The Philosopher Kings

Written by Jo Walton
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

In this follow up to Walton’s highly acclaimed The Just City, Apollo is still living as Pytheas in the Remnant when his love, Simmea, is killed. Pytheas believes his rival, Kebes, may be involved. Kebes left on a ship a decade earlier and has not been seen since. Pytheas proposes a sea voyage, for exploration (old men and children are on board), not vengeance (of course he seeks vengeance).

Having not read The Just City, I was 100 pages in before piecing together the setting-concept: Athena snatched philosophically-minded people from various time periods and placed them on the island of Atlantis in an attempt to create Plato’s Republic. (I think.) This is never clearly explained. If I hadn’t been reviewing this book, I wouldn’t have kept reading. I did, and I’m glad. The Philosopher Kings is a fascinating story. Some scenes are suspenseful, but this is a philosophical narrative. Apollo, Arete (his daughter) and Maia (her teacher) narrate their thoughts, conversations, actions, with everything hinging on the idea that their lives are for the pursuit of excellence. Is excellence possible for humans? Recommended for those who read and enjoyed The Just City.