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Thessaly #2

The Philosopher Kings

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From acclaimed, award-winning author Jo Walton: Philosopher Kings, a tale of gods and humans, and the surprising things they have to learn from one another. Twenty years have elapsed since the events of The Just City. The City, founded by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, organized on the principles espoused in Plato’s Republic and populated by people from all eras of human history, has now split into five cities, and low-level armed conflict between them is not unheard-of.

The god Apollo, living (by his own choice) a human life as "Pythias" in the City, his true identity known only to a few, is now married and the father of several children. But a tragic loss causes him to become consumed with the desire for revenge. Being Apollo, he goes handling it in a seemingly rational and systematic way, but it’s evident, particularly to his precocious daughter Arete, that he is unhinged with grief.

Along with Arete and several of his sons, plus a boatload of other volunteers--including the now fantastically aged Marsilio Ficino, the great humanist of Renaissance Florence--Pythias/Apollo goes sailing into the mysterious Eastern Mediterranean of pre-antiquity to see what they can find—possibly the man who may have caused his great grief, possibly communities of the earliest people to call themselves "Greek." What Apollo, his daughter, and the rest of the expedition will discover…will change everything.

348 pages, Hardcover

First published June 30, 2015

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About the author

Jo Walton

79 books2,852 followers
Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.

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Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
January 16, 2016
The older I get, the more I see literature as an endless conversation with itself, reflecting the variety of human experience, and the novel is the most playful and imaginative form for that conversation.

Through the attempt to evoke different periods of history (however deeply we delve into the details of that time) we get to mess around with different modes of being, which can enable us to come back to ourselves and see our surroundings—which are nearly invisible to us in their everyday order—anew. And have fun.

And the most fun I have as a reader is with a book like Jo Walton’s second Thessaly novel, The Philosopher Kings, which partakes expertly of various periods of history, fantasy, mythology, and science fiction deliberately melded together in this second installment of the Greek goddess Athena’s thought-experiment project of establishing Plato’s Republic.

As one can expect from Walton, it’s utterly different from the first book, The Just City, though certain characters and the settings reappear here.

I think a new reader could begin with this book (though I feel that to get the maximum enjoyment the first ought to be read before this one) because even though a main character from The Just City is snatched away from us at the outset, the rest of the book deals effectively with what that means to the surviving characters.

The first three quarters offer a journey, its motivation a mixture of justice, exploration, and revenge. Along the way, our main characters—the incarnate god Apollo, his daughter Arete, several of his sons, a few characters from the first book and some new ones—hold more of those marvelous philosophical discussions that contributed to making the first book such a delight, covering so many subjects—theology, justice, art, human relations, and the crucial difference between envy and jealousy—with the overriding quest for human excellence.

Every reader is likely to come away with a different theme: mine, after three readings, is how exalting, exhilarating, and challenging it is to do everything one can to work toward being the best human being one can possibly be.

Along the way, we see so many views of what the characters believe constitutes excellence, and how humans set about making it. But this description leaves out all the emotion and passion. Oh, and anger. The character, Kebes, from whom Apollo seeks justice (or vengeance), is very angry. By holding onto his anger, he pretty much guarantees that, in spite of all his work in other directions, resolution is going to include a component of violence.

Ending there would have made a perfectly good book—that’s where many stories would have ended, and there is catharsis—but this novel continues on to explore what is possible beyond anger, leading to an unpredictable twist in a breathtaking new direction.

Even when I don’t agree with the conclusions and opinions of various characters, every discussion sparked reflections when I had to set the book down, and a wish to follow the trails of characters into readings I have yet to make. Put together with sheer enjoyment of the storyline, I came away knowing that this book will be one I’ll enjoy revisiting.
Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews131 followers
July 15, 2016
Time travel, robots, Greek gods, Atlantis, and Plato’s Republic, part II

After the community riving debate at the end of the previous book, the goddess Athena has gone off in a huff, taking most of the futuristic robot workers with her, and the Just City--her philosophical experiment based on Plato’s Republic--is fragmenting into factions. Some groups want to follow Plato’s strictures differently or even more closely, others are allying themselves with Sokrates or blending Plato’s ideas with religious beliefs, and they all are skirmishing violently over the museum quality artwork that Athena had “rescued” from the dustbins of history and installed in her Just City project to enhance the souls of its citizens, a tragically ironic miscalculation. As The Philosopher Kings opens, my favorite character from the first book is dying, shot by an arrow in one of the battles over art.

The Philosopher Kings is the sequel to The Just City, and you would definitely want to start at the beginning of Jo Walton’s Thessaly trilogy before jumping into this continuation of the story. In the first book, when Athena decides to try creating the ideal city that Plato describes in his Republic dialogue, she time-travels interested people from throughout history (from far into our future to deep into our past) and sets them up on the isolated island of Atlantis sometime before the Trojan War, knowing the site will later be destroyed by a volcano so that nothing they do will interfere with any already determined chains of events. Apollo joins her, taking on mortal form to be part of her Just City experiment, because even being a god is limiting in its way and he knows he has things to learn. As a human Apollo is both incredibly talented and clumsily clueless.

Apollo is back as a narrator in the second book, and so is Maia, an earnest, hardworking intellectual sort, who had been deeply frustrated by the many restrictions placed on women in Victorian England before Athena brought her to the Just City when she was 19 years old, but deeply philosophical Simmea dies in the book’s first few pages after being wounded in the ongoing battles over artwork. Simmea began life on a farm in ancient Egypt and was then sold into slavery before being brought to the Just City as a ten-year-old, and she has been grateful for the goddess-given opportunity to become her best self. Fortunately Simmea’s place as a narrator is taken by her teenage daughter Arete, a young woman coping with the mostly wonderful but unsettling secret of her parentage--her father Apollo is a god, which allows her the possibility of becoming a hero like Hercules, maybe the first female hero.

Because they aren’t supposed to interfere with history, most Just City citizens had stayed close to their settlement on Atlantis, but after Simmea’s death they decide to make a voyage of discovery, goodwill, and possible revenge, since there are those, Apollo among them, who believe the attack on Simmea must have come from outside. Much of the book is taken up with this epic trip around the islands of the Mediterranean. The voyagers aren’t sure exactly when in time they are, and the primitive, non-philosophical lives of the pre-Trojan War people they first encounter stun them. There is much debate about whether it would be better to help those people or leave them alone.

