Sophos, heir to Sounis, seems to be a prince in name only. He has no interest in politics or war, and is ambivalent to riding and swordsmanship. He would rather be reading philosophy and poetry or exchanging ideas with his former tutor, the magus. But his father sacked him, along with eight other tutors whose training has been insufficient for a future King. All Sophos can do is pray to the gods that his uncle will marry and produce a more legitimate and fitting heir. But when the political unrest escalates to a coup, Sophos and his family are captured and he’s given no choice but to step into his weighty role rather than see Sounis lost. Eugenides, King of Attolia, and Helen, queen of Eddis both know that he can save his country, but will he be able to prove that to the rest of Sounis and the hovering Mede?
Each of the books from The Thief on have been exquisite and Megan Whalen Turner’s latest offering is no exception. Sophos’ story had my complete and rapt attention from page one until the last. More than ever I was on the lookout for her signature plot twists and layering, secretly hoping I’d be clever enough to determine some but perfectly content to be incorrect. Because I’ll never be as smart as Megan Whalen Turner. She’s an artist who treats each of her novels as a masterpiece waiting to be born, finely crafting each exchange and each page down to the last word and punctuation mark. Nothing extraneous; everything minimal, understated and flawlessly executed. Again, I found myself re-reading the more subtle passages between the four sovereigns. Because each premeditated and purposefully rendered glance and word between Eddis, Attolis, Attolia, and Sounis packs a huge punch in meaning for both their personal and professional relationships as friends and heads of state. At times it felt like a big family reunion except between neighboring countries, and I loved it. I loved Sophos and his average-guy mentality, his preference for bookish intellectualism, and his self-deprecating humility. Attolia and Gen remain geniuses and Eddis is one wise woman. Most of all Turner’s quiet writing and nuanced plotting will keep me reading all that she writes. In the meantime a reread of The Thief is in order and no more excuses for not owning The Queen and King of Attolia already.