Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The King at the Edge of the World” as Want to Read:
The King at the Edge of the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The King at the Edge of the World

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  72 ratings  ·  38 reviews
"One of the best writers in America" (The Washington Post) delivers a mesmerizing new novel in which Queen Elizabeth's spymasters recruit an unlikely agent for an impossible mission: the only Muslim in England.

The year is 1601. Queen Elizabeth is dying, childless. The nervous kingdom has no heir. It is a capital crime even to think that Elizabeth will ever die. Potential
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Random House
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The King at the Edge of the World, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The King at the Edge of the World

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  72 ratings  ·  38 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The King at the Edge of the World
Ron Charles
Centuries from now, when our amphibian descendants look back at this contentious era, they may have trouble understanding what exactly we were arguing about.

I first realized this when I was teaching high school and saw my students struggling to fathom the theological disputes of the Reformation. To most of those smart but unchurched adolescents, the distinction between, say, being saved by grace or saved by works seemed obscure — and, in any case, a thin excuse to butcher fellow Christians in
Feb 09, 2020 marked it as to-read
DNF @ 27%
Really bored. Doesn't hold my interest.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
This may be jumping the gun a bit, but even as I preview The King at the Edge of the World in November of 2019, I feel certain that it will wind up on my "Best Books of 2020" list. The King at the Edge of the World works as historical fiction, but it also works as a novel exploring issues of identity and the myriad possible lives any individual might live.

Mahmoud Ezzedine is a physician on a diplomatic mission from the Ottoman Empire to the England of Elizabeth I. Though technically a free man,
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
Thank you Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!


These were my biggest issues with this book:

- Boring.
- Characters were dry.
- Each part changed perspectives to someone new.
- There was no plot.

Overall, it was just really dull and I couldn't care about it. Which is sad because it sounded super good.
Lady Shockley
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading a novel by Arthur Phillips is, for me, always an intellectual treat. Although his books purport to be about one thing, subject, or time, it turns out that while one may be set in Victorian England or among Egyptologists hunting for ancient tombs, the plot is merely the lens through which Phillips asks the more important questions: What is true? When does ambition become madness? Why did it happen this way, or did it? In other words, Phillips' novels are deeper than they first appear, and ...more
Nancy Gilreath
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A solid 4.75. The King at the Edge of the World is an erudite, humorous account of intrigue and deception that begs us to recall that what we revere as history represents only one of the possibilities that existed at the time events originally unfolded. The possible outcomes were infinite, so who is to say they couldn’t occur? In his new novel, Phillips gives us a wry recounting of the drama caused by the impending death of Elizabeth I and presumed succession of James VI of Scotland. It is up to ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, giveaways
Inspiration is a cruel and moody mistress and this book is a perfect example of that. Idea is absolutely fabulous, I dare you to read the description and not find it interesting. Execution however is not as good as I would expect it be from "One of the best writers in America" (The Washington Post). There are fragments in this book that are almost perfect and pieces that are almost unreadable. You are swinging up and down, jumping from good parts to really bad ones so frequently that the ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
*I won this book through goodreads' first reads.

I really hate giving up on a book I won through a giveaway, because it's always possible that a weak start can turn in to a fabulous book. And since I'm definitely reviewing a giveaway book I want to give it its best chance. But for this one . . . for the second time ever . . . well . . .

Okay, let's just be blunt. After ten days I'm barely past 100 pages. This book just Could. Not. Hold. My. Attention.

I can't put my finger on why. I love
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book sneaks up on you. It starts out with the Turkish ambassador and his retinue visiting England and Queen Elizabeth on a state visit. Among the retinue is a the ambassador’s doctor. I did not know which way the book would go, but without giving too much away, the doctor allegedly converts to Christianity and is sent as a spy to Scotland to help the English determine if James I is catholic or protestant. If this sounds rather dry and unexciting, you would be wrong. Phillips imbues this ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Let’s start with a few “givens”. Queen Elizabeth I was a formidable Monarch. There has been much speculation about her even so far as to suggest that she may have been a he. Unmarried, childless with her health and mind failing, her throne and kingdom are up for grabs. Her family’s enmity – (after all Elizabeth had her first cousin beheaded) has allowed her advisors and spymasters to determine who will ascend the throne.