This sequel thrilled and gripped me as much as the first book did. It’s a novel full of ideas and action, but it’s the characters that bring the story to life. They each have sincere and strong, but often clashing ideas about how to create a Plato inspired community, and now their opinions are further challenged by what they find on the voyage. I could especially relate to their feelings of dislocation out in the “real world”. Coming of age in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, an era when we questioned everything, I was eager to pick apart my hidden (and probably mistaken) axioms of belief. To that end I attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland where we sought Truth, or maybe just truth, by reading, discussing, and arguing over “the Great Books”, from Homer and Euclid to Tolstoy, Marx, and Einstein (yes, it was a European male dominated list, something the school has rectified somewhat since.) Over summer and winter breaks it was always a disconcerting shock to discover that there were people, even among our friends and family, who didn’t care enough about Plato to have his dialogues be a constant topic of even casual conversations.

The third book in this series won’t be out for a while, on her blog Jo Walton said Summer 2016 at the earliest, but I await it eagerly. It looks like it may be set far into the future, and if so I’m sure Athena’s Just City experiment will have many new and interesting challenges.
Profile Image for Sarah.
636 reviews144 followers
April 15, 2018
*Minor Spoilers throughout*

I’m really torn between giving this 4 stars or 5. I gave the first one 5 stars because it was just so beautiful and provided so much food for thought. This one gives you plenty of things to think about but it does so in a much less obvious way. You have to look a little harder for it, and the focus has shifted. I also missed the dialogues between Simmea and Apollo and Sokrates, and really everyone. There seemed to be much less of that this time.

But it was still an excellent read and very much worth continuing if you enjoyed the first book. There is a lot of focus on religion this go around and I think Walton handled it very smoothly by presenting two ends of the spectrum and one in the middle. The likenesses drawn between Jesus and Apollo especially were very thoughtful. I think some of the other themes here are death, grief and mourning. While there are very few character deaths in The Just City, there are a few big ones in The Philosopher Kings.

Later in the book, Art and its importance in the wide world become a big focus. This is a line of thought I found particularly interesting, and made me recall a debate I had in one of my college classes regarding art. How should art, especially art with historical significance be divided up among the world? Who owns it when the creators are long gone? The debate in college was mostly in regards to the Parthenon’s Marbles, now housed in Britain. On the one hand, it’s fantastic that British/UK citizens and UK tourists, can go there and see a bit of Greece, see a bit of history, learn something, and appreciate the greatness and excellence of people that came thousands of years before us. On the other hand, it really is rather appalling that the Parthenon stands incomplete. Those marbles could bring tourism to Greece and elevate their poor economy. However, what of those people who might never be able to afford to go to Greece and see them? Shouldn’t they have an opportunity to see them somewhere else? Somewhere that might be closer to home? I still don’t have an answer for this that feels sufficient, and I was really delighted to see Walton touch on it here. I live not too far from the Boston Museum of Art which houses Roman mosaics, Egyptian sculptures, and at the time I visited, a touring display of Da Vinci. I am sincerely appreciative of my opportunity to lay my eyes on history like that and likely would never have had the opportunity to see them in my lifetime if they weren’t available in one place so close to home, but aside from the paintings, it also seems destructive. What of the people of Egypt and Rome who can’t look upon those places they came from and see them whole? Is it fair? Is it right?

Sorry- tangent over. I adored Apollo in the first book and I still adored him here. Ficino wasn’t somebody I appreciated enough in the first book but his character in the absence of Sokrates was really able to shine. Arete was truly a wonderful addition to the book. She was similar to Simmea in some ways and completely different in others and I loved her chapters and seeing her thought process.

This book is much more action oriented then the second. There was rarely a dull moment. I didn’t think the climax could possibly come close to the one in The Just City, but even I was impressed. I absolutely can’t wait for the third book and I’m only sorry I didn’t finish this sooner in the day so I could run to the library and pick it up.

Content Warnings:
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
September 27, 2015
Received to review via Netgalley

I should probably additionally note before I write this review that I consider Jo a friend, but I was a fan of her writing first. Actually, surprisingly, I have pretty mixed feelings about this one. It’s surprising to me, anyway — but everyone seems to connect to different books even just among Jo’s bibliography, because she’s written such a range of things. Only a little while ago I was talking about how strongly I connected with The King’s Peace/The King’s Name, which my friend Bun wasn’t nearly as enthused about.

I do like this trilogy, and I’m curious to see what the final book does with this set-up. I love the whole idea of it, and it makes me want to have Sokratic debates with everyone (in which case my mother would probably dearly wish to be able to turn me into a gadfly). I’d love to know my metal, I’d love to get the education that they have in the Just City. And I love the characters, the way everyone is learning, the way nearly everyone has subtleties and can surprise you.

My main problems with this book were to do with the pacing and one particular character. As the book starts, there’s a major drive to do a particular thing. That’s resolved by 70% of the way through, maybe even a little before, and so the rest of the book had the curious feel of being an epilogue. The emotional drive of the story, the whole tone of it, just changes — and yet then there was another climactic moment in the last 10%, after I was expecting it to end, and this one really was a gamechanger.

As for the character, I felt like I didn’t understand him anymore. Up to that point, I had understood him, and even half-sympathised, but there was a sudden moment when he felt less like the character I ‘knew’ from reading The Just City, and simply made up of the worst parts of that person, magnified. And I didn’t really see where the change came in — the problem being, of course, that none of the narrators saw him for years between The Just City and this book. It just didn’t quite ring true, for me, like there was a step missing.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading The Philosopher Kings very much, and will deeply enjoy talking about it and debating about it with my partner and anyone else who wants to.

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Gabi.
694 reviews120 followers
April 21, 2020
4.5 stars rounded up

The story takes place in time roughly 2 decades after the end of the first book, in terms of plot it is a neat continuation as the city of Plato’s republic disintegrates into several offsprings all in a slight different approach to reach their perfect form of government.

While „The Just City“ was a mainly philosophical thought and writing experiment, the second novel starts with action and keeps up with a mix of action and philosophical/moral topics as the story progresses. The theme of vengeance and atonement is quite prominent. Attrocities done in the first book are dealt with here – again in the fashion that I appreciated so much in „The Just City“. Walton doesn’t take a clear right or wrong stance but throws the opinions in according to the respective characters and leaves the reader in the last instance to decide for themselves. Just like a good philosophical approach should do it.

The Christian religion takes a prominent spot on the stage and is set against the polytheism of the Olymp. I found it rather compelling how Apollo’s and Jesus‘ lives were compared and how the invention of Christian faith way before Jesus‘ birth worked. Those thought experiments are what I’m here for!

