Caution: Review contains spoilers for previous books in the series. You have been warned!
This is the book that I have been eagerly anticipating since last year. Megan Whalen Turner’s stories abut Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, now King of Attolia, are among the most delightfully surprising I’ve ever read, delving deeply into character and politics. I especially love Turner’s treatment of Irene, the Queen of Attolia, but then I’m a sucker for stories of redemption.
I liked A Conspiracy of Kings, but more because it’s part of such a fantastic series than for its own sake. The Thief was told from a the tight first-person POV of Gen; the next two books moved even further from Eugenides’ point-of-view. This book focuses almost exclusively on Sophos, Eugenides’ friend and heir to the kingdom of Sounis, who (we learnt in The King of Attolia) had been abducted by rebels. Now we learn what exactly happened to Sophos, and his coming-of-age from being the disappointing heir into the young king desperately trying to keep his country together and out of the Medes’ hands. Sophos is a very different sort of character from Eugenides, less interesting, more passive, and prone to self-doubting introspection. I had really hoped that Sophos would be more of a foil to Eugenides, just as compelling in a different way, but he is not quite there yet.
This feels like a bridge book to me, uniting the kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis and Sounis into allies before the Medes launch the next step of their plans to conquer the three countries. The Medes–represented almost exclusively by three interchangeable ambassadors (they must have a factory in their capital where they roll out urbane, smarmy diplomats) and hordes of faceless soldiers–having failed to gain a foothold in the countries through alliances, will probably try something new. I’m sure Eugenides has some equally bold and desperately loony plan up his own sleeve to counter them.
This solid installment lacks the sparkle of the other three books, though it does include at least a couple neat twists. It did not satisfy me so much as whet my appetite for the next book, and a hope that we will see more of Eugenides and find out what Costis has been up to.