King James VI is rotting and plotting up in the Scottish Highlands just
Jo Swenson
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
In this complexly structured espionage tale Arthur Phillips examines restoration England and Scotland through the lens of an outsider. Mahmoud Ezzedine finds himself exiled in, “a far-off, sunless, primitive, sodden, heathen kingdom at the far cliffside edge of the civilized earth,” when he is left in London after a diplomatic trip for the Ottoman Sultan. Ezzedine is then pulled into the most compelling drama of the time, the question of succession after the death of Elizabeth I.
Perhaps the
Joy Murphy
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
In The King at the Edge of the World, we find a Turkish doctor given the assignment of determining King James of Scotland’s true religion.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Muslim countries, Buddhist countries, Protestant countries, and Catholic countries. You can feel the presence of God in all these places.

In a time where we see others acting on behalf of God in conflict, this story is a friendly reminder this war on beliefs has been going on for centuries; what’s sad to think is there’s no
Kathleen Gray
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I don't know how to characterize this interesting and quite educational historical novel featuring Mahmoud, a Muslim physician who has been charged with determining whether King James of Scotland is truly a Protestant. The 17th century (this is set as Queen Elizabeth is dying in 1601) was a hotbed of religious argument, political plotting, and spying. If you've ever tried to untangle what was going on- or if you know the period well-this is the novel for you. By using Mahmoud, an outsider if ...more
James Beggarly
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book, with exciting action, characters and a very sly wit throughout. Queen Elizabeth is dying in London and, to avoid bloodshed and civil wars, spies are dispatched to Scotland to see if King James VI is actually catholic or Protestant, as he’s next in line to the crown.
I received an advanced copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway from the publisher, and I'm genuinely grateful -- because I loved it! I have admired and appreciated Arthur Phillips' writing in the past, and I would count The King at the Edge of the World amongst his best. I found it to be a fast, fascinating, thought-provoking, and thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read. It invokes the historical era (Queen Elizabeth/King James) beautifully, offering insights both about that era and about the ...more
Emily Roen
Jan 07, 2020 rated it did not like it
I won an ARC from a Goodreads Giveaway. The beginning was very slow, and I almost stopped reading this book. Once the main storyline picked up as more characters were introduced, the plot became difficult to follow, and the ending was left unresolved (which may or may not have been the whole point of this story).
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips is an ingenious, witty, historical fiction that starts out on the slower side, but becomes rich with layers and complexities that make the novel a pure joy to read. This book is witty, complex, fascinating, and leaves the reader wanting more.

The main character, a Turkish physician that is left behind after being a part of the Turkish ambassador’s entourage in a diplomatic trip to England at the beginning of the 17th century, is thrust into
Michelle Pulignani
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Love old history stories.
Steven Ridgely
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Loved the story.
Chris S.
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Random House for the galley edition of this book

Nostalgia comes from Greek words that imply pain and a journey home. To me, this book was full of a type of nostalgia, if we define such a thing by pain of a lost past more than anything else.

Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Turk who has been long away from his home in Constantinople, has plenty of such pain, as we can feel through the novel's searing prose. As Queen Elizabeth lies dying, he is sent to the court of James VI of Scotland to ascertain
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
“The King at the Edge of the World” looks at an edgy time for the House of Tudor. Elizabeth I has no named successor. The highly political and religious world she lives in demands a suitable successor be found that checks off all the boxes for a smooth succession. King James VI of Scotland seems the logical choice but is he Protestant or Catholic? The two men charged with answering this question are Geoffrey Belloc and Matthew Thatcher (Mahmoud Ezzedine). One a master spy the other a mild ...more
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I won this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway.