After a strong first half the story dragged a bit for me in the last third, but then came up to a fulminant ending which makes me want to dive instantly into the third part.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,121 reviews1,203 followers
September 7, 2022
Take two of “I kind of love this series, and also have a lot of criticism of it”!

Beware that this review includes spoilers for the first book. Knowing how this book begins is in many ways a spoiler for the first book, so be wary of any information about it if that concerns you.

The Philosopher Kings picks up 20 years after the end of The Just City, and again has three first-person narrators: Apollo, Maia, and Arete, who is Apollo and Simmea’s 15-year-old daughter. Since the end of the last book, the city has split into five, all doing their own version of Plato’s Republic, and not counting the group that disappeared with Kebes at the end of the last book, about whom nothing is known. There’s constant conflict and raiding among the cities, and when Simmea is killed in a raid at the beginning, Apollo initiates a voyage of exploration and revenge.

This sequel did not make the greatest first impression. Arete gets by far the most page time (with one or two exceptions, the chapter order is as follows: Apollo, Arete, Arete, Maia, Arete, Arete), and while she’s a perfectly fine character with enough exuberance to keep her from being too bland, focusing on a teenager new to the story held little appeal for me and there’s nothing especially memorable about her personality. The book also starts slow, with some journeying and a lot about Apollo’s children discovering their powers (though the fun they have with them shines through and that was nice!). Happily it does pick up, with some meaty moral and practical dilemmas: Kebes’s group is now propagating Christianity before the birth of Christ, and everyone wants to help the less enlightened prehistoric locals, but all this threatens the integrity of history. I wound up very engaged in the plot and reading more quickly than I initially expected. I also looked forward to Maia’s chapters, which largely fill in what has happened since the end of the last book.

Also unfortunate, especially early on, is having grief as a major component of the story—something I’ve consistently found Walton to handle poorly. Arete and her brothers come across as having little reaction to their mother’s death, and frankly, in many ways so does Apollo: Walton will tell us he’s rolling around on the floor crying, while showing us someone engaging in normal conversation and having wistful thoughts—it doesn’t match. In the end I wasn’t sure whether everyone’s belief that he was grieving excessively was meant as a commentary on their own ideas about stoicism, because he certainly didn’t seem to be reacting strongly at all for someone whose life partner was just murdered, or whether Walton just wasn’t communicating his feelings effectively.

On the positive side, the book continues to grapple with some big ideas, if not quite as much as the first volume. Walton’s ability to mix in Greek mythology is fabulous: there’s a whole incident involving Apollo that I realized only afterward came straight from mythology, and I had to sit back and admire how well it had been set up from the beginning, down to the name of the other character involved. The kids having fun with their magic powers really is enjoyable, as is seeing the cities’ various takes on the ideal society, and who chooses which one and why.

Meanwhile, I’m of two minds about the depiction of friendship in the series. While reading, I was disappointed to find that every non-sibling friendship that gets any focus or attention winds up having a sexual component, to the point that the minute Arete has real emotions about a female friend, I immediately called that she would turn out to have a crush on her. On the other hand, I have to give Walton credit for depicting relationships a bit different from fictional norms. Arete’s crush goes nowhere when the friend winds up weirded out by it, seemingly because of their age difference—common in real life, in fantasy not so much.

And then there’s Apollo and Simmea, the major friendship from book one. They seem to have entered into essentially an asexual marriage, with a single exception to produce Arete, and think of each other primarily as friends. Apollo is clearly sexually motivated, but not attracted to her, while Simmea seems to have a low sex drive but is attracted to him, and they’ve for some reason decided to be exclusive. I definitely wanted to hear more about how this worked—I can’t recall having seen anything like this in fiction before, and Walton is clearly committed to the theme, as every partnership in the books seems to be primarily about people being friends rather than about sex (Maia and Lysias are explored much less but defined the same way). While I found meaningful friendships without a sexual component to be sorely lacking, I do appreciate that what Walton is writing here very much breaks the mold.

At any rate, the ending is in a sense perfect (I told someone else about the book while reading it and they responded by suggesting what in fact happens). But there’s also a sense in which it feels a bit too easy, in removing the stakes, and more happens in that final 4-page chapter than the entire book preceding it!

Overall, I definitely did enjoy reading this and plan to read the final volume relatively soon, though it’s reputed to be less substantial than the first two. The first book at least is quite unique and worth a shot, and this sequel well worth reading for those who liked the first.
Profile Image for YouKneeK.
644 reviews79 followers
October 21, 2016
The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton is the second book in the Thessaly series which began with The Just City. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first book. This time, my expectations were much higher so I wasn’t as surprised by it, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

The book started off with an event that I completely did not expect and was not happy about. The book ended with an event that I completely did not expect but thought was a lot of fun. The middle parts were interesting and kept me reading whenever I could find time this week. My review of the first book gives more details about the premise, and I’m not going to repeat it, but I’ll just summarize by saying it involves Greek gods, ancient Greek philosophers, and time travel. There are other elements, but I can’t list them without spoiling one or both books.

The event I didn’t like in the beginning was necessary, I think, to tell the story the author chose to tell. One comment I made about the first book was that it was very character-driven and didn’t have a lot of action. This book was also very character-driven, but it did have more action. I wouldn’t call it action-packed, but it had a more clearly-defined plot and a greater sense of jeopardy. As before, the story rotates between three characters, with each character's story told in the first-person format. The rotation is less even in this book; one character gets a much larger portion of the chapters than the other two.

This isn't a perfect book. There were some things I thought seemed inconsistent, and a few plot threads that were somewhat less interesting to me, but over-all I really enjoyed it. As I said, the ending surprised me. Some of the things that happened were things I hadn’t expected until closer to the end of the series, and the direction it took at the very end was completely unexpected to me, although in retrospect I can see that there were small hints. The ending left me eager to see what happens in the third book.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,431 reviews543 followers
August 13, 2015
The goddess Athena decides to create a grand experiment to determine how Plato's Republic would function. She plucks philosophers and thinkers from throughout time and sets them the task of creating a utopia based on one man's vision. Of course, not everything goes according to plan...

This sequel is told through the eyes of philosopher Maia, the god Apollo (currently in mortal form) and his daughter Arete. The events of The Just City were twenty years ago, and since then multiple republics have been founded, each trying to create a more perfect utopia. Beyond philosophical differences, the cities also war over proper distribution of art. These "art raids" have escalated over time. Apollo makes it his mission to end the raids and remind the philosophers why they sought to create Plato's Republic in the first place.

