February 27, 2009

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner


This book has been sitting on my shelf for several (we won't go into how many exactly) years. I even *gasp* had both sequels sitting on the shelf next to it. And in the interest of full disclosure, I even started The Thief a couple of years ago, got 25 pages in, and stopped. For reasons I no longer recall. The fault, whatever it was, was clearly mine because this book is the beginning of something truly special. I completely understand why it won the Newbery Honor and am very glad it did.

Gen is a thief, and a rather boastful one at that. Claiming he can steal anything, Gen succeeds in making off with the King of Sounis' seal only to brag about it to the wrong man and get himself thrown in the King's prison indefinitely. Along comes the Magus, the King's senior advisor, who pulls Gen out of prison and sets him an impossible task. Journey to a hidden temple, steal a mythical artifact, and turn it over to the King. On pain of death. A long, slow, excruciating death. Not being a fool, Gen agrees to the terms and sets out on the journey accompanied by the Magus, his two apprentices Sophos and Ambiades (or as Gen likes to refer to them: Useless the Younger and Useless the Elder), and the inimical soldier Pol. 

And thus begins the adventure. Set in a world that is not quite ancient Greece but looks very much like it, it is a story that builds up slowly, but surely and I won't say that I didn't wonder once or twice if it was ever going to get where it was going. But hindsight is 20/20 and I can see now just how methodically and craftily Megan Whalen Turner leads you down the primrose path into thinking it's a simple story about a simple thief. It's remarkable, really. Because the whole thing does build up into one humdinger of a climax and by the time you realize what's happened there's nothing left to do but doff you hat to the irrepressible Gen for he completely wins the day and the reader as well. Nothing in this story is what it seems and that is possibly Turner's greatest strength. She (and her Thief) have the ability to take on any guise and pull off any ruse in order to achieve the desired result. In this case, it was my unadulterated adoration and I gave it up without even a hint of regret. The Thief, for the two of you who haven't yet fallen victim to this wonderful series, is the first of three books in the Queen's Thief series. Word is Ms. Turner is at work on the fourth as we speak. Thank the gods.

16 comments:

  1. So have you read King of Attolia yet? It is the crowning gem of the series thus far (the fourth book is coming in 2010).

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  2. Which I see you said. Oh well...

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  3. Charlotte, I am in the middle of KING right now. Will finish it tonight. I am so sad that it's going to be over, but so glad she's working on a fourth one because the third one is completely rocking my world!

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  4. This review fills me with glee, but what fills me with even more glee is the prospect of you reviewing the next two books as well. *rubs hands*

    And now you have to read Elizabeth E. Wein's Telemakos books, if you haven't discovered those already. Not that I'm being pushy or anything. *gets behind you and pushes*

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  5. Oh well, the best part of King is reading it over and over, finding clever wonderful bits that one just couldn't take in the first time...

    And Elizabeth Wein's books are Good Things, too!

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  6. I have been meaning to read this one forever. It's one of the books that constantly pop up on recommendation lists around the web, I have no idea why I still haven't read it!

    Must. Go. Find.

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  7. RJ, hee. *gets her reviewer groove on* And thanks for the Wein push. Will look her up ASAP.

    Charlotte, I just finished KING and can already tell it will be a favorite reread.

    Li, run don't walk. And get all three. You don't want to find yourself finishing THIEF at 11 o'clock at night and no sequel on the nightstand. No, sir, you do not.

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  8. What I don't need right now is another book that I *must* read as soon as possible. 'Course, I never take that into consideration, and I'll be reading this one as soon as it comes in for me at the library. Or is it one I'd be better off buying? Excellent review!

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  9. Thanks, Chelle. Personally, I'd say these are definite auto-buys. I can't wait to start giving them as gifts! The thing is each one gets better and better. So you could get the first two in at the library and read those and see if you're hooked. I kind of think you will be. ;)

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  10. I just read your post a few entries before this--the one in which you are gobsmacked over the last several books you've read and truly enjoyed, The Thief being one of them. I have had The Thief on our family bookshelf for quite awhile now. I'm sure I picked it up at one of the book fairs at school during my Newberry Award/Honor glom. I recently took this one off the shelf for my YA Reading Challenge and only just now after reading your posts discovered it is the first in a series! I've recently come across wonderful reviews for the latter two novels which piqued my interest, but I had NO IDEA they were connected to The Thief! I'm so excited at the prospect of having this critically acclaimed series ahead of me!

    I'm hoping to get my teen into it as well. Which, of course would then result in having the book passed among handfuls of her friends. I love that! :)

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  11. Christine, every bit of that excitement you feel is absolutely warranted. I envy you having all three ahead of you. I hope both you and teen love them so they find many more happy homes!

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  12. Gods, I've just gone and ordered this from amazon.co.uk because you know, I'm a sucker for a good story and pretty cover.

    Thanks for being a bad inlfuence!

    Liz x

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  13. Any time, Liz. Any time. ;)

    Let me know what you think of it!

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  14. I just finished this and loved it!

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  15. Jenclair, I'm so glad! Let me know what you think of The Queen of Attolia. I still get chills thinking about how good it was. :)

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  16. I still laugh at how I encountered this series. I actually picked up The Queen Of Attolia first, got to a part that shocked me so much I put it down. I told my friend about this really shocking book, and she informed me that I had picked up the sequel, when I should have read The Thief first. One of the best choices I made was to follow her advice and restarted the series. Eugenides is one of my favorite characters of all time. I was stoked when I found The King in the library. I'm hoping for a fifth book to wrap everything together. King has to be my favorite though.

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