Megan Whalen Turner
Spoiler Rating: Low
Just shy of five years ago I said This book is made of awesome, and you replied, I think I shall have to look into this. According to your Goodreads account, you never did.
I’m not making any accusations here, but you missed out. I just want you to know that.
The Thief is one of those books that sounded somewhat interesting and had a good rating on Goodreads (I didn’t read any reviews, just saw the number of stars it averaged), and therefore took me totally by surprise with its greatness.
Because I don’t want to spoil anyone else’s surprise, I’ll return to my roots and, as vaguely as possible, present you with a numbered and bulleted list of a few of the book’s finer points.
“I can steal anything.”
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.
- Personality: Mischievous, sharp-witted, arrogant, sarcastic, goodhearted, brazen. I admire and adore him, but completely understand why some (well, all) of the characters want to throttle him. The best combination!
- Voice: 100% realistic, and 100% engaging; he’s a person, not a character, and every word of his narration sounds like him.
- Arc: He changes over the course of the story–but this is the first installment in a series, and his change is neither drastic nor complete by the end of this book.
I think these three excerpts (about horses, because naturally) do a fair job of portraying how his personality colors the narration:
2. The World
- Civilization: Greek-inspired, with a plush history that strongly colors the present-day cities and people. You can feel the weight of its history as you read, and I can’t get enough of it.
- Landscape: Pseudo-Greece, succinctly and vividly described. I can see it as clearly as–maybe more clearly than–any place I’ve actually visited.
- Continuity: This isn’t a story that focuses only on the time that passes between its first and last pages; it (and its characters) are concerned about events yet to come–future events sparked by events that take place before the story begins. Not surprising in a fantasy series, but very well executed here.
3. The Story
- Plot: An adventure/journey story, but mostly propelled by (and focused on) character development and interaction. (It takes a while for the action to really start, but the time leading up to it certainly isn’t wasted.)
- Tension: Much of the book involves the group traveling, but tension is kept up by grating Gen’s personality against those of the people around him, by slowly revealing significant secrets, and with Gen’s various, and potentially fatal, tasks.
I don’t want to spoil any of the tension or plot points, so rather than seeing an excerpt, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
There’s a lot of good in this book, but it isn’t without its problems. The most egregious: the reader doesn’t see one particular (important) scene play out; instead, it’s described by another character after the fact. The whole last quarter of the book would have been significantly more powerful if we had seen this one scene from Gen’s perspective as it was happening.
I’m happy to assure you that the book did hold up to rereading, and will fairly soon be joined by the next in its series in my permanent collection. (After I make room for it on the shelf. Um.)
All the love,