Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: The Thief

This book was published when I was fifteen and managed to escape my notice until I was in my twenties! I first heard about the series from the sister of my sister-in-law, Marianne, who didn't like the books. (It happens.)  Months later, when I was browsing Listopia lists on Goodreads, the series kept popping up.  Eventually, I read the books and was blown. a. way.

I figure I'll review each book in the series for the blog, so this review will be solely for book one, The Thief.  I was fortunate enough to read book one completely unspoiled, which turned out to be a fantastic thing, so I'm going to do my best to skirt around specifics, just in case some of you haven't read the book yet.

The book opens with Gen — the book is vague about his age — being toted out of prison and brought to the king's advisor, the "magus".  Gen is a thief of some talent and his abilities are needed to serve the kingdom of Sounis. There is a fabled artifact called Hamiathes' Gift, which is rumored to have the power to turn the tide of wars.  The magus has a bead on where it is located, but needs a person with sticky fingers to retrieve the Gift for him. Enter Gen. He, the magus, the magus' two apprentices, and a soldier depart on a journey that will take them through three kingdoms — Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia — in search of the Gift.

Later on in the series, the scope becomes epic, but in The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner embraces a tighter atmosphere, following these men and boys on their journey.  In fact, book one is the only book in the series that uses first person narration, which creates an intimate tone.  We are relayed the story through Gen's words.  He isn't exactly an unreliable narrator.  Just a sneaky one.

I suppose he's a polarizing character.  When talking to the aforementioned Marianne about her dislike of the books, she cited Gen's character as the main cause of her distaste.  On the other hand, his character is the reason that I love the books.  He is brash, arrogant, and uncouth.  He's also clever and tricky, and I have a soft spot for tricksters.

Gen's interactions with the magus, Sophos, Ambiades, and Pol are... dynamic.  There is a ton of tension between Gen and the other characters; every time I read the book, I'm swept away by this tension.  Gen seems to be making things harder on himself by acting out, but he does so with an odd sense of purpose and intent.  He fights his traveling companions — also his captors — at every turn, winning, in revolutions, both their hatred and their admiration.  It's a mesmerizing act.

There are so many more reasons that I love Gen's character, but I'll save discussion of those for my review of book two, The Queen of Attolia.  In the meantime, if you're a lover of fantasy, of tricksters, of quests, pick up The Thief and get drawn into Megan Whalen Turner's incredible world.

Final Verdict: 5 North Stars

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