Book Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

219 pp.

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Following the advice of a friend where books are concerned can be a little risky. There will always be points where your taste and your friend’s tastes do not coincide. (For instance, I had a friend who liked Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books. I do not. Emphatically.) Therefore, it took me awhile to get around to getting this book.

The Thief is a young adult fantasy novel taking place in a setting that is a great deal like Greece. (The technology level is pre-Industrial, sword and gunpowder.) This is a “low magic” setting; the one character identified as a “magus” is actually a scholar. What magic there is comes in the form of extremely subtle miracles and interaction with the gods. (The author does a really great job of having the gods seem distant and a little alien/beyond human comprehension, but not necessarily “remote.”)

Our Protagonist is a young man named Gen who apparently wants to be a famous thief. What he instead manages to be is a notorious braggart and current prisoner. Gen is given an offer he can’t refuse by the King of Sounis’ magus; to steal a legendary or possibly mythical object in exchange for his freedom. Our Protagonist agrees and sets off with the magus and a number of other people on a journey to find this object. During the trip, the travelers tell stories about the gods and in the process, we learn a great deal about each of the characters.

Gen is an interesting and engaging character who turns out to be a lot more clever than his initial introduction would indicate. I enjoyed his interactions with the other members of the party, and the way that he slowly manages to gain their confidence. (Though it’s a very long, hard road. The other characters do not like Gen very much, and the dislike is mostly returned, though Gen eventually decides one or two of the other characters aren’t so bad.) Turner does a great job of building and creating suspense in the sense that it slowly becomes apparent there is more to Gen than what she is showing us, or what the other characters are seeing (which is pretty hard to do, since the story is in first person, from Gen’s point of view).

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was the mythology and the worldbuilding. I have a lot of fondness for worldbuilding and in-setting folklore, and the myths were as entertaining and interesting as the main story. (I also liked some of the snarking between Gen and the magus about the different versions of various myths. Specifically, I liked the way that they are both at least partly right, but the magus is being a scholarly jerk about it.)

This was an entertaining story that I liked a great deal.

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Filed under book, fantasy, Megan Whalen Turner, non-earth, Review: Book, young adult

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