Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner


March 9, 2012 by Heidi

Book cover of The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Title: The Thief [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Megan Whalen Turner [Website]
Standing: First book in the Queen’s Thiefseries.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: January 1st, 1996 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Paperback; 280 pages.  
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: Award Winning Reads Challenge.

If you want to keep something safe, I say hire a guard, at least until someone invents a better lock.  Or hide your treasure where no one will find it.  That’s what most people do.  Being able to find valuables in boxes hidden behind bed frames, being able to move through a building with no one the wiser, those are more important skills for a thief than opening locks.  Those and a good head for heights.  People don’t usually hide their emerald earrings in the cellar.

Gen has cultivated a reputation as a fantastic thief…and a fantastic idiot.  Having been thrown in the king’s prison for stealing a seal, and having the audacity to brag about it and show it off in public, Gen is fairly miserable, hungry, and sadly unable to escape.  He’s pulled from the dark by the magus, the king’s scholar, with a plan to put his skills into service of king and country.  Given the choice between cooperating and an astronomical price on his head, Gen decides it’s probably best to go along…

You guys!  I’ve been hearing about the Queen’s Thief books for ages now on the blogosphere, and they were on my list, but I wasn’t prompted to actually pick them up until Chachic of Chachic’s Book Nook hosted a lovely Queen’s Thief Week.  What I found when I did, I will love forever.  It is so rare for those of us who read so many books to be really truly surprised by anything.  I find I am constantly anticipating plots, and more often than not, I am correct, and even if I am not correct, I am not often surprised.   This didn’t happen with The Thief.  Not only did I have no idea how the story was going to end until I got there, I had no idea what was coming next from any individual turn, I could no more predict or see things coming than if I had never consumed a book before in my life.  Days later my head is still spinning and I am marveling–how did Megan Whalen Turner do it?!  

This is one of those books with immediate reread value.  I already want to go back through, knowing how things turn out, to see the crumbs that I inevitably stumbled blindly over along the way.  Part of me is so sad that I did not discover these books when I was younger, but part of me is so happy to just now being experiencing this story for the first time.  The world created by Megan Whalen Turner is full of beautiful myths of creation and the gods, and I could not be happier about her simultaneously writing from a male perspective set in a world where females are so strong, and not degraded or regulated to certain positions.  Additionally, instead of being set in a medieval world, as is so often in high fantasy, the world of The Thief came across more as that in The Three Musketeers, a transition between medieval and renaissance.  And that, my friends, is awesome.

I loved the characters involved, primarily because they were so well written and constructed.  Honestly while reading, I didn’t know how I felt about many of them, and this was great!  I wasn’t always sure Gen knew how he felt about the rest of the cast either, particularly the magus who is alternately despicable and generally well intentioned.  Also, can I just say that my heart was captured by Gen the second I learned that he hated horses?  I don’t hate horses, but neither does anyone else, especially not in fantasies set in time periods where horses are the prime means of transportation.  This one quality stood out so much to me, it made me smile at its uniqueness.  

I could go on to wax poetically for some time, but I refuse to talk about this book in any way that might ruin it for anyone who has yet to read it.  So I can only say, read it, and enjoy!

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  It is very rare that I will blow through a series.  Most often, I need to read at least 5 books in between.  This is one of those amazing exceptions.  I am ready to read the next installment this second!

Recommended for: This is one of those books that everyone and their mother will probably enjoy.  It transcends its genre, so that you don’t have to be a young adult or high fantasy fan to like it.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I believe I’ve just begun a lifelong love affair.


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  1. Chachic says:

    Lovely review, Heidi! You know The Thief is even better as a reread. :) I enjoyed a lot more when I went back to it after finishing The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. I realized that I missed little details the first time I read it. Looking forward to your reviews of the other books in the series!

  2. Angiegirl says:

    Can I just crawl through the ether and give you a hug? You had me at "ready to read the next installment this second!" Please, please do. I won't be fit to live until I hear what you think of QUEEN (which I just re-read btw, and which really only gets awesomer with each read).

  3. OMG YES! YES! Welcome to the card carrying Attolia fan club.I desperately want to re-read after this review.AND OMG, you need to read Queen like yesterday it is SOOOOOO good.

  4. Liviania says:

    Congratulations! I know it's kind of weird to congratulate you, but . . . this is one of those series I wish I could read for the first time again. They're rewarding re-reads (so many crumbs!), but nothing beats that first surprise.

  5. I love how your excitement and enthusiasm for this book comes through, Heidi! I've had this one on my radar for awhile, but after Chachic's MWT week and this rave review, I really must bump it up Mt. TBR soon. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :)Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  6. Heidi says:

    Wendy! You MUST read these books asap. I swear to you, you will not be let down by the hype monster. Despite the amount of love for these books I had seen, I still had no idea what I was getting into. I'm so in love.

  7. Heidi says:

    Thank you! I'll take that congrats. =) I always get so excited to find books like this, that are amazing and somehow completely escaped me. I cannot wait to reread these, but yes, nothing quite beats that first time.

  8. Heidi says:

    Thank you! I'm totally laminating my card and putting it in my wallet right next to my library card. I'm actually up to A Conspiracy of Kings in reading, and love love love each of the three I've read so far. They're all so different and unexpected!

  9. Heidi says:

    Hugs! Honestly, reading this series is one of the things that makes me most happy about the blogosphere. Because if it weren't for so many people out there singing its praises, I NEVER would have noticed them sitting on that shelf just waiting to be picked up. I already want to buy the series so that I can reread regularly.

  10. Heidi says:

    I'm sure there are tons of little details that I missed the first time reading The Thief! The thing I loved about it though, is it didn't make me feel stupid or duped when I didn't see what was coming. I genuinely loved the surprise! I can't wait to go back to the beginning and see everything I missed.

  11. […] recommend books with similar themes that are much stronger.  Go read Grave Mercy, Graceling, The Thief, or The False Prince instead.  Or if you do want to try Throne of Glass, I recommend borrowing […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.