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Megan Whalen Turner – The Thief

August 1, 2008

96. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1996)
Queen’s Thief, Book 1

Length: 296 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Started: 30 July 2008
Finished: 31 July 2008

Summary: Gen, the self-proclaimed best thief in the world, is nevertheless languishing in prison when he is pulled from his cell by the king’s chief advisor, the magus. The magus intends to use Gen to steal an ancient and valuable artifact from a neighboring country – a treasure said to have been given by the gods, that will confer immortality, along with the right to rule, on its bearer. Gen has no choice but to go along with the quest, and so he, the magus, the magus’s two apprentices, and a hired soldier strike out towards fame and glory – or, more probably, swift and merciless death.

Review: The Thief is a Newbery Honor Book, and had been highly recommended by folks on LibraryThing and elsewhere for fans of YA lit. And, perhaps because I went into it with such high expectations, I came out of it a little disappointed. I certainly enjoyed it, but I don’t quite get what all the fuss was about; the writing was good but nothing extraordinary, and the plot was a little more complex than your standard quest-adventure fantasy fare, but it wasn’t revolutionary. Also, the pacing and structure was weird, with a very slow beginning that spends more time than it should on the early stages of the quest, where there’s not much for the characters to do other than whine about lack of food and poor accommodations. (Can you tell that I also had a hard time identifying with Gen, and found him somewhat whiny, especially in the first half of the book?) The best part of the book was easily the fantastic/religious aspects of the book and how they intertwined with the characters and the rest of the action, including several strongly Greek-flavored myths and stories of the gods and goddesses of Gen’s world that were set apart from the rest of the narrative. So, I’ll keep reading the next two books in the series, particularly after a well-executed twist near the end of The Thief throws the story into a different track, but this one on its own wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: A quick and entertaining read, although I didn’t think it quite lived up to the hype. Teenage fans of historical fantasy (or historical fiction fans who don’t mind some religious mysticism thrown into the mix) are going to be the most likely to enjoy this book.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Avid Book Reader, The Tome Reader

Links: Megan Whalen Turner’s home page

First Line: I didn’t know how long I had been in the king’s prison.


  • p. 4: “The only other building there was the king’s home, his megaron.” – a building or semi-independent unit of a building, generally used as a living apartment and typically having a square or broadly rectangular principal chamber with a porch, often of columns in antis, and sometimes an antichamber or other small compartments.
  • p. 16: “He couldn’t know that I’d overstayed my welcome one night while creeping through his megaron and had crawled up through the space where the pipes of the hypocaust ran to hide in his treasure room.” – a hollow space or system of channels in the floor or walls of some ancient Roman buildings that provided a central heating system by receiving and distributing the heat from a furnace.
  • p. 87: “None of us could stop to see if he was badly hurt until we’d reached the end of the flysch.” – an association of certain types of marine sedimentary rocks characteristic of deposition in a foredeep.
  • p. 164: “There was no naos, so of course no pronaos, no altar, no statues of the gods or of their supplicants. Most important there was no opisthodomos, no treasure room to store valuable offerings.” – The inner room or sanctuary of an ancient Greek or Roman temple, in which the statue of the god was situated; an open vestibule before the naos; a small room in the naos of a classical temple, as for a treasury (also called posticum).

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