Tragic Awesomeness in The Philosopher Kings || BOOK REVIEW

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

4.5/5 STARS

Genre: Sci-Fi
Author: Jo Walton
Published: June 2015
Publisher: Corsair
Pages: 352 {paperback}

Originally posted on Goodreads

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!












Killing off Simmea at the very beginning of the book was a wholly unanticipated turn of events. But I think it worked out well. It meant we got to observe Apollo dealing with immense grief whilst still taking on responsibilities of an adult. It was also interesting to see what a god does when faced with the very normal occurrence of something like death.

The one thing I loved about this book was dealing with the fact that his children are basically demi-gods. I LOVED that Walton has them exploring possibilities of becoming Heroes and goes so far as to have their powers awakened. I also found it interesting that not all of the children wanted to awaken their powers, given the choice.

I loved that they all had different powers and thought it was cute the stress that Arete went under feeling like she had responsibilities now with these powers. It was something that was really cool and added this the plot being one of self-discovery for so many character.

But what we really need to talk about is THE ENDING. HELLO? SPACE? ALIENS? OMG. I love it. Walton, you’re amazing. I need to know what happens next because when Zeus rocks up at Arete’s coming of age ceremony I nearly fell off my rocker in surprise. I love that Zeus just swoops in and is like, OKAY TEAM MEETING TIME. And then nearly erases them from time but instead – INSTEAD – puts them far in the future on another planet in another solar system.

It’s fine. I’ll just have a small melt down over here as I try and digest this. Do you know what I did after finishing this book? I just sat doing nothing trying to understand how Walton had pulled this off SO FREAKING PERFECTLY. I have no complaints. I love it. I love that someone can take this sort of setting and plot and then wrench it around full-circle into the spaciest of space stories.


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.

View all my reviews

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

You might also like . . .

If you like sci-fi that stretches your mind, One Thousand Pieces of You is for you

If you like sci-fi novels that get you thinking, The Martian is for you

If you like sci-fi involving new cities trying to be perfect, The Gender Game is for you

Have you read The Philosopher Kings?

Share your thoughts below!

End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~


5 thoughts on “Tragic Awesomeness in The Philosopher Kings || BOOK REVIEW

  1. IT WAS SO EPIC OH MAN! I agree with everything especially the decision with Simmea seeing Apollo go through all those complicated human emotions really pulled the book together for me AND THAT ENDING GAH IT WAS SO GOOD AND UNEXPECTED!

    The mix of sci fi and mythology/historical fiction is amazingly awesome and unique, Jo writes it so well and while it’s a bit heavy in some spots as a whole its perfect. I thought the first book did quite well as a standalone before reading this but I’m glad there are more books. I can not wait to read the third book I already know it’s going to blow my mind 😀 Great review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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