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.
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The artificially constructed Republic, populated with people whom the goddess Athene stole from their native time lines, has splintered into warring factions after the events of The Just City. Apollo, living as a human, grieves for his wife, who died in a battle, and his subsequent meandering journey slowly reveals truths that will transform the small society. Walton succeeds well in her mission of showing that the utopia envisioned by Plato is impossible, but her use of god-level powers, including a book-ending deus ex machina, strips the book of tension. The rape of Apollo's wife is noted in a toss-off journal entry, and her entire existence is reduced to her violation and death, which Walton uses to motivate Apollo to take his children on a lengthy quest for brutal revenge. Later, a second rapist is forgiven and ends up being an acolyte of virginal Athene. The philosophical questions just aren't enough to push past the troubling use of sexual assault in this unsatisfying sequel.