Book Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Gen is enjoying the king ofSounis’ hospitality in prison when the magus, the king’s advisor, comes to visit him.  It is strange enough that an advisor of such power would visit a lowly thief in prison, but the magus hasan ususual reason.  Having heard about Gen’s claim that he can steal anything– and the proof lies in that Gen stole the king’s Seal from under his nose– the magus offers him a proposition: Steal a single artifact of enormous importance forSounis, and he’ll be free to go. If he fails or runs off, there will be a price on his head so large that he would be hunted from one end of the world to the other.

What can Gen do? He agrees.

And so Gen begins a journey with the magus, the magus’ apprentices Sophos and Ambiades, and the soldier Pol to the far countries of Attolia and Eddis to steal Hamiathes’s Gift, a legendary stone which grants its owner uncontested right to the throne of Eddis and which may be the one thing that Gen cannot steal.  For even if Hamiathes’s Gift did exist once, how can anyone steal a myth?

This light read from Megan Whalen Turner is a fantastic fantasy that takes place in a Greecian-style world. However, it is not purely historical: items such as handguns and pocket watches appear (though with no regularity and with little reason.)  Within this well-crafted world, the characters are wonderfully flawed and realistically human.  Take the magus, for instance:  He’s so certain that he knows the true measure of Gen that he doesn’t stop and think that there might be a real human under all that bragging.

Story-wise, The Thief is an adventure story that withstands the challenge of being read and re-read to the point of falling apart, due to Turner’s deft plot twists and delicate foreshadowing.  However, the first time is the best– as you read, watch carefully for all the innocent-sounding hints the author left, and see if you can guess the ending.  It’s a real surprise for all of us readers that have become used to formulaic endings, I can tell you!  And if you enjoy The Thief, there are three sequels:  The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings.

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