June 25th, 2015


The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton

Review copy provided by Tor Books. Also, the author is a personal friend, and I read this previously in manuscript form–you’ll notice me in the acknowledgments. So that’s full disclosure for you.

This is a sequel that will fill in the backstory for you rather well in terms of practical details you might have forgotten since you read The Just City. In terms of emotional weight, I’d still recommend reading The Just City first, and it’s a bit difficult to figure out how to talk about The Philosopher Kings without at least some Just City spoilers.

Okay, so: most of the book is what’s gone on since the end of The Just City. One of the POVs (Maia) does exactly what she does in the first one: filling in the gaps between the “then” and the “now” of the rest of the book, telling the pieces of story that fit thematically and need to be given to the reader for context and yet are much more interesting as 1/6 book slightly out of order than they would be if it was all in a lump at the front. The Children of The Just City are now middle-aged with their children (The Young Ones) finding their places as golds, silvers, bronzes, or irons of their city–or more properly cities–doing their own thinking about justice, vengeance, consent, theology, and excellence.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the characters running into the rest of the world and having it be something of a shock, after all these years, that there are people who are not in any way attempting to recreate Plato’s Republic. It has come to seem utterly, indisputably normal to them. And…I think we can all come up with aspects of our unique lives that feel totally normal until we compare them with the outside world and remember. It’s done really well, the shock of the new coming from an unexpected direction and yet feeling entirely in-character.

And I love Arete. The new POV character for this book is fifteen, not even thought of when the titular Just City was founded, and her assumptions and worldview are so perfectly rendered. She is striving so hard and is still figuring out what, exactly, she’s striving for. My other new favorite is Neleus, fully human in a family where all of his siblings are part-god. The family dynamic there is just perfect, and it’s not something we see in fantasy much, although we should, because it logically fits.

I’ve been pleased that so many people have seen the first book as something to start a dialog, because that’s so very thematically appropriate, and I hope it’ll happen here too. Meanwhile since this is such an early review, I don’t want to do too much of it myself and spoil major elements that I’d like people to enjoy discovering as I did.

Please consider using our link to buy The Philosopher Kings from Amazon.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

out with friends, crown

Fourth Street Schedule

The schedule for 4th St. Fantasy is up, and it starts today! We’ll be heading up there to settle into the hotel and do evening events tonight. I’m leading the seminar starting at 9:00 tomorrow morning, but all the spots in that are full. You can still get a convention membership, though! And here are the panels you can hear me on if you do:

Saturday 9:30 AM: The Romance of the Breakdown. Elizabeth Bear, Emma Bull,

Marissa Lingen, Max Gladstone, Sarah Olsen

What’s up with our perpetual fascination with breaking society and dramatizing the apocalypse as well as the post-apocalypse… how do our cultural myths and societal images intersect with this phenomenon and fuel it (the manor house cozy catastrophe of British fiction, the American narrative of rugged survivalists gunning their way across the ungoverned wastes, etc.)? We’ve seen that national powers can remain in control and national identities remain concrete even when bombs are literally falling from the sky. So why do we seem so convinced that if our society hits the rocks we’ll never get it off again?

(Oh, I have thoughts, kids. I have thoughts.)

Sunday 10:00 AM: Crossing the Genre Streams. Marissa Lingen (moderator), Max Gladstone, Doug Hulick, Kelly McCullough, Patricia C. Wrede

The challenges, structural concerns, and tricks of crossing two or more established genres in one book. How the beats fall differently, how to manage different sets of expectations, etc.

Note: the schedule has all of Sunday’s panels listed as PM. This is wrong. I know because I am never, never, never on a panel starting at 10:00 p.m. You think I flap my hands and call things “thingy” and “whatsit” ordinarily…you should see me in the 2200 hour.

Anyway! If you are noticing that I seem to be starting the convention every morning, you are correct! I am the Designated Fourth Street Morning Person. Rise and shine and geek out with meeeee!

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux