I read The Thief on recommendation from Lois McMaster Bujold who claimed in a FaceBook post that she was frustrated with finding a good read so she returned to something familiar that she knew was good.
I wanted to review The Thief for the Worlds Without End 2013 reading challenge for Women Writers in Genre Fiction, but Megan Whalen Turner
was not on their list of women writers, probably because as a Young
Adult (YA) writer Turner had won none of the name sci-fi awards.
Of course, with a recommendation for Lois McMasters Bujold, who needs the awards system? I always thought the awards ran in trends anyhow. The current trend is castle stories.
The narrator of this castle story is the thief named Gen who keeps
secrets from his companions and from the reader until the end. For a YA book,
this reader is relieved to find little assassination gore and few
battlefield scenes. The dungeon scene is about deprivation more than
The Thief is economical in that all elements are used to work out the
plot, and the story unfolds as it must for exposition while four
adventurers (who know each other slightly) journey to find a stone that
lends immortality to the holder.
For my writing students, I recommend this book as a master class in
pacing for inserting elements at the right moment. The story is kept
small since the four travelers must avoid towns to remain secret. The
quirks of each character are revealed through pranks of one-upmanship. A
system of gods is introduced through campfire stories, and the back
story of each character, while relevant to the plot, is meted out in
Because of the first person narration, the scene about how Pol
sacrifices himself to get rid of the traitor in their group was glossed
over (since Gen wasn’t there). Pol’s internal struggles to fulfill his
mission were interesting but undeveloped.
A satisfying read with believable special skills for the travelers
and different-but-familiar gods. Three more books complete the series. Highly recommended, especially for young readers.