Review of The Thief

The Thief
by Megan Whalen Turner
Middle School, High School     Greenwillow/Morrow     196 pp.
10/96     0-688-14627-9     $15.99

A tantalizing, suspenseful, exceptionally clever novel is set in a Mediterranean-like country called Sounis in a time when the old gods have just been supplanted. (So vivid are the geography and the details of daily life that the reader can easily believe in the existence of this imaginary landscape.) Gen, a thief languishing in the royal dungeons, is summarily reclaimed by the king's magus, who wants him to steal the unstealable: a legendary stone conferring the power of the throne of Eddis, a rival neighboring country, on its bearer. The magus and his companions set off, with Gen brought along as a "useful sort of tool," to find the remarkable maze/temple (underwater except for a few nights a year) inside which the stone is hidden; Gen has three chances to steal it, achieve a measure of fame — and remain alive. That's about as much plot as can be told, because it's Gen who is telling the story, and Gen is clearly not what he seems. The author's characterization of Gen is simply superb: she lets the reader know so much about him — his sense of humor, his egotism, his loyalty, his forthrightness, his tendency to sulk — and yet manages to hide the most essential information. Which is not to say that either Gen or Turner deceives the reader: both tell part of the truth at all times. And so, unlike many other novels of surprise, which don't bear up to a second reading, Thief is even more fun to reread — you can see all the clues to Gen's identity and mission, and delight in the author's ingenuity.

From the November/December 1996 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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