book review // The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

I’ve been hearing about Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief for a while now, and a few months ago, a friend gave me a copy of The Queen of Attolia (the sequel), so I finally read it this November. It was fantastic and I can’t wait to talk all about it!

Megan Whalen Turner Archives - The Deliberate Reader
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about the book

The Thief [Queen's Thief] Turner, Megan Whalen Good Book 0 ...

TITLE: The Thief

AUTHOR: Megan Whalen Turner

PUBLISHED IN: 1996

AUDIENCE: YA? (more on this later)

SUMMARY: The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.
What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.


my review + thoughts

The Thief is technically fantasy, but I wasn’t sure about the genre when I started it, and I didn’t realize it was fantasy until a few chapters in. It’s set in a fictional world that feels vaguely like ancient Greek mythology, but there are watches and guns. There’s no magic (as far as I can tell — I’ve only read two of the books in the series so far) except that some characters pray to gods and goddesses.

It seems to be aimed at YA readers, but it isn’t a typical YA novel; the writing is detailed and the plot slow (it reminds me of works by Robin McKinley and Nancy Bond).

Before I read the book, I knew that H.S.J. Williams, one of my recent favorite fantasy authors, really liked the series, and my friend Lydia (who gave me book 2) said she enjoyed them too. I had a vague picture of some sort of Detectives in Togas-like atmosphere (which was completely wrong), and that’s all.

So. Without spoiling the plot (which is hard with this particular book), here’s what I thought.

what I liked

THE PLOT. A lot of people are bothered by the slow pacing, but I really wasn’t! I completely loved the ambling, storytelling nature of the first half of the book, and was totally blindsided by a fast-paced, creepy bit in the middle (seriously. I was scared.). After that the action picked up, and I still loved it, but personally I found the slower pace to be more engaging because I got to meet each character and learn about them as they traveled.

THE POV. Even though the book is in first person POV, Gen manages to keep secrets from the reader (I might call it “limited first person”). It’s a similar technique to what Jennifer Nielsen does in The False Prince (by the way, if you like that book, this one’s perfect for you). It was definitely infuriating at times, but the payoff was rewarding and Gen’s personality is the BEST. Which leads me to…

GEN. Gen, the thief, is the main character and the point of view for the entire story. He’s hilarious and that’s pretty much all I can say because I really don’t want to spoil the book for you!

A successful thief doesn’t depend on things being unlikely to happen.

(Ahh, all the aesthetics for him have spoilers! Also, as I’m looking at aesthetics, I’m getting really happy because I still have four more books in the series. New series that are this good and enjoyable are a rare discovery for me.)

THE OTHER CHARACTERS. There’s the Magus, who’s irritable and knowledgeable; Pol, whose purpose is a bit uncertain; and two useless apprentices (including one who’s absolutely adorable).

All five main characters are distinct and memorable — which is no small feat considering that they are all male and three of them are around the same age.

I also really like some other characters who aren’t in this book much but are more important in the sequels.

I didn’t really care much about anything, so I guess I felt fine.

THE WORLD + HISTORY + GODS. It’s loosely based on Greece — I love ancient Greek history and myth, so I loved that. However, the gods are completely original, so though you might notice some parallels to the Greek/Roman gods, there are surprises everywhere. I especially loved how there is a thief god (similar to Mercury? at least that’s how I thought of him?).

THE ENDING. I can’t say anything, obviously, but I did not expect the ending at all! I should have known, but I just stared at the page, half overjoyed, half angry, completely confused. After re-skimming it (and reading the second book), I’ve decided I like it.

“Oh,” she said in irritation and perfect understanding. “It’s you.”

OTHER THINGS.

  • Gen and the Magus’ interactions.
  • The moments when I was internally screaming, Finally! I knew you could do that!
  • The writing style.
  • The way the myths were woven into the narrative.

what I didn’t like

THE POV. I know I said above that I liked it, but… the second book switched to third person. While I enjoyed both, I wish the author would’ve been consistent.

THE SCENE AT THE TEMPLE. (Personal preference.) I was completely freaked out.

