Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Favorite Reads of 2010: A Conspiracy of Kings

It's that time of year again--your friendly neighborhood librarians are eager to tell you about their favorite reads of 2010. Here is Anarda W. with a series review:

In the spring, I read an essay in School Library Journal magazine about some of the most romantic moments in recent Young Adult literature. According to Donna Freitas, The Queen of Attolia (2000) contained “the best declaration of love,” by a remarkable thief named Gen. Hmm, this was a book and an author with whom I was totally unfamiliar, while most of the others on her list I had actually read. Freitas said that the curious reader should start with the first book in the series, The Thief (1996). So, off to the catalog I went, and discovered that The Thief was in the Juvenile collection, with not many circulations, that The Queen of Attolia was missing (Aha, maybe someone had read that declaration, and needed to keep it forever!), and that the Buena Vista Young Adult collection held The King of Attolia. I ordered the first two books for the YA collection, and waited for an opportune moment when I could take several hours off to read.

That moment came while my husband, John, was receiving surgery and I would have a long morning of waiting. I climbed into my beloved Prius in the clinic parking lot and started to read. And read. And read. And then began to re-read. I was hooked on this series the way girls of all ages are hooked on Twilight and its ilk, but this was no mooncalf romance. Eugenides is far smarter than Edward, much sexier than Jacob, and the odds are stacked far more heavily against him than against Jace Wayland of The Mortal Instruments trilogy.

Imagine a series containing a marvelous cast of complex, scheming characters, three very different, quasi-Greek kingdoms, each ruled by a singularly situated leader and each suffering from the geopolitical problems unique to each kingdom and its society, and all of this in writing that is pure, lucid, and subtle.

In The Thief, we meet Gen, the young thief who claims he can steal anything—and then proves that he can, over the course of the next several books, including the thefts of a queen’s love and of a kingdom. In the fourth and newest book, A Conspiracy of Kings (2010), it is Gen’s younger companion from The Thief, Sophos, who is the center of attention. Sophos seeks help from his old friend, now based in Attolia, to regain his royal rights, even while his kingdom appears to be at war with Attolia.

This is yet another fine and complex novel of political intrigue and love at odds with itself, and while I would have liked the author to go back to describing Gen’s evolution as a character, I was happy to witness the growing of assurance and wisdom in Sophos. And this is true for the entire series; with each book I watched the maturation of the characters as they gained mastery over the reins of government and learned to surrender the control of their hearts. May they continue to enchant me for many more books to come....

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