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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)


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 13th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
I definitely think you'll like Queen of Attolia, and the book after it is my favourite and imo the best of the series. I'll be interested to see your review because I think both Queen and King are a definite tonal shift from The Thief. Like The Thief works well as young YA - MG? - book but I probably wouldn't give the next two to a ten year old unless I knew they were the type to appreciate it.
Apr. 13th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
I keep hearing that this one is very different in tone from the rest. I read that the POV is shifting to third person, but I didn't realize it also gets more adult. This only makes me want to read it more though. :)

(The back of my copy of The Queen of Attolia says it's for 10 yrs old and up!)
Apr. 13th, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
Hmm... after hearing about all the prodding you've gotten, I'm trying to decide whether it's a good thing or a bad thing I haven't mentioned on twitter that this book is sitting in my TBR pile, too.
Apr. 14th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
Were you immediately set upon by the wolves? :)
Apr. 13th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
Huh, I was going to check this out of my library today, but I ended up with a different book (partly because I always feel like a doof browsing through the kids section being very much not a kid). Maybe I should reconsider.
Apr. 14th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
I thought it was one of those books that while the character feels YA in this one, the story was such that it could be read by adults without feeling like: this makes me feel old. I also hear that the books after this one (from commenter above) are more adult? I'll have to read the book to confirm what they meant though.
Apr. 14th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
I adored The Thief and bought The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia based on that one book. However, I was very jarred and unthrilled with QUEEN because it's such a different book, but thankfully, once I got to KING, I was settled into Turner's style for the series and loved it.

My review: http://calico-reaction.livejournal.com/72742.html
Apr. 14th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
Well I totally have QUEEN out and on the coffee table to be read. I'm going to get to it very soon. I also plan to buy KING ASAP..

Shishkebab, I always forget to search you to look for your review! I'll add the link when I get home from work today.
Apr. 14th, 2011 08:16 am (UTC)
You read it!!! So glad you liked it and can't wait to see your reaction to the next books. *grin*

Apr. 14th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Yay!!!
Heh, yep. I will be reading them soon, promise.
Apr. 14th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
Yay, I'm glad you liked it! In my opinion the series gets even better with each new book, although I haven't read A Conspiracy of Kings yet.
Apr. 14th, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
I'm getting the idea that these get better - so many people tell me they feel in love during QUEEN. One person said it was KING. OK, OK, you convinced me you guys. I do have my copy of QUEEN out. :) It shall be read.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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