Today’s Old Favorite is The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner.
Not that it’s really an OLD favorite, since it was originally published in 1996, which makes it not really that old. But it’s a book that gets overlooked, despite winning a Newbery Honor Medal, and since the fourth book about Gen is out this week, it seemed appropriate to share it today.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
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The Thief is about a boy named Gen. At the beginning of the book, he’s in the King’s prison, locked in his cell with chains around his ankles and wrists, with an iron band around his waist. His crime? Bragging that he could steal anything. Which wouldn’t be that bad of a crime, IF he hadn’t had the King’s seal–made of gold with rubies for accents–on him at the time of the bragging. He stole it from the King’s Treasury. Apparently, he’s a great thief, but not so good at keeping his mouth shut.
Gen’s time in prison is soon at an end, however, when the King’s Magus–his scholar and advisor–has him released in order to have Gen steal an ancient treasure. The problem for Gen is that the Magus won’t tell him where the treasure is, let alone what it is, and Gen is still under guard, not to be released until the treasure is in the King’s hand. Gen sets out with the Magus, his two students, and a bodyguard to retrieve this treasure and bring it back to the King.
As the trip gets underway though, it’s obvious that each member of the party has a secret or two they’re trying to keep…including Gen. Is the treasure worth the trials the small group must go through? Will the Magus reveal what they’re truly searching for? Are the two students actually what they seem? Who is the bodyguard guarding? And what is Gen really hiding?
This adventure is full of secrets, with a dash of humor, a lot of action, and a hero who just won’t quit. There’s also stories of the gods…told to lighten the journey. But even the gods have secrets, and those secrets can be very dangerous.
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The Thief is the first book in what is eventually to be a six-book series. The books are linked by Gen’s presence. (Any additional information will give away too much of the plot of the first book). The Queen of Attolia is the second book, and The King of Attolia the third. The newest addition, A Conspiracy of Kings, just came out this week. These books are a crafty blend of fantasy, deception, court intrigue and adventure set in a time period where magic, sword fighting and rudimentary firearms all exist.
Megan Whalen Turner is a genius at crafting intricate stories where more is going on than meets the eye. These books are even more intriguing upon a second or third reading, where all the twists and turns reveal clues to identity, actions and who is actually doing what. As an author, she’s just amazing.
The Thief is a book accessible to middle grade readers, but probably more interesting for teen readers. The subsequent books are definitely aimed at teens, but I’ve had good fifth grade fantasy fans tell me they loved them. There’s a rabid fan-base of adult readers as well, who love everything about Gen, Attolia and the other characters who come into play. You have to start with The Thief, because otherwise you’ll be missing half the story. Each story does stand on its own though. They’re just that much better when the relationships between characters start to become apparent.
So start The Thief today, and don’t be surprised if you’re waiting for the next adventure with just as much anticipation as the rest of Gen’s fans. Including me!