I like Arete, but she didn't fully come alive for me. She was too matter-of-fact, and her character voice was very similar to Apollo and Simmea's. (In fact, given a random passage I doubt I'd have been able to distinguish one from the other.) I was glad to see that many of my qualms about The Just City were answered in The Philosopher Kings: they deal with the rapists from the first book, and resolve the future of the Just City. It is this latter consideration that bumped the book from "enjoyable" to "omg yes" for me. I very much look forward to the last book in this trilogy; I can't wait to see what it's like!
Profile Image for Casey.
390 reviews97 followers
July 26, 2017
Just wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Okay how do I even sum up this book? If this book could be summed up in wows it would have infinite wows.

^See that sentence? Prime book blogging material right there I give myself an A+

The Philosopher Kings is book 2 of The Just City. It's been 15 years since the great debate and The Just City splitting up into 5 cities each with their own views on what it takes to pursue excellence.

This story still follows Apollo trying to learn the full scope of what it is to be human and be his best self as well as all his children. Arete is only girl quickly became my favourite character. 

Arete is full of whimsy, a bright girl who wants to be more, who truly is part of Plato's vision of excellence, even named Excellence she's the butt of every pun. When the cities split up all the amazing art rescued from the ages stayed in the main city causing others to become jeleous and a civil war to ensure in form of art raids. Cities vs Cities stealing sculptures and paintings, people being killed trying to procure and protect. 

After a killing that effect Apollo deeply he sets off for vengeance and of course discovers a whole new set of human emotions while grieving, in his grief he realises how barbaric everyone has been acting and sets to make everything right again.  

This is truly bare bones of the story Walton really delivers something amazing that cannot be summed up in a review, Apollo's warring emotions, he's children coming into their demi god status, and of course the nature of being Just. 

I have never read anything like this story and while some parts are a little long-winded and slow all together the book is a combo of Greek mythology, historical fiction, and sci fi and how could I not love that?!

Spoilers coz I have things to yell about:
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,079 reviews108 followers
June 5, 2018
This in the second volume of the trilogy. Second volumes of a series can differ a lot: sometimes the author planned a single book but then decides to return to the created world; sometimes there is a cliffhanger in each volume and the author just tries to keep you reading but not progressing the overall story, like many soap operas do. This book is neither. It is clearly the second in the series but can be read standalone. The quality of writing remains very high.
The story starts with the great tragedy, which creates background and motivation for the rest of the book. Almost two decades passed since the crescendo of the first volume, when Athena turned Sokrates to a gadfly and left the Just city. There is a new generation, born and raised in the city. As mentioned in the previous book, Apollo had a few children, who are, in Greek tradition are bound to become heroes. One of them in Arete, the daughter of Apollo and Semea and the main narrator of the story. Once again we have a teenage girl struggling to reach excellence and find her place, but the book doesn’t get repetitive. Quite the opposite! And there are superpowers and debate about them right from the period of “British invasion” in American comics in the 1980s.
To say the truth, in the middle of the book I planned to rate it 4*, a bit lower that the first volume, but the ending made me reconsider.
Profile Image for Jamie Collins.
1,427 reviews265 followers
August 8, 2015
2.5 stars. I didn’t like this follow-up novel as well as The Just City.

It begins 20 years after the infamous Last Debate, where the goddess Athena stormed off in a huff and abandoned her experiment with Plato’s Just City. The residents have split up and founded a handful of new cities, all with a different approach to living the life recommended by Plato. The description of these varied experiments is pretty interesting, and it’s nice, for a while, to follow up on the characters and the lives they have chosen, now that they have choices.

The book is largely narrated by Apollo and his daughter. Apollo is still trying to learn from his experiences as a human - grief, in particular. His children are exploring their heroic powers, which I found to be an awkward tangent.

I like Walton’s prose and the book is readable enough, but there is something about it that left me disgruntled. It didn’t help that there’s a weird implausible section in the middle where Apollo and his friends and family are only mildly disconcerted. Also I didn’t care for the ending at all.
Profile Image for Rachel Brown.
Author 20 books160 followers
January 4, 2016
This book will make no sense if you have not read The Just City. Read that first. (I reviewed it; click on the author name tag.) Though the plot is completely different, I would say that if you liked the first book, you will like the second, and if you didn’t like the first, you won’t like the second. Though I did miss the robots. And also several of my favorite characters from the first book.

Since I read this six months ago, I am not going to recap the plot, which is incredibly spoilery anyway. However, feel free to put spoilers in comments.

Like The Just City, The Philosopher Kings is a novel of ideas populated by painfully human (and some endearingly or terrifyingly inhuman) characters. There was some discussion as to whether the first book made sense as something that human beings would do, even with Godly assistance. I thought that it absolutely rang true as a portrayal of a bunch of single-minded fanatics who get together to run things their way. In other words, a cult. Of course, that is an outsider’s insulting term. An insider would call it a planned community. A true believer would call it a utopia.

I grew up in one of those. The details were totally different, but in many ways the atmosphere was very much the same. I was Matthias, taken from my home at a young age and given a name and identity I never accepted. The moment I got the chance, I snatched another name, one that I felt was true, fled, and began doing what I felt was right, which was basically the opposite of everything I’d been indoctrinated into. Sounds good, right? After all, cults are bad, right?

Well… It worked out for me. I had my own values that I picked up elsewhere, and hung on to for dear life, fixing them more and more into the core of my self at every daily attempt to teach me to believe in something else. I like my values and they suit me, but they are odd values for an American civilian (and have caused quite a lot of conflict in my life when I forget that I am the only person in the room who has them.) “I cannot die until my king has safely reached the fort.” "Service before self." “Duty, honour, courage.”

(On that note, thank you very much, Shivaji, Tanaji, Jijabai, Baji Prabhu, Rani Lakshmibai, for inspiration that lived on hundreds of years beyond your deaths. And thank you even more to the Base Commander of the Ahmednagar Army Base and every single person I ever interacted with who was in or working for the Indian army at Ahmednagar. You were the only people who were consistently kind to me, often going well out of your way or bending rules to do so, and that was so consistent that "protect helpless children whether they're citizens or not" must have been knocked into your heads at boot camp. It is an excellent ideal and I am not surprised that I extrapolated it to "ALL these people's ideals are excellent." In fact, I still think they're excellent and had I been Indian myself, I might well have joined the Army. (To be clear: I think the ideals are excellent. No comment on specific military actions, many of which directly contradict the stated ideals.)

