Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen's Thief, Book 1

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

Personal copy.


  1. This has been on my tbr FOREVER.

    Fantasy is definitely where it's at, yo. Particularly when it is rich with Mediterranean influences!

    Solid review.

  2. Oh, the ending completely redeemed it for me too, I actually didn't like the book at all until the last third, then it was like WOAH.

  3. Gen will always be there waiting for you. I'm chuffed you loved this one. What a great review.

    Cannot wait to hear what you think of the next one. ;)

  4. was looking to get back into reading. def going to check this out in the library

  5. I've heard a lot of good things about this series, and I love the idea of Gen and Hamiathes' gift. I'm glad to hear that you ended up liking it, even if the beginning wasn't as good. I'll have to check it out!

  6. I felt SO similar to you about The Thief. When I first started reading I was not that into it but then as the story expanded, I just fell in love.

    Yay for Gen love!

  7. I'm bummed that I didn't discover this series much sooner too. Queen of Attolia is a very different book and I think that MWT's brilliance really shines in that one. I hope you pick it up soon! Great review Steph.

  8. I love MWT.. And they just keep getting better each time- she is really a master!

  9. I think it's time for a reread for me! I definitely need to rediscover that hair-ruffling desire :)


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