In The King of Attolia, we learned that Eugenides friend Sophos, the heir to the kingdom of Sounis had been kidnapped by rebels and then had disappeared. In A Conspiracy of Kings we find out what happened to him. (Essentially, he manages to jump directly from the frying pan, into the fire, yet manages not to get burned too badly.)
A Conspiracy of Kings opens with Sophos and the magus managing to make contact with Eugenides in Attolia. Sophos expects a greeting more friendly than he gets when he reveals that he is now (technically) the king of Sounis. (It had not occurred to him that announcing this means Political Ramifications and Eugenides is going to have to do what’s best for his kingdom first.) Sophos has to learn how to navigate a friendship that has to change to conform to his and Eugenides new positions.
The narrative switches between second and third person, which takes some getting used to. (I am generally not very practiced with reading second person. It is a rare format, and I tend not to like it because of the rarity and because I find it a little jarring.) A lot of the story is told as a flashback to the main action. We learn that Sophos had been kidnapped as part of a plot to make him a puppet of the rebel forces which have sided with the Mede Empire. The empire in question is trying to get a foothold in Sounis since they were not very successful with trying to take Attolia. (The region occupied by the kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia are a stepping stone of sorts to other countries on the continent.)
Due to various lucky and unlucky occurrences, Sophos ends up working on the estate of one of the rebel barons as a more or less anonymous slave. (Sophos turns out to be nearly as good at surviving by his wits as Eugenides.) This puts him into a good position to rescue his father from the baron’s treachery. Of course, he then ends up having to run away again because his father is also dealing with the Medes. (Being a puppet king for the Medes is not an acceptable occupation.)
In addition to political intrigue, we also have a romance (which is then complicated by even more political intrigue). Sophos and Helen, the Queen of Eddis begin to have a relationship together. (They were already fairly fond of each other, though Sophos uncle and parents did not necessarily approve of the connection.) This is a somewhat difficult situation for both of them, since Eugenides wants Sophos’ pledge of loyalty in exchange for helping Sophos get on the throne officially. (Watching the complex personal and politically relationships take form is one of the best parts of the book.)
This is another great book with lots of twists and turns. I enjoyed the interactions of the characters and the way everything eventually comes together. There’s a lot of sly, subtle humor in this book, and I enjoyed Eugenides being clever and oblique while Sophos flounders awkwardly until he figures out what to do. This was a thoroughly enjoyable book that I liked a great deal.