But that was me. If I had decided to take my values from the Catholic school I attended, or from Indira Gandhi, or from Georgette Heyer, or from Kurt Vonnegut, or from any of the other thousands of possible influences on me other than the ones I was actually there to learn, I would have done very different things with my life. Being wronged does not always teach you justice. Having a just cause does not necessarily make your actions just.

As I said in my review of the first novel, you cannot make any sense of this book without the idea that depiction does not equal advocacy. I do know Jo a bit, though not well, but certainly well enough to know that she is not an advocate of rape, slavery, infanticide, torture, colonialism, kidnapping, or any of the other absolutely horrifying things presented in the novel and advocated quite persuasively, or else excused and minimized, by otherwise sympathetic characters.

I expect that there are ideas in the book that Jo does agree with, because there are a lot of ideas in the book, but I don’t know what they are and hesitate to guess, with one exception. I think Jo probably really would like to go back into the past and rescue lost or destroyed works of art, if it could be done without creating some kind of catastrophic butterfly effect. I would too. I think anyone sensitive to art would, unless they are very, very devoted to mono no aware and evanescent art; ice sculptors, perhaps, or tenders of cherry trees.

But despite the patent impossibility of the book advocating everything it’s depicting, it does feel like a book that’s advocating something, partly because the characters are all very passionately advocating things (often completely opposed things), and partly because most thought experiment novels are indeed advocating something and in fact were written for that purpose. But if it’s advocating something, what in the world is it advocating?

I think it’s advocating that you think about the ideas presented and draw your own conclusions. Very consistently, characters who are otherwise good or worthy or admirable people have horrific ideas and do horrifying things. Characters with extremely justifiable grievances are not necessarily nice people; characters who deserve to have bad things happen to them meet fates so far beyond what they deserve that that the reader feels guilty for wishing anything ill on them at all; characters who are charming and talented yet not good at all are exalted for their skills rather than for their moral character; Gods have extraordinary powers, but they are no more moral or ethical or right than any given human.

This is all very deliberate. It makes it impossible for the reader to draw the easy conclusion that good people do good things, bad people do bad things, and the morality of an action is determined by who does it, not by the action itself. The latter is a very common cognitive error that is enormously destructive on both small and worldwide scales. “My country, right or wrong.” “Priests are good and holy, so anything a priest does is good and holy.” “That woman is a liar and a con artist; why should I believe anything she says?” “That man is a war hero; who better to hold public office?”

I don’t know if that’s what I was meant to take from the book, which seems to be written as a mirror distorted just enough to make you really examine what you already believe. But it’s what I do take from it.

When I sat down to think about the book, I came to the conclusion, which had not occurred to me before, that I probably would have enlisted in the Indian army had I had similar encounters with them if I'd been an Indian citizen. In other words: I don't, in fact, have an essential problem with belonging to a cult/planned community/very formalized in-group. I just didn't like the one I was actually in. I think this shows how The Philosopher Kings is a genuinely thought-provoking book.

Also: absolutely killer ending. It was perfect and logical, yet completely unexpected. I can’t wait to read the next book.
Profile Image for Ky.
130 reviews4 followers
July 14, 2017
*stares intently at calendar for three months*
Profile Image for Sarah.
433 reviews2 followers
September 21, 2015
4.5 stars

I'm going to be completely honest- I only read this book because it was a book club pick. I wasn't the biggest fan of The Just City and I didn't have high hopes for this book, but it completely blew my mind. I loved it from the first page. And yes, there are still some Socratic debates, but it is NOTHING like the first book. There is action!! Things happen!! People make decisions!!! I loved it all, and I have a new appreciation for The Just City, as it lays the groundwork for this book and for understanding the rest of the series.

The ending in this book was completely nuts, in either a 'I can't believe she just ruined the series' type way, or in a 'she just set book 3 up to be amazing' way. I won't know until I read book 3 how I feel about this book's ending!!! The ending is really the only thing stopping me from giving it a full 5 stars. It was kind of abrupt and left a lot of questions unanswered, much like book 1. But there is so much potential!!!!!
Profile Image for Jeff Raymond.
3,092 reviews180 followers
August 23, 2015
When I finished The Philosopher Kings, my first thought was that it wasn't nearly as good as its predecessor, The Just City, but was still really good. After sitting with it a bit, I think that's really the most apt description. It's still really good, almost stand-alone while existing in the universe established from before, while still not reaching the conceptual or useful heights of the former.

This is basically an Apollo revenge tale, with a few factions at war and Apollo obsessed with avenging tragedy. The quest that comes about on this ends up going into really strange and terrible directions.

Why is this not as good as the prior book? The conflict is less interesting, for one, but, more to the point, the result of the conflict is really the most compelling part and it happens very late in the narrative. It's weird and strange and arresting, but the travel there just isn't as solid. Given that it is directly correlated with the existing Apollo myth, it's just a lack of strength in this story in comparison.

Still highly recommended if you liked the first one, but just be aware.
Profile Image for Stefan.
405 reviews164 followers
April 25, 2022
The Philosopher Kings is set about twenty years after the end of The Just City. The Masters are growing old, the Children have grown up, and the Children’s children (somewhat clumsily referred to as “Young Ones” to avoid confusion) are the first generation of true philosopher kings, born into the Just City without preconceptions, as envisioned in Plato’s Republic.

Read the entire review on my site Far Beyond Reality!
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 108 books728 followers
May 6, 2016
I got off to a slow start with this one, partly because something happened right at the beginning that upset me, and partly because, well, after that initial event it takes a while to get going. That said, I've never met a Jo Walton book that didn't wow me given half a chance. Somewhere along the way this became absolutely delightful.
578 reviews24 followers
June 24, 2015
4.5 out of 5 stars
The Philosopher Kings is the second in the trilogy by Jo Walton which got off to a fantastic start with The Just City. Before I even start to review this I’m just going to point out that I don’t think this book would work as well read in seclusion – I really do think you would need to read Just City first just to have some understanding of the relationships at play.

The Philosopher Kings starts about 20 years later than the Just City where Apollo, still living as a mortal named Pythias, is now married to Simmea. The City, founded by Athene as a social experiment based on Plato’s Republic has, since the ‘great debate’ that concluded the last book, split into 5 cities. Unfortunately there are occasionally skirmishes between the cities – particularly in relation to where all the great works of art are housed. (I’m just going to mention that there is a slight spoiler ahead – but one that I think is necessary to the review). As a result of one of the latest conflicts Simmea is killed whilst trying to prevent yet more theft and this becomes the catalyst for the whole story.

