Gearing Up for the Big Kahuna Round

Huzzah, huzzah! A Conspiracy of Kings has won the Undead Poll! So even though it lost in the first round of School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books, it gets to compete in the Final Round.

I’m not at all surprised. Those who “get” the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, those who like that sort of book at all, are enthusiastic, not to say rabid, fans. Each book is a masterpiece of plotting, and the characters are realistically flawed but incredibly awesome, and show real growth. If you like that sort of book at all, Megan Whalen Turner’s books are among the very best.

Just yesterday, I finished my third reading of A Conspiracy of Kings, this time on audio, and I noticed yet more ways she builds the plotting. Megan Whalen Turner has said that she feels she’s failed if her readers don’t reread the book, and that she writes it to be a different experience on each rereading. I have said more than once that her books get better on each rereading, and it’s so true. On this rereading, I saw all the more clearly how strongly and believably Sophos’ character growth is built. By the end of the book, he is a true king.

Go, Zombie Gen! And scary, scarred Zombie Sophos!

Like they said on Sounis, any time it looks like Gen has lost, he is secretly plotting his victory! Though, yes, this book is more about Sophos, he has definitely learned from Eugenides, and he DOES have Gen behind him, helping plot his victory.

From the start, I was worried that Richard Peck wouldn’t be enough of a fantasy fan to pick A Conspiracy of Kings. However, now it turns out that all three books in the Big Kahuna Round are fantasy books, so that will be less of an issue.

I was 50-50 in my picks for the third round. Keeper did defeat The Cardturner, but I loved Keeper, too, so I’m just as happy to have it competing in the Final Round. And this means that all three books are from Team Fantasy! This is the first year that I’ve been a big fan of ALL the books in the Final Round, though it’s also the first year that my very favorite of all the books has wound up in the Final Round, in fact, the book I named a #1 Sonderbooks Stand-out of the books I read in 2010.

If Richard Peck has read the other books in the Queen’s Thief series, I think A Conspiracy of Kings is a shoo-in. If not, I still think it has a great chance. Both A Conspiracy of Kings and The Ring of Solomon are incredibly well-plotted fantasy. But A Conspiracy of Kings has richer characterization and character growth. Both make points about the use of power — almost opposite points, but both thought-provoking. Where A Conspiracy of Kings might lose is if it loses the reader because he hasn’t read the earlier books.

Keeper is a much more gentle, slower-moving fantasy, rooted in real life, about love and belonging and good things like that. It could win if that is what the judge prefers or strikes him most in the reading.

Whichever way it goes, I’m really looking forward to reading Richard Peck’s commentary. Coming this Monday!

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