I make no secret in that I absolutely love The Queen's Thief series. With the whit and cynicism displayed by Eugenides (aka the Thief), I instantly fell in love with him and the twist ending makes me grin every single time I read it.
In the fourth installment of The Queen's Thief series we now follow Sophos, (originally introduced in the first book and missing for the past two books) heir apparent to the Sounis throne. From the beginning, Sophos has been an embarrassment, terrible with the word, easily cowed, and not very brave, Sophos suffers silently as he is groomed to be King, a role that he desperately hopes he will never have to fulfill. His wish comes true when he is kidnapped, only to be sold into slavery to the very Baron who was trying to kill him. Under the Baron's nose Sophos works as a slave and he doesn't mind so much as the pressures of prince hood are gone. But his captivity is short-lived because despite all his apprehensions, Sophos is to be King. After his uncle dies, Sohpos inherits the throne, but a bloody war with Attolia and a civil war between his own barons as well as an "ally" that is secretly trying to control the country, Sophos knows he needs help. With the Magus, he escapes to Attolia to surrender to his old friend Eugenides, now King of Attolia.
Some may be frustrated by the fact that Eugenides plays a minor role in this book, but I absolutely love how this series has progressed. In The Thief and Queen of Attolia we followed Eugenides (Gen) exclusively. In King of Attolia we were in the head of one of Gen's guards who despises him. Even so, you find yourself rooting for Gen because the reader knows him so well. Now, with A Conspiracy of Kings the story has come full circle, bringing us back to a character from the first book. When Gen is aloof and cold towards Sophos, the reader knows that there is more to the King than meets the eye.
This installment is decidedly more political than the other three, but it fits the temperament of Sophos and this is definitely his book. Interesting point: None of the characters in these books are children, but they are middle grade books. Gen was perhaps a teenager in The Thief but that isn't made expressly clear. What does that say about children having to have characters that are close in age to them in order to enjoy the story? Perhaps it is this unusualness that has allowed me to enjoy this series from childhood to adulthood.
If you haven't read The Thief then I highly recommend you do so. And then real all the others. By the way, you will probably find the book with the Award Winners as it did win a Newbery Honor Award.