Apollo, is consumed with remorse. He doesn’t know how to continue his mortal existence without Simmea by his side to explain the little idiosyncrasies of human life – I must confess I was touched by how completely Apollo seemed to have loved Apollo and also for the intense grief he suffers after she dies. At first I was a little surprised that Simmea had gone – she played such a pivotal role in the Just City that I thought I would really feel lost without her but instead her daughter Arete fills the void quite admirably.

I’m not going to really go into the plot too much other than to say it involves Apollo and Arete, along with a few others embarking on a voyage. This starts out as a mission of revenge but culminates in revelations and self discovery.

Obviously we meet up with characters from the first novel but added to that are the inclusion of some of the younger characters who are just becoming a certain age. All Apollo’s children are aware of his true identity and they’ve also been given to understand that they are different as a result of being his offspring – stands to reason really! Some of them have heroic souls and should they choose to could gain ‘godlike’ status. I enjoyed looking at this element of the story, it had a coming of age feel to it and was a honest look at the differences that naturally occur between siblings and the rivalry or jealousy they sometimes provoke.

Again, I really enjoyed this, maybe not quite as much as the first book – but perhaps that’s because the first book also had the novelty factor, plus Ioved reading about the City being established. This is though, without doubt another thought provoking feast with lots to mull over. There’s the whole issue of just how far people will go to have something which they desire, and in doing so making human life so cheap. On the other hand there’s how far people will go to achieve revenge and whether or not this ultimately results in true satisfaction. There’s this issue of what exactly is enough? Is that piece of art enough to go to war over, is it enough to kill somebody, and it certainly explores extremes. Just how far will you go, what is acceptable. A piece of artwork seems trivial and yet here it makes cities rise up against each other.

On top of this i really enjoyed the whole look at the different cities that Apollo and his crew come across. It was interesting to look at the differences. Were these new places aiming to achieve excellence? They had their own religious beliefs, stark poverty was sometimes displayed opposite casual displays of wealth, systems of payment had been introduced but more than that there was in place harsh penalties for those that fall from the straight and narrow. A demonstration of how a city can be so affected by the whims and inclinations of the person controlling it.

As with my book review for Just City I don’t really think I’m doing this justice. There’s a lot to think about and I couldn’t possibly encompass it all here without writing a dissertation – which frankly I’m not inclined to do – and I don’t think anybody will want to read!

However, this is an intelligent book that explores many themes all embedded within a story of revenge.

I’m very much looking forward to the next in series.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Profile Image for Rebecca (LirilAB).
92 reviews5 followers
August 15, 2016
The Philosopher Kings is the second book in Jo Walton's Thessaly trilogy and takes place 20 years after The Just City. The experiment of setting up a city based on Plato's Republic continues, except with a few new twists. The god, Apollo, continues his experience as an incarnate human while the generation who were only babies in the first book have now become adults or almost-adults. This is the first generation who were born and have spent their entire lives within a Platonic city.

This book had more of an adventurous feel, being that some of the characters went on a sea voyage to nearby islands. The Aeneid and the Odyssey were mentioned a few times, naturally, and I recognized a similar epic feel to this voyage.

In the first book, the context of the Platonic city was planted and budded, and in this book, it blossomed! Yet, as human societies grow, there are often changes that may threaten the very ideals of the existence of these societies, and this book certainly had its share of these dangers, even if some were subtle and indirect.

Religious ideas played an even greater role in this book. While in the first book, the residents of the City had agreed that only the Greek pantheon would be recognized, other residents began to challenge this decision.

While there is more "action" in this book, it still has more of a slower-paced, philosophical feel that I personally love. This book also presents a transition from having almost entirely a fantasy (or ancient historical) feel to a stronger sense of science fiction, though to elaborate on it in a review would spoil the surprise. It all makes sense though!

And yes, there are indeed robots....in both books, actually. Can't go wrong with robots! :)

All in all, I loved the first book, loved this book, and am already a few pages into the third. It will be very interesting to see how things have changed in the third book as it takes place about 40 years later.
Profile Image for Rob.
521 reviews36 followers
November 1, 2015
...Compared to the first novel I guess The Philosopher Kings has a bit more plot and a bit less debate. That doesn't make it any less enjoyable though. The mixture of time travel and Greek mythology again works very well. Despite taking on some very difficult ideas the book is not a hard read. Its greatest strength is probably that Walton manages to make philosophy very accessible in this book. It doesn't end on such a dramatic cliffhanger as the previous novel but it is quite clear that the story is not quite finished. It will be very interesting to see what our Philosopher Kings can achieve in the final instalment.

Full Random Comments review
Profile Image for Kirstie Ellen.
760 reviews100 followers
July 30, 2017
4.5/5 stars

Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing
Oh my giddy aunt, this was a stella sequel. I enjoyed this book so much - I literally do not know how Walton wrote this series because it is 100% insane and I love it. How does a story exist in both ancient history and heavy sci-fi? THESE ARE QUESTIONS WITH NO ANSWERS. I cannot get enough of this series and by George! Do I need the third and final book.

The Philosopher Kings
This book is pure genius. Let’s all take a moment to doff our hats to Walton, sit back and appreciate the pure geniality of this story and how PERFECTLY well everything just ties together. As a sequel, The Philosopher Kings does a brilliant job of tying the story together. After the events of the first book I really wasn’t sure where Walton could take things from there, but I shouldn’t have doubted. This is just as good, if not better, than the first book.

This series is literally the most unique and mind-boggling thing I’ve ever read. Nothing will ever be like it, it’s not possible. Walton has made the most amazing thing EVER. But if you haven’t read The Just City then I’d recommend stop reading now and go and read that book, marvel in it, and then rejoin us.

The first book left us in chaos. More chaotic than Chaos himself. The Great Debate left the city split as Kebes lead people away across the sea to go elsewhere after having a massive disagreement with Athene. Sokrates was turned into a gadfly and everyone else was left to run in circles bumping into each other in panic.

So they did the one sensible thing they could do. THEY DIVIDED. Idiots. There are now multiple cities and the story picks up some 30 (could be less) years into the future. The cities are warring with each other over a dispute about who gets what art and people DIE. Like, page 20, people are dying. Take arms and guard your heart, dear reader.

Simmea’s family experience a tragedy which throws Apollo off the rails. He’s consumed with a need for vengeance and being a god he is wholly inexperienced with the emotions he wrestles with in this book. It’s actually really interesting to see him go through this torment and how he deals with it.

The book follows his journey to reconciling himself with peace again and follows, mainly, his perspective and that of their daughter, Arete. They have other children too and since the splitting of the cities - who are all founded on variations of Plato’s writings - they are allowed to live as a family. GUYS. This book is just amazing. Okay?

