Book review. Megan Whalen Turner talent shines with a unique world of legends… but not so much the characters.
I picked up this book during one of my “Let’s buy everything!” moods at Barnes and Noble.
The title and cover intrigued me. Fantasies with thieves and journeys are one of my book weaknesses.
The story itself stars Gen, a thief that has found himself in the king’s prison for boasting about stealing the king’s seal from the king’s magus. While his boasts may have landed him into trouble, the magus decides that Gen — who claims he can steal anything — will be the perfect thief to bring on a quest to find an object straight out of a legend. The object in question is a stone that indicates who is the rightful ruler of one of the land’s kingdoms.
Told in first-person, we follow Gen along on the quest. Being a thief, he’s not held in high regard among the party of travelers and is constantly monitored by the magus, the group’s soldier Pol, and the magus’s two apprentices, Ambiades and Sophos. For the most part, Gen seems fairly laid-back, figuring that attempting to steal a legendary object is better than being in jail. His narration voice does have a few quips and sarcastic remarks, but for the most part, he seems to be an observer and was easy enough to keep up with as one reads the story.
With that said, none of the characters really stood out in this story.
The magus didn’t even have a name other than “the magus,” even if he was the one who orchestrated the entire quest and was, arguably, the second most important character after Gen. Pol was the competent soldier, there at Sophos’s father’s request to keep an eye on his son, and played the strong and silent type a little too well to really keep me invested in his well-being.
Sophos, on his part, was curious and easy-going, eager to learn and seemed to be a better apprentice to the magus than Ambiades. Ambiades resembled a spoiled child more often than not, despite being the elder of the two, but he seemed to get a little more development near the middle of the book… until he stayed behind from the rest of the party at one point, nearly erasing him from the rest of the story. While I had it in my head the apprentices were young — perhaps older teens, getting close to their twenties if not just reaching them — there was a comment regarding a certain someone who Sophos may marry, completely throwing off my mental picture of the character and making me question whether or not their actions throughout the story was justified for their ages or not.
The entire first half of the novel was the journey to the temple that supposedly held the legendary object. History lessons about the lands and the legend itself — with scenes of the group eating, washing, or camping peppered in — was all I read for that first half, feeling as if I were a student along with Ambiades and Sophos. Instead of being interested like Sophos, I was bored along with Ambiades.
The book’s mythology and history is actually interesting, and definite kudos to the author for creating this beautiful world for her characters to live in. However, the first half of the book read more like info-dumping than an actual story. The history was necessary for the legendary object, yes, but I feel as if the author could have done a much better job passing along the needed information. Stories around the campfire are fine, but give me more of a journey rather than a textbook while they head toward the temple.
Once the story hit the midway point, I became much more invested in it.
We had reached the temple, Gen had ventured through it, the object was found, then lost. Danger found the party and motives were revealed, as well as Gen’s true plan regarding the quest. He was a bit of an unreliable narrator throughout the story, and reading how everything fell into place almost made up for the textbook half of the story.
To me, The Thief was okay. While the myths and history of the lands were interesting, I didn’t like the way it was all presented, and the characters weren’t as intriguing as I had hoped they would be. Still, I will not rule out the rest of the series. Perhaps I’ll find them in the library when I’m ready to try again to dive into the author’s world.
3 out of 5 stars.