“I can steal anything.” With that boast, Gen sets into action a course of events that could affect kingdoms. When he boasts that he can steal the King’s Seal, and then delivers on his promise, he is arrested and thrown into prison, where he languishes until the King’s Magus approaches him with an offer: freedom if he can steal Hamiathes’s Gift, a legendary stone that carries with it the right to rule the kingdom of Eddis.
Megan Whalen Turner writes a delightful mythic fantasy that takes the reader on a secret journey through a country whose culture and religion are loosely based on Ancient Greece. Turner’s land appeals to all the senses; The stench of the prisons, the heat of the sun, and the splendid views of ancient olive tree fields come off the page and play like a movie in the reader’s mind. The landscape, both physically and spiritually, is a vibrant part of the story.
The characters are very well done, from Gen (the whining gutter rat), to the Magus (the determined scholar), to Useless the Elder and Younger (Gen’s nicknames for the Magus’s two apprentices). The evolution of each character, and of the relationships between all the main characters, unfolds naturally and with believable adjustments to the trials they face.
The Thiefstarts a little slowly, but turns into a masterfully told tale of intrigue and adventure. In fact, I may have been late coming back from lunch the day I finished it because I was so sucked into the tale that I lost track of time. There are lots of twists and turns to the story. I saw one of them coming, but another took me completely by surprise. In retrospect, it seems completely in keeping with the story, which for me is a sign of good story telling, and not shoehorning in surprises just for the sake of a Big Reveal.
This is YA fiction that would appeal to a nine year old, but does not lose its appeal for adult readers as well. It is the first book in a trilogy, and I already have the second book on hold at the library so I can continue to follow the adventures of Gen.