Why This Story Needed a Sequel
I really didn’t think that it did to start with, but I was wrong. Of course I was. Walton is my new god so obviously I should stop questioning her decisions. For a book about philosophy, there are so many things left unturned, unexplored and unanswered and this book begins to take steps towards solving that. There are always things to be explored and so many different situations that these characters could be thrown into that we can then observed in a highly interested manner to see what they’ll do. AHEM. THE ENDING.

What I think was done exceptionally well was that this isn’t just more of the same. The world they know is expanded somewhat in this book and the ageing of the characters add these dynamics as people are getting on and life is changing for them. I found this really interesting. I also thought it was intriguing to watch how the “perfect” city dealt with falling apart. It was highly realistic.

So if you doubted that this needed a sequel, or that the sequel wouldn’t be good enough, HAVE FAITH. You’re going to get to know these characters so much better in this book and good god is the plot just amazing.

I wanted to drop a quick word here about how the book read. As I’ve said, it’s mostly narrated by Apollo and his daughter Arete. I think this worked quite well and 100% benefits from having multiple perspectives. I found myself preferring the Apollo chapters a lot of the time simply because he’s a more interesting character to whom I’m more emotionally attached - but by the end of the story I was really enjoying Arete’s perspective.

She’s like this perfect upbringing of Simmea’s intense interest in philosophy and Apollo’s awesomeness from his godness. I also thoroughly enjoyed her struggles with having so many brothers. I only have one but yet it was so relatable.

Obviously I had to have a spoiler section. So I’m going to talk about it now!

This book is beyond words. You might be wondering why I haven’t given it 5/5 - two reasons! One: the story sometimes fell into a little bit of a lull in pace whilst it was getting going and I think that detracted just a titch from the overall WOW factor. Two: I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to save that star for the final book just to express how blown away I’m sure to be from it. YOU NEED THIS SERIES IN YOUR LIFE.

Happy reading!
Profile Image for Robert.
509 reviews39 followers
June 8, 2015
You can find this review of The Philosopher Kings on my book blog.

It does contain spoilers for The Just City - so if you have not read that, don't read this review.

The Philosopher Kings does not start straight after the climactic events of The Just City, Instead, the book is set about twenty years later.

Apollo, still living as a human, has been married to Simmea, and they have raised several children together. The book starts, cruelly, with Simmea's death in a minor skirmish. This is hard to take, as Simmea was the heart and soul of the first novel. Apollo, for the first time in his immortal life, experiences genuine grief and bereavement. It nearly destroys him.

Matters are not helped by the silly reasons for her death. She died, defending an artwork against raiders. After the events in The Just City, some of its citizens wanted to create their own Platonic utopias, diverging from the one created for them. Some wanted to pursue Plato's ideas more fervently and strictly, while others wanted to create a more Socratic republic of philosophers. The result of the splits are five different cities (including the original one), with different rules. While they share some things - the robots and the knowledge - other things were not distributed, including art. After some capture-the-flag style hijinx, campaigns of art theft turned violent. As all the youths had been trained in combat, skirmishes could be lethal, and Simmea dies in one such art raid.

As Simmea was the heart of the first novel, so their daughter Arete is the heart of the second novel. On the cusp of adulthood, this teenager has more common sense than her older brothers, more heart and brains and drive than almost anyone. While her father spends an awful lot of the novel moping, she navigates the stormy waters of grief, bereavement, first love, debate, demi-Godhood and more with that indomitable kernel of kindness and wisdom that is found in many of Jo Walton's characters.

Much of the novel is taken up with a journey to seek out Kebes, the former rebel who hated The Just City for enslaving him. As an exploratory journey, we meet other contemporaries of these ancient times, and see beyond doomed Atlantis for the first time.

The Philosopher Kings is, like The Just City, an intelligent novel that thrives on discourse and thought experiments. What deflates it a little is that it is missing the zest that Socrates had provided. It is a much less playful novel. The first book was imbued with a certain sense of bemusement - watching academics and philosophers trying to set up a utopia and follow a rule book, watching fallible Gods having their own blind spots, watching Socrates reach out to robots and interrogate ideas... The Just City thrived on humour and playfulness, even if it featured rape and infanticide and other serious matters. The Philosopher Kings is less lighthearted. It starts with death and carries on through grief and vengeance. It touches on oppression and fear. It features horrendous torture. It's a story of folly and cruelty and tragedy, with lighter moments, whereas the first was a light story about folly with tragic and cruel moments.

The Just City is a novel about consent. The Philosopher Kings is a novel about consequences. I would recommend The Philosopher Kings to anyone who read The Just City, and I would recommend The Just City to just about everyone. That said, I do worry that the road ahead may be more rocky for our protagonists than I'd ever expected...
Profile Image for Lis Carey.
2,164 reviews94 followers
July 28, 2016
Thirty years have passed since the founding of the Just City. The first period of its history ended with the Last Debate, when Athena turned Socrates into a fly and then left. The community split, and there are now four more cities in addition to the original, or "remnant" city. Apollo/Pythias has several grown or nearly-grown children, mostly sons but also a daughter, Arete, with his partner and votary Simmea, originally an Egyptian farmer's daughter.

The book opens with a tragedy, Simmea's death in one of the art raids that have become common in the years since the division. Apollo wants revenge, and goes after it in a seemingly rational, organized way. Those closest to him, including daughter Arete and some of his sons, know he's unhinged with grief. He leads an expedition, using the colony's ship, Excellence, to explore the region and seek "the lost city," the group that left with the other ship, the Goodness, and has never returned to the island.

What Arete and a few others know is that Pythias (only his children know that he's Apollo) blames Kebes, the leader of the Goodness group, for Simmea's death, and for his rape of her many years ago, during one of the city's Festivals of Hera.

Meanwhile, Arete and her brothers are starting to discover what it means to be the children of a god, heroes with the potential to be gods themselves.

In their travels they find early Greek settlements that lack a lot of what they have in the way of civilization, and they find the multiple cities founded by the Goodness group.

The Just City cities, despite ongoing low-level warfare, are all committed to the ideals of Plato's Republic, interpreted somewhat differently in each of their cities.

Kebes and his companions have abandoned Platonism in favor of Christianity, centuries before the birth of Christ. They've also committed themselves to helping their neighbors; they take in refugees from wars, build cities, and teach the skills they have. In many ways, they've got a higher level of technology than the Platonic cities. They've trained medics and glassmakers.

