The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner is a short novel set in a kind of parallel Greece-like land. The time period is indeterminate, as there are guns of more modern times, and similar anacronysms (is that the right word?). Going by my reading, the culture and characters did not strike me as particularly Greek. They had Greek names, though. The main character is a thief named Gen, or Eugenides. The entire story is told from his point of view.
The story begins with Gen in prison. He was imprisoned for foolishly stealing the King of Sounis’ seal and then bragging about it in the local taverns of the king’s city. At that point, he came to the attention of the King’s magus, a learned man who believes he can make use of Gen and his abilities. In particular, he wants to acquire a valuable magical object: Hamiathes’s Gift, a special stone, blessed by the goddess Hephestia to grant immortality and the right to rulership. So, with the blessing of the king, the magus takes Gen, two of his students-in-training, and a bodyguard named Pol on a quest to retrieve the Gift. They must travel into a foreign land, perform a grand heist, and escape without discovery. Can they do it? Is Gen up to the task?
Strengths: the book was well-written and focused. By that I mean, there wasn’t a lot of meandering; it was a linear plot, involving just a handful of characters so it was easy to keep everyone straight. I enjoyed Gen, his personality, and his devious antics. There were also a couple twists and surprises in the book. Some strange events that, initially perplex the reader, but are explained logically by the end of the tale. I like it when books do that. Weaknesses: it’s written in first person point-of-view and I’m not sure if I like that. It wasn’t bad, but maybe third person might have been better. Regardless, although creative the tale may have been too linear. Perhaps a few more unplanned deviations may have made a difference. Also, the lack of human magic-users could count against the book. I just prefer tales where sorcerers and spell-casters abound. Other than that, though, the book was a good read and I’m glad I read it. I also intend to get the continuing adventures of Gen. There are at least two or three more such books.
Ultimately, I’ll give Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief four stars out of five.