The Thief is the first book in The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. The other books in this YA fantasy series are The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings (which was released today). The Thief won the Newbery Honor Book Award and is an ALA Notable Book and ALA Best Book for Young Adults.
According to Gen, he can steal anything. This proves not to be an idle boast when he successfully swipes the king’s seal; however, bragging about this accomplishment lands him in prison. Each day seems the same as the one before in the king’s dungeon, so Gen does not know how much time has passed when the magus has him brought to a room in the palace. Although the magus believes Gen to be rather stupid for blatantly advertising his thievery, he can’t deny that Gen had to be quite skillful in order to avoid being caught in the act. So the magus informs Gen that he has a choice: he can either steal an unnamed item he desires or he can become one of the disappearing prisoners who is never seen nor heard from again. This is a rather easy decision for Gen and the next day he leaves on a journey with the magus, his two apprentices and a soldier in order to retrieve the mysterious object.
This review will probably be a bit shorter than normal since giving away too much about this novel would be doing a great disservice to future readers. The whole story is told from the first person perspective of Gen, who leaves out a lot of important details and is a rather misleading narrator. He doesn’t outright lie and he drops a lot of hints by what he does choose to share for information, but he doesn’t fill us in on the totality of what is happening until the very end. The conclusion is fantastic and reaching the end does make one want to go back and reread the book to catch all the little allusions to parts of it.
There are times before the wonderful final pages that the plot does meander a bit and there is more description about the journey and the land than necessary at times. The writing style is very engaging, though, and the scenes in which the characters are interacting come alive. When he’s not being overly descriptive, Gen is a very fun protagonist – he’s arrogant yet perfectly likable and charismatic.
Although it has some differences (such as the existence of guns), the fantasy world is based on Greek mythology and contains different gods reminiscent of their pantheon. During the group’s travels, they tell a few stories about the world’s mythology, many of which are fueled by the conflict between the Earth and the Sky. The Sky was created by the Earth as one of its companions, but the Earth made the mistake of creating the lakes so the Sky could see its reflection in them. Once it caught a glimpse of itself, the Sky thought itself far superior to the round, boring Earth and so the dissension between the two began. All these stories are fairly short and interesting, and they were a nice touch for providing further information on the setting.
Although there were some slower parts, The Thief was an enjoyable book, especially after discovering what had really been going on. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
My Rating: 7.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.