And they torture heretics.

But they don't wage war with each other. Their goal is to bring all the benefits of civilization that they can to the people of the Aegean.

The Platonic cities do war with each other, and they've avoided contact with local populations to avoid affecting history. They have no slavery, they have a broader vote than the Goodness group, who come to be called Lucians, after their first city, named for St. Lucia.

The Lucians have something that at least closely resembles slavery.

Athena planted the Just City on an island that will be destroyed by the eruption of its volcano, leaving nothing behind to alter the course of history.

The Lucians are actively looking to change history.

Both sides have a case to make.

What follows is a tale of mutual discovery and self-discovery, of cultural conflict and adaptation. Pythias, Arete, her brothers, and Maia, the mentor originally from Victorian England, undergo the greatest growth and change. What change can the god Apollo go through? He's learning the lessons of mortality, grief, loss, and change.

I rarely comment on narrators, but Noah Michael Levine is excellent.

Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audible in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Susanna Sturgis.
Author 4 books27 followers
February 8, 2017
I read this immediately after finishing The Just City, which I liked a lot, and though the ideas in this one were intriguing, the plotting and much of the characterization seemed weak. The Just City, the goddess Athene's attempt to realize Plato's Republic, has split in five, all on the island of Kallisti, each pursuing Platonism in its own direction.

The original, called the Remnant City, retained all the artworks gathered from around the world and across the centuries. The others want their share, of course, and this spawns a series of art raids. These raids are for real: Simmea, one of the narrators of The Just City, is killed -- so early in the novel that I don't think it's a spoiler to say so. One reason I didn't warm to The Philosopher Kings is that my favorite characters from Thessaly #1, Simmea and Sokrates, are both absent, Sokrates having been turned into a literal gadfly by Athene for his impertinence at the Last Debate.

Pytheas, Simmea's husband and the god Apollo in human form, vows vengeance on the unpleasant Kebes, though there's very little evidence that Kebes caused Simmea's death. After the Last Debate, Kebes set sail for parts unknown with his followers in one of Kallisti's two ships. Now Pytheas/Apollo and his crowd pursue them in the other. Among the crew is Arete ("excellence" in Greek), the daughter of Pytheas and Simmea, who has not quite reached adulthood by the city's standards. She's the most fully realized character in the novel, and the scenes where she and two of her half brothers discover what it means to be half god, half human, are the book's high points for me.

Kebes and his people have founded several cities, mostly on Aegean islands, peopling them with refugees from mainland wars. Their Platonism is of a distinctly Christian flavor, and the civilization they're creating is both more innovative and less benign than the cities back on Kallisti. Their medding also runs the risk of changing history. I would happily have read more about how these cities function, but Pytheas/Apollo's quest for vengeance dominates the story. I never did fully understand his motives, and indeed they change in the course of the book.

Despite my disappointment with The Philosopher Kings, I've just ordered Necessity, the third in the Thessaly trilogy, from my region's inter-library loan program. It often happens that the middle volume of a trilogy is the weakest, and I'm hoping that's the case here.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
774 reviews91 followers
May 29, 2016
This was really quite different from The Just City. Where I felt that the first book was incredibly focussed on dialogue and discussion about what excellence is, what makes a just city, and how to live out Plato's ideals - and I don't mean any of that in a bad way, I adored it - this had a lot more action. What discussion there was often didn't feel as grounded in philosophy because it was moving away from classical sources and into more personal, I think, reflections on being and existing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a difference.

There are spoilers below for The Just City.

This is taking place twenty years after the events of the first book. Apollo is still there but Athene is still off in a huff. The place has fractured even further than it looked like it would when Kebes and his crew left; now there are several different cities on the island, all claiming to be Doing Plato in the Right Way - and all looking quite different. I LOVE this idea and wish there had been a bit more about how and why the cities were different. There is some, and it was enough for a taste, but I wanted extra.

Anyway the focus is still on Apollo and his family, so it's still focussed on the original city. The narrators are Apollo, again, and Maia, again - and I liked keeping these original two because they have changed so much in some ways, and not in others. Maia especially has of course moved further away from the 18th-century girl she used to be. The additional narrator in the book is Arete (which means excellence), daughter of Apollo and Simmea. Yup. She's quite young and very different in perspective compared to Apollo (natch) or Simmea when she was young because she's had such a different experience - no being a slave for her, as for her mother, but instead a loving family environment.

The action is mostly spurred by one tragic act which has repercussions for a number of people although not for the entire city necessarily, which is another difference between this and the first; another way that it's more personal, rather than society-wide. It does lead Apollo to consider more about the realities of being human and all, of course.

I enjoyed it, although not quite as much as The Just City. I cannot wait for the next book because WHOA what an ending.
Profile Image for Teleseparatist.
1,002 reviews119 followers
August 16, 2016
Personally, I found this book slightly less compelling than the first volume (possibly because there wasn't enough Maia and I didn't enjoy Arete's POV as much as I did Simmea, and the direction was less clear than in The Just City), but the world remains fantastically imaginative, and original, and it's almost enough to make me want to read Plato (and I usually like my philosophy more postmodern, feminist and constructivist).

I also really enjoyed the way myth was used in this part, and the ending was terrific because it was just so unflinchingly decisive. It was like Walton didn't care about the rules, she ended the book the way she wanted to. And it was so enjoyable because of that.

It's really amazing to me that I'm having so much fun making my way through Walton's books after my disappointment with (decent but... just not doing it for me) Tooth and Claw. I'm so glad I didn't stop after reading that.

(This is a two glasses of wine review so I just hope it makes sense and is typo-free, more or less. Imagine there's a deleted "wooo" inserted between every second sentence.)
Profile Image for Jessie.
253 reviews24 followers
June 22, 2015
ARC from NetGalley.

This book is a sequel to The Just City, in which Greek goddess Athena decides to see if Plato's Republic would work in the real world. To accomplish this she takes several adult "masters" out of time along with 10,000 10 year old children. The Philosopher Kings takes place about 16 years after The Just City.

I haven't yet read The Just City. I shied away because I've never really enjoyed philosophy. As much as I love to read, abstract thought and theory eludes me. I thought I would be bogged down with theory and that there wouldn't be much plot or character development. I was very wrong, at least where The Philosophy Kings is concerned. This book was very readable. As one would expect with a group of philosophers, they talk and analyze their every feeling and action. It lead to some really interesting discussions about love, reaching your full potential, art and religion. The story and the characters definitely captured my attention and imagination. The Just City is now next on my list!
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