fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA young adult fantasy book review Megan Whalen Turner The Thief 4. A Conspiracy of KingsA Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

Eugenides is now the respected, if not loved, King of Attolia. When his childhood friend improbably becomes King of Sounis, Attolia’s neighboring country and historical adversary, Eugenides has to choose between loyalty to his new country, his queen, his homeland and his friend. Is there any way to balance the competing claims on his heart and his conscience?

This fourth book in THE THIEF series by Megan Whalen Turner brings it back to his former brilliance. The character of Gen and his friend Sophos, returning from the first book, are portraits of conflicting desires drawn with a fine-pointed pen, and inked in with exquisite detail. The magus is back in full form, and we learn even more about Eddis, which fleshes out the background details of the lives of more than one of the characters.

While the fourth book in a series, A Conspiracy of Kings would serve as an acceptable stand-alone book, because the point of view in this book is not Gen, but Sophos, who didn’t appear in the last two books at all, and was one of the supporting characters in the first. Megan Whalen Turner covers enough of the back story that new readers will not be lost, but the emotional complexity of the relationships amongst all the characters will be not as powerful if this is your introduction to this series.The Queen's Thief (6 book series) Kindle Edition

A Conspiracy of Kings, and indeed the entire series, serves as an interesting study in what qualifies as young adult literature. The story is an intriguing blend of action and philosophy. Political machinations between and within warring nations are balanced against action as gripping as any summer blockbuster thriller. The final battle scenes at the holy city of Elisa are just crying out to be made into a big screen epic in the tradition of Peter Jackson or James Cameron. I found myself holding my breath at places, reading as fast as I could to discover how Sounis would possibly emerge victorious against the forces stacked against him in rows of armor and weaponry reaching into the thousands.

The political issues — of the cost of leadership, making decisions that will leave thousands dead, the value of sovereignty, and the limits and value of friendship — are treated to no less of an absorbing investigation than the action. This story left me breathless from both the action and the emotional investment skillfully drawn out by Megan Whalen Turner’s talented writing. It also left me wondering if the depth of the material being covered would be truly understood or appreciated by younger readers. The multi-layered characters and the seriousness of the issues being addressed make this a weightier read than a lot of young adult fantasy I have read, and make me have no qualms about recommending this jewel of a tale to adult readers as well as junior high and older young adult readers.

A Conspiracy of Kings will have you spellbound from its opening pages to its last, enigmatic words. I can only hope that Megan Whalen Turner will be returning to this world and following the adventures of these characters into the future for years to come.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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