Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Thief: a Master Class in Pacing

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.

TurnerOf 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 torture.

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 morsels only.
Turner books
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.

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