THE LACK OF CLARITY. Things I would like to know:

  • How old is Gen? (Apparently no one online knows this either, with guesses ranging from 14 to late teens. The second book just manages to confuse everyone further. Is he 16? 24? Who knows?!)
  • What does everyone look like? (Fanart helps, but the author doesn’t describe anyone’s hair/skin/eye color except a few minor characters.)
  • Exactly how far apart are the different kingdoms? (They seem very small. Either that or the characters can walk very fast, which I doubt.) (Actually, it’s probably just because I can’t imagine distances in my head.)
source (this map is actually helpful; I wish there was one IN the book)

in conclusion

I recommend this book! Highly! If you enjoy The False Prince, Robin McKinley, Greek myth, historical fiction, trickster narrators, snarky exchanges, fantasy, adorable characters, or all (or none) of the above, you’ll probably like this book.

Content warnings: Occasional swearing (“hells” and “gods damn”). Occasional physical violence (not intense in this book; much more so in the sequel). A character is said to have fallen off a roof and died (in the past).

Series: Some people say you can read the books in any order. I DISAGREE. If you don’t start with The Thief, its entire plot will be spoiled for you by the later books.

I have also read The Queen of Attolia and am planning to read the whole series (The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings, Thick as Thieves, The Return of the Thief). I think I’ll do a review of them one I finish them all.

Before you read: Do NOT read any reviews! Don’t look up art or collages! Don’t try to figure out anything about the series! I’m serious! The first book has a major twist that EVERY OTHER BOOK spoils (thus why you need to read it first) and most everybody online who’s reviewed it or made fanart… spoils it. Also, another plot point in the second book is pretty much everywhere online too. So. Read the books, THEN look at the fanart. 🙂

Until next time, stay sane!

Maya [ the stories are true ]

P.S. Dave Rubin said he’s tired of people saying “stay safe” so he says “stay sane.” I thought it was funny, if a bit strange.

Have you read The Thief? If not, do you want to? Isn’t Gen just THE BEST?

26 thoughts on “book review // The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

  1. I have read The Conspiracy of Kings. Not the rest of the series. I didn’t necessarily like the slow pacing. Great to read your review on this one!! 😀 Gen barely showed up in the one I read, but I desperately want to meet him. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh, you should! Apparently people read the books in all sorts of different orders, which is weird to me since I like chronology.

      (Wait. I like Goldstone. That’s not chronological.)

      I don’t know how my brain works…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wish I’d read the other books first, but…. A Conspiracy of Kings came in a summer reading package we bought. So. It wouldn’t be my choice to put a book later in a series in a reading package! XD

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the Thief! And all the rest of the books in the series. My favorites are the King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ohh, this book sounds really interesting! I love Greek mythology, so this sounds like a story I would really enjoy. I think I actually started reading it once… tbh I can’t remember why I put it down. 😆 I might just have to pick it up again! Awesome review, Maya!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel compelled to read this book. Guess I’ll have to venture out of isolation to the library now!

    The temptation to Google the book is strong— must resist— resist temptation—

    When you said the author doesn’t give ages or descriptions I thought “THIS IS WHAT I AM HERE FOR,” really loudly. Yes, I thought it loudly. Yikes.

    Stay sane yes

    Liked by 1 person

      • The Hero and the Crown is my favorite, but I’ve also read the sequel to that which I can’t remember the name of, Beauty, Chalice, and Spindle’s End. I was excited to hear you mention her because I feel that she’s underappreciated. 😉 I love how weird her books are!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I love her books a great deal and am so happy to find someone else who shares my opinion!! The Blue Sword (sequel to The Hero and the Crown) is one of my favorites, but I also love Beauty and Chalice (which I desperately want a movie version of).

