a variation of an old one, not merely recycled one from two chapters before. It's always annoying when a book falls flat on the last page.

• What are the things you weren't sure about at first, but will probably end up liking very much after rereading?

The switches in point of view, definitely. Really, she could have written the whole thing in first person from Sophos' point of view, and it would have read much more smoothly. Of course, then we would have missed that powerful moment when Eddis is trying to say farewell, and Attolia clutches her hand.

Actually, I was disappointed at how shadowy a figure Attolia was in this book—much more so than Gen. But as I went along I noticed little touches (like the one mentioned above) that really illuminated her character, and I expect that I will notice and appreciate more of them once I reread.

• And what are the things you unreservedly loved the first time through?

To be honest, the whole of Sophos' first narrative. This part of the book struck me in a similar way to The Thief; although they are very different in tone, they were both so enthralling to read. What a roller-coaster ride it made for! If the whole book had been like that, I think it would have been my favorite of the series. Now, I'm not so sure.

And I loved loved loved Sophos/Eddis. For some reason I missed out on the foreshadowing in the earlier books, but I thought they made for a lovely couple. I don't see how anyone could doubt their love for each other. Eddis has always been one of my favorite characters, and I found myself relating to Sophos a lot in this book: they make for a much more down-to-earth couple, even if they may not be as unique and passionate. I would certainly feel more comfortable with them as dinner guests, lol.

16foggidawn
Jul 12, 2010, 11:19pm Top

#15 -- "Ours is a high and lonely destiny." ;-)

17ncgraham
Jul 26, 2010, 12:03pm Top

Haha, you know what's sad? I had no idea what you were quoting for the longest time ... then, one day, when I was sitting on my lifeguard stand, I thought, "Idiot! Of course, that's what Uncle Andrew says in The Magician's Nephew!" Some Narnia fan I am!

(It's truly amazing the things that come to mind when you stare at water for hours on end. I recommend it to anyone who's trying to remember things they've forgotten.)

BTW, posted a Conspiracy of Kings review here:

http://www.librarything.com/work/8440195/reviews/55550859

18wisewoman
Mar 7, 2011, 10:00am Top

So this group's been quiet for awhile! Anyone else contemplating a reread of CoK?

19bell7
Edited: Mar 7, 2011, 8:58pm Top

I usually reread the series around April or so.
(Does that sound weird? My reading log actually bears out that there are books I read around the same time every year, and that series is one of them...)

ETA: I just double checked. I've actually read The Thief in May 2007, February 2008, and March 2010. All this to say, I probably will reread them all soon.

20Maid_Marian
Mar 7, 2011, 8:01pm Top

I was just thinking yesterday 'I should read Conspiracy of Kings again' - don't suppose if anyone knows if the paperback is out yet?

21ncgraham
Mar 7, 2011, 8:25pm Top

I need to reread the full series at some point as well. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be any time soon.

Soooo many books.....

22wisewoman
Jul 29, 2011, 8:43am Top

So I just reread it. It improves on a second reading (though I liked it the first time too!). New favorite quote:

"All that was necessary to enter the temple was to bow to the wolf and offer your throat."

23donnao
Oct 13, 2011, 3:46pm Top

I just bought The Conspiracy of Kings in paperback. Now I have the complete paperback set and I can't wait to re-read them all.

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