The Thief, By Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief

One of my sisters introduced this book to me after she read it. She thoroughly enjoyed it, so I thought I would too. I was not mistaken, I was captivated by it. Although a work of fiction, it is well worth the time spent reading it, a page-turner. Which for me was but 3 days.

Plot: There are four countries mentioned in this book. Sounis, Attolia and Eddis. Another, called Mede, is further detailed in the sequel.

Our story begins in the country of Sounis, with our hero, Gen, in its dungeon for stealing the king’s signet ring. Upon further reading we discover that he did in fact steal the ring, and bragged about it in a wine shop the next day. For this he was arrested. A man named Magus comes to visit, after Gen has been in the dungeon for several months. He takes Gen to his office and makes him a deal, if he will steal a certain item for him, the Magus will ensure his release from prison. Gen agrees, but is warned that if he flees or fails, he will be hunted down.

A day or so later Gen again leaves his cell, but this time for good. He is led to courtyard where he meets his other traveling companions, Ambiades, Sophos, Pol and Magus. After everything is loaded on the horses, the five of them start their journey. Along the way we learn more about the character of each person Gen is traveling with, and more importantly, about Gen himself. We also discover that the item Gen is supposed to steal, is Hamiathes Gift, a stone dipped in the water of immortality. The person who possesses this stone, will never die as long as he has it. So they journey out of Sounis, through the Eddisian mountains and into Attolia, where the stone is located. A little more then half way through the book our hero arrives at the dystopia mountains. They go through these, leaving Ambiades behind with their horses, after traveling many miles they reach the place where the stone is located. We find out that every year this temple, filled with water, empties late in the night, for four days, and refills each morning. So Gen has little time to enter this temple and find Hamiathes Gift.

Positive: Throughout the book the authoress gives you hints as to what is really going on in each character’s innermost heart. I could not figure out what was really going on, very the end. Some authors do not reveal a single detail of the plot, but Mrs. Turner does, even if they aren’t obvious.

We learn to love all but one of our characters; Mrs. Turner does a wonderful job of keeping the reader’s nose in the book, and maintaining lovable characters despite their faults. There is humor in plenty, not cheesy, but truly funny. (In my humble opinion.)

Our hero, we come to find, risks all to help his friends, even though they don’t always deserve it. He seems like a rogue at first, but we later learn different, he is also very observant. Being observant is something you have to do in this book, and its sequel.

Negative: The main negative events in this book are lying, stealing and several swear words. Lying and stealing are not encouraged, but our hero is a thief. A few times while on their journey, Gen is forced to steal, but the rest of the time it is of his own accord. There are a few references to torture, but nothing is put in detail. Thankfully. There are gods in the book, (Of earth, sky, lakes, rivers, thieves, oceans etc.) but in the back the authoress states that they were all invented by her imagination.

Overall: I loved this book very much; I have read it and its sequels several times over. They are the type that you can read over and over without boring yourself.

Our hero is a genius, and even though he seems odd and roguish, he is not as he appears. I recommend this book to all, it does have two books that follow, and I shall have a review on those as soon as I have it finished re-reading them.

If you like a page turning work of fiction, you will love this.

Buy it here


14 thoughts on “The Thief, By Megan Whalen Turner

  1. So, does the author postulate that stealing can be OK? Or is it always wrong?

    Any idea why she chose a thief? Does he stay a thief?

  2. Stealing is not said to be ok, nor is it pacifically said by any character to be wrong. He is rebuked, and often gets into fights with his cousins from stealing their possessions, or someone they know. In the book stealing is Eugenides job, he steals things for his queen and in the process becomes a threat that terrifies their enemies. He does steal jewelry or favorite things that people in the court have flaunted about. Also, he steals a pendent from the queen because she always wears it with things that don’t match.
    I can’t speak for the authoress and say why she chose a thief, but I would assume it is because he will need the skills only a thief has, to do some jobs in all the books. Plus if he had not been a thief in the first book, the Magus would not have chosen him to try and steal Hamiathes Gift. He is a thief by choice, he could have become a soldier but didn’t because that meant killing people.
    He technically does stay a thief, but as you go through the books, he steals less and less often. By the third book he doesn’t steal anything that I can remember, but if he does I will be sure to say in my review.
    I hope all that made sense, if not tell me, I shall try and clarify what didn’t make sense.

