The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief
Megan Whalen Turner

This is one of those series that is beloved by many which I just haven’t read. Actually. Strike that. I heard about it and tried to read it something like 8 years ago, but I didn’t know it was a series or what order the books were in. I tried to read The Queen of Attolia, and felt like it wasn’t making much sense. I don’t recall getting past the first chapter. (This is why publishers should put series information on book covers). Anyway, I figured out much later that the first book is really The Thief, and got myself a copy through a giveaway from  Dreams and Speculation.  I’ve been nudged to read it from a veritable mob of book bloggers: Ana from The Book Smugglers, Chachic, Angie, and Kristen – and that’s just the people who piped in on twitter last month when I said I still had it on the TBR.
Being the self-preserving girl that I am and realizing that BEA is coming up, I decided I better read it.
Alright you guys. I liked it.
The Premise: I don’t think I can do better than the back blurb: “‘I can steal anything.’ After After Gen’s bragging lands him in the king’s prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king’s scholar, the magus, needs the thief’s skill for a seemingly impossible task-to steal a hidden treasure from another land. To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.
Browse inside The Thief
My Thoughts: Despite the build up for this book, I wasn’t worried that the book wouldn’t live up to it’s promise. Based on the number of people recommending this whose tastes are similar to my own, it was a fair bet I’d like it too,  so it’s unsurprising by how easily I was drawn into the story of a young man languishing in a prison because of his big mouth. I think that the Gen-love in the blogosphere made me expect a clever and quick witted character, which I think led me to have certain expectations of him, but I really liked how subtly this was conveyed. Gen is the narrator of The Thief, and his voice is rather young for someone in prison (somewhere in his late teens I want to say), and he’s a bit of an underdog with his small size and lack of choices, but his attitude about it all made me smile. When he’s taken out of prison to meet with the magus (the king’s most learned advisor), Gen sits on the nicest chair in the room, despite being filthy and a little terrified. I loved both his chutzpah and the showing, not telling, of Gen’s character through these little interactions with Gen’s captors.
Gen learns that the magus wants him to steal something. What or where it is, the magus does not say, but it’s not like Gen can turn down the job. This begins a journey out of the kingdom of Sounis into its neighboring countries for a special treasure. The magus, and his two students, Ambiades and Sophos, a soldier, Pol, accompany Gen, their tool in this special mission of thievery. Along the way the political climate, history, religion and trade of the area are described, both in the story and through some storytelling within the story. I wasn’t sure at first what to make of the world – on one hand Gen and the others travel by horse, stay at inns and eat bread an cheese – the typical fantasy world that’s pseudo-medieval, but there are also guns and watches. This is combined with a religion that seems loosely based on a Greek pantheon, but not quite, as well as Greek names. It’s sort of a unique hodgepodge, but it’s very carefully constructed and feels real.
You know, I think this book covers my list of basic reader-wants in a story. I liked Gen’s character. I found the world building intriguing. I enjoyed its tight plot which slowly drew me in with it’s treasure stealing and the implications on the kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia. There’s a simple storytelling style which ties it all together, and the cherry on the top is that if you attention to the story, you are rewarded. The combination of all these things are what I want in my stories, and I could tell from the very moment I started reading The Thief that it belonged in the same category as those books I fell in love with when I was a teen – books by Diana Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and Margaret Mahy.  This book has that same indefinable quality. Maybe it’s a sense that the writer assumes the reader will meet her expectations so she doesn’t need to lower them, and maybe that makes this book and those by the authors I mentioned just not just good young adult books, but just plain good.
Overall: Yep, I liked this one. It’s got a light, straightforward style with sly undercurrent that I liked. I felt quite satisfied when the book was over. If you still haven’t read this series and you are a fan of those character-driven fantasy books by Robin McKinley and writers of that ilk, I think you should try this. I’ve been promised that The Queen of Attolia will really light my fire for this series, and this makes me want to read it very soon.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
Other reviews (whoo, there are a lot):
Angieville – positive
jmc-bks – positive
My favourite books – positive
Chachic’s Book Nook – (review for the series) – positive
Good Books and Good Wine – positive
Emily’s Little Pink Notes – 4.5 out of 5
Monkey Bear Reviews – A
Bogormen – 3.5 out of 5
Presenting Lenore – positive
Stella Matutina – 3 out of 5 (found the opening slow)
The Book Smugglers – (review for the series) – positive
Fantasy Book Cafe – 7.5 out of 10
calico_reaction – Worth the Cash (link has spoilers)

21 thoughts on “The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

  1. So happy you enjoyed this awesome book (and hopefully you’ll be picking up QUEEN soon?)! Gen is just incredible.

    Also YES! Why do publishers not print clearly on the cover or something what number a book is in a series?!? Drives me batty. You should do a rant post about that one 😉

    • I know, I haven’t had a good pet peeve post in a while. This is one of them.

      The Queen is out and on the coffee table right now. *wiggles eyebrows*. Hmm, maybe that doesn’t sound right. The book is out for me to read it I mean.

    • You have ebooks without an ereader? 🙂 This reminds me of a friend who bought video games without owning the console yet, but not as bad – you could read it on the computer I suppose.

  2. I’ve actually been meaning to read this book for awhile. I think I’ve just had a mental block or something because- from your description- it sounds great!

    I also love a good underdog character with some serious guts! Can’t wait to dig in! Great review!!

  3. Yay, so glad I saw your review first thing in the morning! 😀 Always makes my day when another Gen fan is made. I really can’t wait to see what you’ll think of Queen. Like Kristen, I liked this but fell in love with the next two. I remember having a book hangover after reading those two.

      • Yep, you’ll want to read King right after Queen. Although I put it off for a bit because I didn’t think King would be able to top off Queen. Should’ve known better than to doubt MWT.

  4. Yay! I’m late to the party but very glad you liked this one. I found the beginning slow enough that even with the twist ending I didn’t jump right into The Queen of Attolia. See, I didn’t have Twitter and the blogosphere yet to tell me how freaking awesome it is. When I finally got around to it I was kicking myself for not reading it earlier. 🙂 As many have already said I hope you get to it soon!

    As for me I’m working (pleasantly) on Children of Scarabaeus right now and I have a copy of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me making eyes at me too. 😀

    • Hehe, that’s what happens without twitter and the blogosphere. 🙂 I did start it, but only a chapter in. My job has been crazy busy just these past couple weeks, so I have so little spare time lately.

      Waiting to hear what you think about those two books!

  5. I’m so glad you liked it! It’s the third book (King of Attolia) that knocks my socks off–it’s one of my top ten books. There’s just so much hidden detail of plot and character, making it a wonderful book to re-read….

  6. Pingback: Book Review: #43 – The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner « Let's eat, Grandpa! Let's eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.)

  7. Pingback: The Thief | One More Page

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