Author: Jo Walton
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Literary Science Fiction
Series: Thessaly Book Three
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(Spoilers for The Just City and The Philosopher Kings are below).
The Just City and all it's sister cities have been moved by Zeus to the planet now called Plato. It's now the 26th century, the philosophers are interacting with new alien species', but only decades have passed since the relocation. Pytheas, Apollo in mortal form, has just died. On the same day, Plato receives its first visit from Earth borne humans. Apollo intends to return to Plato, but first must seek out Athene, who has now gone missing.
The final book in Jo Walton's Thessaly Trilogy provides the perfect ending, at least in terms of results, plot wrap ups, etc. The beginning has a great hook with the ancient humans of Plato's Just City finally meeting the humans from Earth from which they've descended from. Much to my disappointment, the Philosopher Kings meeting the Earth borne humans is merely a subplot. The story quickly shifts focus to finding Athene, who's gone missing.
I was glad to see Walton incorporate some alien species' into her story. The Amarathi are only mentioned in passing and when discussing trading agreements, but the Saeli are now living with the philosophers on Plato. The Saeli have some interesting cultural aspects that are explored, and these include Gods from their own mythology, having three different genders (the third is called gla), and forming five person "marriages" called pods.
The Just City and The Philosopher Kings were great stories from beginning to end. Necessity really struggles in the middle. Some of this has to do with acclimating the reader to another set of descendants from Simmea and Apollo. It takes awhile to get used to these new characters, that are the focus of the novel, but I had less time to get acclimated with them because Walton was still trying to keep up on the larger Apollo/Athene arc that started the whole trilogy. Even though new comers Jason, Thetis, and Marsilia are developed nicely, and personally I like them, I never felt like I got to know them like I did Simmea and Pytheas.
The other big issue is time travel. Always a dangerous topic, due to the way it can destroy a plot, time travel was initially used to set up the Just City. That was alright because it set up a giant hypothetical scenario that was fun to imagine possibilities with. After the setting was established, the concept of time travel barely interfered with the plot, and a story was allowed to grow organically.
In Necessity time travel becomes a major plot device in the quest to find Athene. I found myself questioning the logic of the plot constantly while trying to come to terms with a lot of the b.s. rules or explanations or whatever you want to call them that Walton was frequently coming up with just to make the plot of the story work. All the sudden the organic nature of plotting that made the first two books a pleasure to read was gone, and instead I was left with a very disjointed quest through time.
I had set the bar high for this book, and that might be partly why I'm some what disappointed by it. The ending result ... keyword result .... though is moving, inspiring, and beautiful. I was as pleased by these results as when I finished Lord of the Rings and The Farseer Trilogy, and those are two of my favorite endings ever.