  3. Interesting. I am not opposed to having a thief as a central figure (think Newkirk from Hogan’s Heros). Mostly, I am wondering if the author appeared to portray theft as acceptable or if she portrayed the skill set as useful.

    It is not uncommon to have a bad character (Disney’s Aladdin or Star Wars’ Han Solo) who is mostly good and becomes good. Authors will use the excuse and overlook the bad to have a rogue with some drama (or to have a redemption aspect to the story).

    Thanks for the information.

  4. Is Hogans Heros a movie/TV series or book? I have heard of a TV series by that name, I don’t recall ever seeing it though.
    I hadn’t thought about that, Han Solo or Alladin I mean. Very true, them being thieves and such, and yet redeeming themselves in the end. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  5. Hogan’s Heros was a TV show from 1965-71. Great clean fun that spoofed the WW2 Germans. As a bit of trivia, several of the Germans in the show were Jews who had suffered under the Nazis. Essentially, Hogan ran a spying/smuggling/terrorism network from within a German POW camp.

    If you have the opportunity, you would probably enjoy watching an episode or two.

  6. You might also be interested to note, Matt, that the thief in this series does have to pay for his crimes.

    I loved Hogan’s Hero’s; its so funny! I agree, having a main character that is also a thief is a plot device that can help the redemptive arch of our hero. Also, its a short and simple way to explain needed plot aids without Deus Ex Machina, like the ability to pick locks.

  7. What?! You mean that it is a rare ability to pick locks??

    Actually, most locks are so simple to pick that any 10 year-old can do it. In fact, the ONLY thing that a lock prevents a crime of opportunity. Most laptop locks can be picked inside 1 minute. The internet can teach anyone how to pick a lock. Need a bump key? No problem – $10.

    What’s worse, I actually sleep well.

    Anyway, I got your point. 🙂 I’m just a security guy so I read all of this stuff all the time.

    Well, I am glad to see that the author acknowledges the crime as being wrong. Too often, the crime is implicitly justified under the “Ends Justify the Means.”

    And as you might guess, with this attitude, I am finding fiction harder to swallow as I go through life. 🙂

    Thanks for the review Hannasus

  8. Good point on lock-picking in the modern age (plastic locks? Hello? Your points on metallic locks are well-noted). In the world of this book, however, I understand its more difficult, right Hannasus? Lock-picking is probably not the greatest of talents these characterizations provide the author with, but then, picking locks is rarely the main point. Usually, it seems, the author has the shady persona pick a lock to “prove” thier skill and then steal something right out from under the nose of its owner.

    Besides which, most readers (right or wrong) assume that it requires a great deal of skill to steal something. Or at least, most authors seem to agree on that. When was the last time you read a book where someone not especially bright or clever or skilled in theivery successfully stole something? Oh the hero will eventually get his way, to be sure, but unless he qualifies for one of the above, he gets caught or at least noticed and chased. A purportedly skilled thief, on the other hand, I do not recall being caught EVER in a work of fiction.

  9. I can’t recall having read to many books in which a skill in thievery was necessary, but I do recall plenty of books in which a mercenary, soldier of fortune, expert warrior was captured despite his skill. Given that this is usually a plot device to create tension, it is predictable (one doesn’t like to read about a perfect person). Given that point, it wouldn’t surprise me to have an expert thief get caught (e.g. Aladdin as I recall).

  10. Well, he may be expert in theivery, but when he is caught, it is because he is stabbed from protecting his friends. Not from trying to steal something, in the first book anyway.
    He is not perfect by any means, in fact, most of the places he gets himself trapped in, he is there because he didn’t think through it all first. He gets better at thinking all through as the books go on.
    Anyway, you have some good points about why they usually get caught.

  11. And this is one of the goals of the site: to generate intelligent discussions. 🙂

    Thanks for providing some food for thought.

  12. Pingback: Conservative Book Talk » The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

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