The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, 280 pages, Can be read in a few days depending on your speed, Young Adult
“Don’t match your weakness against your opponent’s strength?”Saphos
(Thanks to Preeti Chhibber for recommending this series on the Desi Geek Girls podcast!)
The Thief is about one of my favorite plot devices: A heist! We first meet Gen, the titular character, locked in the King’s prison after bragging about one of his thieving adventures in a what I can only conclude is equivalent to a modern-day wine bar. He is sprung, however, by the King’s magus/scholar/advisor. Magus enlists Gen on a secret mission to steal…well, I won’t spoil it, because the reveal is part of the fun.
What’s really interesting to me is this book has only confirmed I’m on somewhat of a medieval time period kick. We don’t get an official mention of an era, but based on the descriptions of clothing, medieval sounds about right. And that really is the perfect setting for this book.
To be honest, I was not expecting to like The Thief as much as I did. About 75% of it focuses on the journey the crew takes to the location of the heist. This, honestly, could have been really boring. But Turner uses the journey as a world building device. Along the way, we learn about the various characters on the trip—magus, Gen, Saphos, Pol, and Ambiades, the history of the lands they travel through, the political conflicts between the three countries on said land, and the mythos of the old religion. Her writing draws you in and as the stories unravel, you find yourself emersed in a very cool world.
Much of the action of the book is reserved for the latter part of the story, but it is worth the wait. As with the journey, the action scenes offer another view into the characters and, just when we think we know them, a few twists emerge. The twists are what make the story and draw you into want to read the next book in the series…something I am hoping to do soon.
I was also really impressed with how well each character was developed. Too many books focus on one or two main characters and use the secondary characters as plot devices without letting us know much about them. In this case, I felt like I got to know each of the secondary characters as well and was able to decide which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t. And the plot twists, while unexpected, all made perfect sense because we got to know the characters so well.
The only problem with the characters is that I am convinced Gen is a woman. To be clear, Gen is written as a man. But for whatever reason, I started the book convinced Gen was a woman. I have no idea where that idea came from, but even after realizing very quickly that I was wrong, I still couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s going to be interesting to see how this impacts how I read the rest of the series.I do plan on reading the rest of the series, but I’m not sure I’ll do a book-by-book recommendation. But I plan to do one after I finish the whole series (assuming I like it).