As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

October 24, 2010

THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, 1996 *Newbery Honor Book*

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1)"I can steal anything." After Gen's bragging lands him in the king's prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king's scholar, the magus, needs the thief's skill for a seemingly impossible task -- to steal a hidden treasure from another land. To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.

Review by Emily, high school student and bibliophile.


I have only found two other people who have read this book: The person who recommended it to me, and a random stranger who saw the cover and started telling me all her favorite scenes, and how this book was so woefully unread. It shouldn't be; it's a Newbery Honor book. I am so lucky that I found it, in any case.

As they journey to Attolia to find their prize, Gen shows himself to be whiny, irritating, intelligent, and observant, with all the maturity of a five-year-old. As such, he is one of my favorite characters ever. He isn't perfect, but he realizes his flaws and accepts them, and tries to grow up a little.

The other characters are just as well-drawn, from the aristocratic and insufferable Ambiades to the taciturn captain of the guard, Pol, and they are hilariously portrayed through Gen's eyes. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the whole books was his initial reaction to Ambiades and Sophos, the apprentices of the magus. He labels them as Useless the Elder and Useless the Younger and finds excuses to tease and torment them the whole way to Attolia.

The book doesn't end when expected, and there are some rather spectacular and surprising scenes that appear near the end. Every time I read this book, I find some new complexity that I hadn't realized the third (or fifth or seventh) time around. I recommend it to everyone I know eventually.

There are lots of good books in the Young Adult genre, but this is one of the best that I have ever found.
The premise of this story is that the main character, Gen, can steal anything. He lands himself in prison trying to prove his point by stealing the king's seal, and stays there until one of the king's officials, the magus, hauls Gen out to steal something for him. The object in question is legendary: a stone that confers undeniable kingship on whoever holds it. The magus wants his king to use this legend to further his favor with the people.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild/Moderate
Sensuality: None
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: Lying, theft (it is a book about a thief), betrayal

Book formats:
The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) (paperback)
The Thief (Kindle)

To learn more about the author, visit: Megan Whalen Turner

Extra Gush: Amy has to jump in here to say that this is also one of her favorite books because it's the beginning of a fantastic series! To date, there are 4 books in the series, and books 2 & 3 are my personal favorites. These two books in particular are likely the most enjoyable for adults because they include complicated political and marital relationships that are rarely seen in Young Adult novels. Also because most of the point of view characters are adults. At the same time, though, none of the books are above the heads of teens. The books are very well done all around! So I'm going to include links to those as well, but I'll give you fair warning: DO NOT read the teaser information if you don't want the previous books in the series spoiled. In other words, if you're tempted to peek, just order one book at a time :)

The Thief, which is reviewed above, is Book 1. And these are Books 2, 3 & 4 in order from left to right:

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, Book 2)          The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, Book 3)          A Conspiracy of Kings

5 comments:

Meredith said...

LOVE! These books are so great. The Thief, in particular, really improves on rereading. I thought it was just a fun adventure romp the first time I read it. I totally agree, every time I read it, I discover something new.

maryanne said...

The Queen of Attolia is one of my favorite books of all time. Her characters are exquisitely drawn, her plots intricate yet not sticky or overly tangled. My then-editor sent it to me as an example of how to handle political issues in YA fiction. It had a humbling effect on me. Queen and King of Attolia are superb! The Thief and Conspiracy are (to me) not as strong, and my sense is it's their first person POV. What do you think?

Amy Finnegan said...

Merideth, I also liked The Thief better the second time I read it. The first time, I was kind of impatient for them to get to wherever they were going. So most of what Gen was scheming went right over my head. It was fun to reread it and put the clues together.

Maryanne - I agree! The two books in the middle blew me away, I loved them so much. It's funny, though, I usually prefer 1st to 3rd person POV (by far), yet the multiple POVs in QUEEN were facinating to me. What I miss, however, ever since book 1 is GEN!!! There's less and less of him as the books go on, and he's one of the most clever characters in YA today. I hope Whalen really brings him back into this series!

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Anonymous said...

I read this book and liked it, especially because of the twist ending. I had started reading The Queen of Attolia but became impatient with the plot, and dropped it. This makes me want to go back and finish!