Saturday, March 31, 2012
Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Tags: juvenile fiction, middle grade, YA, fantasy, thieves
Gen’s boasts about being able to steal anything land him in the king of Sounis’ prison. But then the Sounisian king’s magus has a special job for Gen: to help steal Hamiathes’ Gift, a mythical stone that is said to give the person whom the thief hands it to the right to rule. Their journey is a long and interesting one, with an undetermined chance of success, but Gen’s namesake being Eugenides, the God of Thieves, means that he just might have some more luck, skill—and secrets—than your average everyday thief.
Every time I think of this series, I kick myself for not having started it when I was younger. Not exactly because I’d enjoy it more as a younger reader, but because I would have had more years to crush on Eugenides and the masterful storytelling that Megan Whalen Turner is capable of.
To be honest, in the beginning I wasn’t very impressed with THE THIEF. The story starts in prison, and Gen is sick and scrawny and cranky. Not quite the most endearing character at this point. Even when Gen, the magus, the magus’ two apprentices, and their guard set off on their journey to steal Hamiathes’ Gift, I was less than pleased by Gen and the apprentices constantly ragging on each other.
But gradually, my vision expanded beyond Gen’s pettiness and immaturity and began to appreciate the, shall we say, “surroundings.” The majority of THE THIEF is a quest, and I can’t pinpoint when I began to fall in love with these quarrelsome characters, but fall in love I did. As their personalities became clearer to me, I was often forced to revise my previous judgments on their character and even like them—or, in some characters’ case, feel more suspicious of them. Turner draws heavily upon the setting and stories of Ancient Greece for her story, and I could imagine the rolling landscapes, the endless olive trees, and the sunshine as I read.
THE THIEF proves extraordinary in the last third or so, as Gen attempts to figure out how to steal Hamiathes’ Gift. I have heard that Megan Whalen Turner is a master of surprising plot twists, and was so delighted at what was revealed to me in the end. (Which I’ll not spoil for you, no way.) There are few things in books as exciting as a well-executed plot twist—but they also run the risk of being unbelievable. Thankfully, in retrospect, you realize that Turner sets up her revelations excellently, subtly yet memorably.
THE THIEF is a fantasy adventure that should appeal to readers both young and old. Rich with Mediterranean influences, stories-within-stories, and characters whose hair you really, really want to ruffle, it is no wonder that this book has withstood the test of time. I will be returning to you, Gen, when I need another dose of your cleverness and snark!
Cover discussion: Fantastical and timeless. I love it.
Greenwillow Books / Dec. 27, 2005 / Paperback (reprint) / 304pp. / $6.99