First, I spent a lovely few hours at the house of a dear RL friend. Then I came home to find that my mother had been baking Saffron Cake in preparation for Christmas, and had left a warm golden loaf of it sitting on my counter. *inhales sentimentally* Ahh.
I was just making tea and preparing to sit down with a slice of saffrony goodness when the doorbell rang and there was the DHL lady with a package from HarperCollins, containing -- oh glory -- the ARC of A Conspiracy of Kings, the latest book by one of my very favorite authors, Megan Whalen Turner.
What can I say about Ms. Turner's Thief series that has not been said already, and better, by more seasoned reviewers than myself? Check out the glowing endorsements from Bookshelves of Doom, A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, and Angieville, among others (but ware spoilers on those last two links). These books are, quite simply, superb.
I am happy to say that A Conspiracy of Kings, the latest in the series, absolutely lives up to the promise of the earlier books. I felt confident that it would be a good story, but it even exceeded my wildest expectations of just how good it would be.
No worries, I am not going to spoil this book in my review. I would sooner cut off my hand* than spoil it for anyone. I will tell you no more about its basic premise than you can find in the HarperCollins catalog:
Sophos, heir to Sounis, doesn’t look like much of a prince. At least, according to those in power. At least, to those who do not know him or the size of his heart and the depth of his courage, loyalty, and love. But Helen, Queen of Eddis, knows him, and so does Gen, the queen’s Thief, who is now King of Attolia. Gen and the queen believe that Sophos is dead. But they also believe in hope, especially since a body was never found. So when Sophos is discovered in Attolia, the obvious question becomes: where has he been all this time?I will say, however, that this summary is slightly misleading. There's so much more to the book than just the question of What Has Sophos Been Up To, gloriously so. There's the usual rich background, diverse cast of characters, byzantine political machinations (but they never get boring, and from someone as infamously apolitical as myself, that's saying something), flashes of wry humor, and unexpected wrenches at the heart. It's subtle and clever and outrageous and surprising and touching and thought-provoking, and all the things I've come to expect from Ms. Turner's writing -- plus some.
And it made me love Sophos -- who never really made it onto my radar in The Thief, being so eclipsed in that book by the irrepressible Gen -- more than I ever imagined possible.
I can't wait until April when everybody else can read this book, so I can discuss it with people like the good folk on sounis, whom I can confidently say are going to love A Conspiracy of Kings as much as I do -- or more. I don't want to overhype it (oh yeah, like I haven't already) to people who haven't read the series, because I am sure there will be readers out there (as with any book however brilliant) who don't connect to the story and the characters the way that I do. But I do feel confident in saying that if you have read the earlier books and are already a fan, A Conspiracy of Kings will definitely not let you down.
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner will be released on March 23, 2010.**
* Sorry. That was bad, I know.
** ON MY BIRTHDAY EVEN. HOW AWESOME IS THAT.