• The King at the Edge of the World

  • A Novel
  • By: Arthur Phillips
  • Narrated by: Euan Morton
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (165 ratings)

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The King at the Edge of the World

By: Arthur Phillips
Narrated by: Euan Morton
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Publisher's Summary

Queen Elizabeth’s spymasters recruit an unlikely agent - the only Muslim in England - for an impossible mission in a mesmerizing novel from "one of the best writers in America" (The Washington Post).

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post

The year is 1601. Queen Elizabeth I is dying, childless. Her nervous kingdom has no heir. It is a capital crime even to think that Elizabeth will ever die. Potential successors secretly maneuver to be in position when the inevitable occurs. The leading candidate is King James VI of Scotland, but there is a problem.

The queen’s spymasters - hardened veterans of a long war on terror and religious extremism - fear that James is not what he appears. He has every reason to claim to be a Protestant, but if he secretly shares his family’s Catholicism, then 40 years of religious war will have been for nothing, and a bloodbath will ensue. With time running out, London confronts a seemingly impossible question: What does James truly believe?

It falls to Geoffrey Belloc, a secret warrior from the hottest days of England’s religious battles, to devise a test to discover the true nature of King James' soul. Belloc enlists Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Muslim physician left behind by the last diplomatic visit from the Ottoman Empire, as his undercover agent. The perfect man for the job, Ezzedine is the ultimate outsider, stranded on this cold, wet, and primitive island. He will do almost anything to return home to his wife and son.

Arthur Phillips returns with a unique and thrilling novel that will leave listeners questioning the nature of truth at every turn.

©2020 Arthur Phillips (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A rich, old-fashioned spy thriller set in Elizabethan England.... Its plot is an intricate set of intersecting mechanisms and locks and keys, which, when they finally all fall into place, provide the reader with the gawping satisfaction of having been well and truly fooled.... Sentence by sentence, the book blends the leanness of a taut thriller with the marbled fatness of Elizabethan prose.” (The New York Times Book Review)

"Phillips masterfully renders the period and packs the narrative with surprising twists. This clever, serpentine novel recalls the historical dramas of Hilary Mantel and the thrillers of John le Carré, and will reverberate in readers’ minds." (Publishers Weekly)

“A rare combination of literary finesse and quick-paced plot—and another triumph from the versatile Phillips.... One is reminded of Hilary Mantel's magisterial Wolf Hall but perhaps more pointedly of Graham Greene's novels.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

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What listeners say about The King at the Edge of the World

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  • BK
  • 04-03-20

What a trip!

A wonderful story of plots and counter-plots, questions of the highest stakes, uncertain loyalties, and a good man thrown into the middle of it all. It's smart, playful, and lots of fun. It's also one of the best narrative performances I've ever heard.

14 people found this helpful

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Good, but Problematic

Overall, this is a well-told story, with an excellent narrator. The big issue I had involved the handling of religion. The protagonist, a Muslim from the Ottoman Empire, is understandably perplexed regarding the divisions between Protestants and Catholics in England/Scotland during the time period. He conveys the sense that his own faith tradition is somehow free from such divisions-- which is simply not true (then or now). Is the author unaware of the differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims?

10 people found this helpful

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Great novel until the end

I enjoyed most of this story. The narration was superb. The main characters are well developed and the minor characters are interesting. The story is complex and the scenes are vivid. However, the author seems to have a strange notion of how to finish a novel of this length. What he needs is a good editor to explain that appending three or more what-if endings does not make for a satisfactory story. It leaves the reader feeling rather adrift and somewhat cheated. The ending need not necessarily be happy or sad, just definite. After finishing this book, I read some additional reviews and found this is a common theme. Arthur Phillips' work has very positive reviews among the pros but his work seems to be less appreciated among the reading/listening public. This is unfortunate since with a little effort, he could have had a five star review from me.

5 people found this helpful

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Exceptional narration and a unique story

This was the listen I'm always hoping for, but don't often get - the sort of magical, transporting tale for a rainy day. The narrator was perfect - voicing each character so clearly you could tell them apart without the written indicators of who was speaking, and really capturing the emotion and connection between them. His voice was also utterly pleasant AND engaging for the entirety of the book - no small feat.

The story was also compelling, told from multiple perspectives, each with a depth and clarity that really resonates. Particularly refreshing was the main character - beautifully written without a hint of the false exoticism and inherent otherness that so often gets baked into characters from non- European backgrounds, and quite effectively challenging saviorist and Eurocentrist historical narratives. It really captured what it feels like to be on the other side of such views, and firmly asserts the oft- overlooked perspective of what an outsider might think of one of the great European empires at home.

The ending was a bit of a let down for me, but I won't spoil it with discussion. Overall, I loved this book. Will definitely be reading/listening to more by this author, others by this narrator, and enjoying re-listens for years to come.

3 people found this helpful

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Really smart...

... and fun. The subject of the possible Catholic beliefs of the soon to ascend Protestant England's throne, James the 6 thand 1st told from an utterly fresh perspective.
I am a devotee of both non fiction and historical fiction beginning with Henry Tudor through James 1st reign.
This book draws on facts and creates excellent fiction. Well
done, Mr. Phillips!

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An excellent historical spy thriller

The characters were all flesh and blood people. no cardboard or shallow personages all bound together in an enthralling plot.

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fascinating story

fascinating story well told and narrated, gave 4 stars only because I didn't quite understand the ending