Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen’s Thief (#1)
Read: January 19th
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 1996
In short: I’m a bit biased, since I’ve read nearly the whole series now, but The Thief introduces the reader to a fascinating world of politics, squabbling kingdoms, and mythology that any YA high fantasy fan needs to live in!
Goodreads: 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.
Hey, this book is 20 years old this year! Wow. Older than I am. I like to think of The Thief as a short introduction to the rest of the series, because, well, it’s very short, and because the other books markedly differ from it in many ways. The Thief seems like a very ordinary high fantasy novel, but its worldbuilding, main character, and plot twists make it shine—they’re the foundations that make the rest of the series so great. (Although, side note: don’t actively search through the book for clues like it’s a mystery you need to solve, because…you’ll solve it, then. And where’s the fun in that?)
≫ THE PLOT:
“Do you mean,” I squawked, “that we are out here in the dark looking for something from a fairy tale?”
Eugenides’s daydreams of escaping the royal jail are interrupted when the king’s advisor, the magus, frees him—but to use him. The magus intends to steal an ancient object from a neighbouring country to satisfy his king and delay a war simmering beneath the peaceful surface. Eugenides is the odd one out in the party of a guard, the magus, and the magus’s two apprentices…but his fame and freedom depend on a relic of the old gods, and he won’t let stories get in his way.
Like I said, this book was quite short. It’s the stereotypical journey plot too, which I’m sure can get tedious for many old hats of fantasy. The story is also interspersed with tales of the old gods that the magus tells his apprentices. I was surprised by how much I liked those little interludes, though, and they didn’t get tedious at all—although I can understand why they might for other readers. But the story’s twists are absolutely worth it, and there’s also the fact that the rest of the series is so good. Read it, people!
≫ THE SETTING:
The three kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia are vaguely reminiscent of Mediterranean kingdoms, but they’re definitely unique—and characterised by their rulers. There’s Sounis, looking to expand his land, and the cruel, clever Attolia at loggerheads with him—and then there’s the mountainous land of Eddis between the two rulers. Then there are the gods, whose stories we’re told in a good amount of detail. Like I said, I feel like The Thief serves to establish background for the series, and since I don’t want to spoil things for anyone, I’ll just say it manages that very well.
≫ THE PROTAGONIST:
“How much smarter than a hammer can you be if you flaunt the proof of your crimes in a wineshop?”
Eugenides is, aside from the setting and the plot twists, the best thing about this book. Why, you ask? Well, I can’t tell you the whole thing. Suffice to say Gen is sassy, clever, and will constantly surprise you. He’s also stubborn and a major annoyance for the magus. Really, Gen is a great eyepiece to the world of The Thief.
≫ THE OTHER CHARACTERS:
Those accompanying Gen are the magus, his apprentices Sophos and Ambiades, and a guard, Pol. I love that each of these characters has depths that are slowly revealed. I did say the twists were the best part of this book, right? The most developed of these four is the magus, who’s clearly cunning and sometimes cruel, but again…hidden depths.
≫ THE ENDING:
The book’s dramatic conclusion leads on wonderfully to the next book, which you should 100% read. Even if you’re ambivalent about The Thief, I promise you that The Queen of Attolia will blow your mind.
≫ TO SUMMARISE:
Read this book, but primarily for the rest of the series. It’s got a great world, simple writing that works very effectively, and a fun main character. And the rest of the series!