The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

25792394The 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.


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 his only girl and 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 jealous 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 effects 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 it 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?!

I buddy read this with Kirstie from Upside Down Books who wins the best buddy reader of the year for putting up with my caps lock shouting and shouting back! If you haven’t checked out her blog please do yourself the favor and say Hi!

Feels at the end of this book:


Seriously just the words Hold the fuck up is right THAT ENDING OMG! I need the next book in my hands right now it was SO GOOD.

4/5 stars

Have you read this series? It’s really underrated so I’m going to guess no BUT YOU DEFINITELY SHOULD!

Greek gods, alt historical fiction, sci fi! Guys Sci fi and Greek gods? Is there anything else you need?


5 thoughts on “The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

  1. Oh wow! I’m glad to hear it made such an impression on you; I’ve been wondering whether to continue with the series or just leave it at Just City and picture my own happy ending..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so unexpected and fantastic! The ending really blew it out of the water, high recommend read it xD Apollo has some great lines and lots of internal confusing human emotion like book 1.


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