I'm a huge Arthur Phillips fan, so I was super excited when I saw that he has a new book coming out. The King at the Edge of the World takes place at the very end of Elizabeth I's reign - she is dying and doesn't have a named heir. King James VI of Scotland is the likely successor, but Elizabeth's spies and courtiers are worried that he is secretly Catholic. Meanwhile, a group of delegates from the Ottoman Empire have arrived in England, and one of
Tristan Munoz
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a historical fiction novel about Queen Elizabeth I that contains suspense, humor, mystery, and treachery - look no further.

The King at the Edge of the World tells the story of Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Turkish doctor who spends time between the courts of Queen Elizabeth in England and King James VI in Scotland, on a mission to determine whether James is truly Protestant and fit to be Elizabeth's heir.

While that story itself is enjoyment enough for any fan of historical fiction,
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Arthur Phillips historical novel is as much a stimulant to thought, as it is a story of an Elizabethan spy-master and his unlikely recruit. For fans of traditional historical fiction, it may work well as a romp through the "vetting" of a potential successor to the aging Elizabeth I, but for me the book was most note-worthy as a rumination on illusion vs. reality; religious intolerance; and dedication to personal integrity.

I like a book that doesn't feed me all the answers, and THE KING at the
Traci L.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book as an Advance Readers Copy. I really enjoyed this novel. I liked how the author took a fictional storyline regarding mystery, spies, and espionage which centered around Elizabeth's I pending death, and intertwined it with actual history. Because the fictional tale is weaved around real historical events it leaves the impression that it could have really have happened. Geoffrey Belloc a spy for England is tasked with finding a way to find out if James VI of Scotland is truly ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 very bright stars.

I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. it will be published in February 2020 and if you liked Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies you will love this one.

Elizabeth is dying and the only heir is James of Scotland, but is he Catholic? Is he Protestant? Is he pure enough for any of the interested parties to be be satisfied? One of the court spies is tasked with discerning this and his unwilling pawn is Matthew Thatcher, physician, convert,
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an advanced copy of this book for review.
"The King at the Edge of the World" is a novel about a Turkish doctor who is caught up in intrigue between the courts of Queen Elizabeth in England and King James VI in Scotland. It is such a unique story, which is rare in historical fiction. If I had to compare it to something I would call it a cross between "Wolf Hall" and "The Luminaries." My only quibble is one section of the book departed
Sherry Chiger
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not the plot-driven historical intrigue I was expecting, The King at the Edge of the World is as much (maybe more) of a meditation on identity, and how crucial self-identity is to one's happiness, as it is about a plot to ascertain whether James VI of Scotland is Catholic or Protestant. I'll admit that some of Mahmoud/Matthew's internal angst seemed to be belaboring the point and while beautifully written, had me skimming over the paragraphs. But the characters and settings were vivid, and the ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
The author is a passionate, brilliant writer who keeps the lines thin between fiction and fact. That can be a great thing, as part of a writer's job is to help me feel as if I were present as the story unfolded. While I did feel that way most of the time, there were big portions when it was more like a college history class rather than a quiet time read for pleasure.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The story started out really slow and I was beginning to think that it would be a book I did not finish and it suddenly starts galloping! The story is about a Turkish doctor who spies on James VI to find out if he leans Protestant or Catholic.Funny and witty with a few twists I am so glad I ploughed through the slow start.
Thankyou Netgalley for this ARC
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • My Dark Vanessa
  • The Light After the War
  • Rabbits for Food
  • Deacon King Kong
  • Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains
  • God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles, #4)
  • The Holdout
  • The God Game
  • The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King, #1-4)
  • Conjure Women
  • The Machine Crusade (Legends of Dune, #2)
  • Trailblazer: From the Mountains of Kashmir to the Summit of Global Business and Beyond
  • Disturb Not The Dream
  • Sinkhole
  • Prep : A Novel
  • Jack & Natalie
  • The Battle of Corrin (Legends of Dune, #3)
  • Private Lies (Fortune's Daughters Trilogy, #1)
See similar books…