The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What do you do when you want to gain possession of something that's nearly impossible to obtain? You hire a thief who can steal just about anything.
Gen has no disillusions about his abilities as a thief. He's actually named after the god of thieves, Eugenides, as a matter of fact. While his father wanted him to be a soldier, he knew that was not the life for him. Instead, he honed his skills at stealing, until he was one of the best in the land. Too bad he did a little too much bragging about stealing the King's seal and ended up in jail. He's approached by the King's magus and offered a proposition, steal something for the King, and he'll be released from jail. If he refuses, he'll simply disappear (not in a good way). It's not a proposition an intelligent young man would say no to. So begins this story.
Gen is one of those characters that I couldn't help but enjoy. His irreverent, jaundiced, but very insightful view of human nature insinuated him into my affections. I like that kind of humor, so I tend to gravitate towards main characters like Gen. From the beginning, I knew he was a thief, but that didn't make him unlikeable to me. Instead, I wanted to find out what made him tick, and I was rooting for him to come out of this story for the better. I liked that I saw some character growth in him as this story progressed.
The Thief is a story set in an alternate world in which various gods hold the devotion of the populace. I liked how part of the story was hearing the tales of the gods who made this world; and those stories are very smoothly integrated into the plot, playing a crucial role in the narration, characterization, and the unfolding of this story. Reading the extra material at the end of this novel revealed Ms. Turner's thought process. I could see a heavy Greek mythology influence, but there were unique elements about the pantheon and the story-telling that showed the author's specific vision. There are also aspects that surprised me, in that the gods actually play a real role in this story. I liked how the fantasy elements didn't dominate, but the focus is Gen's character and his quest to steal something that has the potential to affect three kingdoms in this novel.
There was an interesting twist towards the end that I was not expecting at all, and I always give my respect to an author who can do that, and surprise me. I'm not a jaded reader, by any means, but I read a lot, and I've seen a lot of common plot devices; so a writer who can throw me a curve ball is always appreciated.
I have to say that this Newbury Award Winner did impress me. It's one of those stories that doesn't try to go elaborate, but has a richness that won me over as a reader all the same. Fortunately, this is part of a series, so I can look forward to more adventures in this interesting world.
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