“The Thief (The Queen’s Thief #1)” by Megan Whalen Turner

Title: “The Thief (The Queen’s Thief #1)”
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Read Date: 16 April 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: Nothing is as it seems. (Boy, does that sound like a tagline for a movie.)

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“I can steal anything.”

After Gen’s bragging lands him in the king’s prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king’s scholar, the magus, needs the thief’s skill for a seemingly impossible task – to steal a hidden treasure from another land.

To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.

I expected something different from The Thief, you know, something like a mini Ocean’s Eleven adventure in a fantasy world.

Well, the book isn’t like that at all. Most of it is about Gen’s journey to find the story’s McGuffin (a stone called Hamaithes’ Gift), and while it wasn’t boring, there wasn’t much going on either. The journey seems to be more about introducing the characters and their motivations. The good stuff happens in the last quarter of the book, with the grand heist (which, on hindsight, wasn’t as grand as it sounds, but it sure was suspenseful) and the almighty plot twist that will make you question just how well you were paying attention from the start.

I like the little origin myths that were woven into the story as part of the party’s campfire conversations. It made the mythology a little richer, although the mythology itself felt like it was created and used as an afterthought to give credence to the origin and reputation of Hamaithes’ Gift.

The story is narrated from protagonist Gen’s first-person perspective. He is likable enough, but he can be properly annoying when he needs to be. The other members of the party–the Magus, his apprentices Ambiades and Sophos, and Pol the bodyguard–are also interesting enough, but not entirely memorable until we find out who they really are, and sometimes not even then. The Magus, in particular, is too ambiguous as a character; sometimes he’s like a mentor figure, and sometimes he’s a little villainous.

Speaking of villains, it doesn’t seem to me that this story had a proper one. There were people who were after our heroes at one point or another, but no one that poses an ultimate and immediate threat. There was no big obstacle to overcome, there was only that almighty plot twist. Maybe that is the book’s conceit, which, I have to admit, is consistent with the theme of “the thief”–it wasn’t meant to be epic–and I can appreciate and understand that even though I want more from the story. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to read a clean and simple, character-driven fantasy without over-complicated magic systems and standard-issue non-human characters.

I would still like to continue reading the series because Gen and the Magus told us about different lands and people that we never got to see, and I want to see them. I have hope that the pay-off that I was waiting for in The Thief will be somewhere in the next 3 books.