Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief
YA book review by Sarah Denslow
Meet Gen, a fun, thieving character
I first read Newberry Honor book The Thief about ten years ago. Remembering that I had enjoyed it, I picked it up recently for a re-read.
The story takes place in a world that is roughly similar to Greece, though it doesn’t correspond to any particular date in our world. Our hero and narrator, Gen, is an overconfident but highly skilled thief. We meet Gen as he considers his plight, chained in a cell after his ill-advised bragging lands him in the king’s prison for stealing the royal seal.
Though it was foolish to brag of his feats, the fact remains that Gen is perhaps the best thief in Sounis, and such a thief is exactly what the king’s advisor, the magus, wants. Soon Gen is taken out of prison and on a journey to an unknown location to steal an unknown object.
The magus has staked his reputation and career on finding this mystery object, and he appears to be calling the shots on this quest. Still, Gen knows that the magus needs him for the plan to succeed, and he is a well-trained, crafty thief. As the story goes on, we are left to wonder if Gen doesn’t have a plan of his own and if he really is just what he seems to be.
Along for the journey are Ambiades and Sophos, young men of widely different characters who still manage a precarious friendship, and Pol, a soldier sent to look out for Sophos. On this journey, almost everyone has his secrets, and the reader should be met with at least one surprise before the story is over.
I enjoyed The Thief both as a teenager and re-reading it now. Turner deftly manages the twists in the plot and creates memorable characters. Gen is a wonderful narrator, easy to be fond of despite his arrogance.
My main complaint with this book is that the ending seems to happen too quickly. Having had some two hundreds pages establishing the situation, the reader is left to piece together all the characters’ secrets and how they interacted in one short final chapter. Character relationships that have been shifting for the whole novel are left no time to settle into place once everyone’s secrets are out. When I finished the book, I felt as though something was missing.
I still highly recommend The Thief. It’s an engaging and skillfully written novel. There are three companion books (possibly filling out the pieces I felt were missing in this one, though I haven’t read them):
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