          Like

  5. I haven’t read The Thief (and probably won’t, considering the fact fantasy/adventure isn’t my favorite genre), but now I am curious. 🙂
    I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the rest of the series. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ASHFJK;DKL THIS BOOK. I love it. I adore it. It is one of my favorites, and your review is excellent. I have loaned out my copy to a friend and now I WISH I HADN’T BECAUSE I WANT TO REREAD. But anyway.
    Yes. This review is so excellent. I find it a really hard book to describe, because 1) spoilers, and 2) the atmosphere is not run-of-the-mill anything-I-can-think-of. It’s very unique. A little Rosemary-Sutcliff-y (which I love), but also its own thing.
    I love how the myths are woven in, I love the characters (especially Gen), I love the plot twists, I love the ATMOSPHERE and the WRITING STYLE and the part in the underwater-ish cave place?? freaks me out and I love it for that.
    Also, I feel you on not being into the POV switch between book one and book two. After reading more of the series (up to book five, I still haven’t read book six but I’m SO EXCITED for it) and rereading, I pretty much think MWT is a genius and knew exactly what she was doing with ALL the changes and differences, POV and otherwise, but…yeah. It’s a little weird and jarring and I didn’t like it at first either. (But also The Queen of Attolia is an actual masterpiece and so is The King of Attolia and AAAAHHHH. I love these books so much. This is such a mess of a comment, but this post just made me so excited because THIS BOOK and your review is just so good. And I’m so glad you like it. And yes.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, exactly! (I should have mentioned Sutcliff. That’s the other author I was thinking of but couldn’t… think of.)

      I’ve actually read five of them now (I read very fast, okay) and I’m INSANELY looking forward to book six, but my library doesn’t have it and interlibrary loan won’t let me reserve it and my ebook app says “this book will be ready for you in six months” and I don’t want to spend money on it right now… so maybe I’ll get it for Christmas? I’ve asked.

      Anyway. I now agree with you about the POVs. There’s a blog post somewhere (not sure where) that says that book one, we need first person because we don’t know Gen at all. Book two, third person because we need to see Gen from other people’s perspectives, plus we need to get in Attolia’s head too. Book three, Costis because we need to see Gen almost solely from someone else’s point of view since at this point we KNOW the kind of thing he must be up to (and THAT KISS!), but Costis doesn’t. Book four was neat, even with all the POV changes, because it made sense for Sophos and Eddis’ relationship. Book five was my least favorite so far so I don’t really care whose POV it was in XD

      Liked by 1 person

      • (Did you get it for Christmas?? My friend did and she says it was as amazing as expected. I’m honestly not sure when I’ll get to read it [this friend lives far away, otherwise I’d ask for a loan haha], but I’m so so SO looking forward to it! And want to know what you think when you read it!)

        Oh, my, yes. What you (or I guess the blog post :P) said. And I would say it applies to book five too – through Kamet’s eyes we see Gen and his machinations from a WHOLLY outside perspective, that of the enemy, in preparation for the final climax. It’s just really cool. It’s kind of hilarious that MWT takes so long to write, like, 300-page books, but also I totally see why? They are masterpieces. Ahhh I love them so much.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Aaaahhhhh I have found another blogger who likes these books! I’m so glad someone convinced you to read them, and that you’re enjoying them! THEY ARE THE BEST!

    I actually like the POV shifts…Gen lies constantly, so being in 3rd gives one a bit of a better view of what is ACTULLY HAPPENING. It’s been so long since I read it for the first time that I can’t remember how I perceived it when I first went from book 1 to book 2…I just remember the trauma that is the beginning of book 2. XD (But seriously: QoA is the BESTEST. And I mean, so is KOA.)

    I actually really like the lack of clarity in some ways (although I’m TOTALLY with you on the geography), because I love being able to make my own pictures of the characters, complete with imagined ages. The problem is, my mental pictures are so ephemeral that I can barely describe them, and if I look at someone else’s idea of the characters, mine vanishes and takes f o r e v e r to get back. Which means I hate fanart with a distain hotter than the sun. Cuz, y’know, it destroys my ideas of the characters! Which is a bit of a problem, because I know that the Queen’s Thief fanart is better than most…but I refuse to look at it.

    (Also, hi. I’m Samantha, and I don’t usually rudely barge into blogs in this way! I came over from Sarah Seele’s blog when I heard there was another blogger who enjoyed The Queen’s Thief and could not resist leaving this sort of rambly comment. XD)

    Liked by 1 person

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