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Monday, June 07, 2010

The Thief Doesn't Quite Steal My Heart

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since the generous folks at Harper Collins sent me a copy of Megan Whalen Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings to review, I've been dying to get my hands on the first three books in the series. It took some time, but my library finally complied, and voila! I now have all the novels sitting on my shelf. Naturally, I started with The Thief, it being the start of the story and all. Perhaps this was a case of setting my expectations a little too high, because I didn't love, love the book like I wanted to. I enjoyed it - especially the surprise ending, which I did not see coming - I just expected to be blown away and, well, I wasn't.

Our hero is Gen, a cocky young thief who's doing time in prison for stealing the king's seal and daring to brag about it in a crowded winehouse. Everyone in the land has heard him boast about his ability to steal anything from anyone. It should come as no surprise, then, when the king's magus comes seeking Gen's help. Although the magus refuses to let Gen in on the nature of the job, accepting the offer equals freedom. Gen's not about to ignore the "Get Out of Jail Free" card, even if it means riding into the wilderness with a passel of royal guards. He plans to filch whatever it is the king covets, then go on his merry way.

It's only when the thief discovers what it is he's supposed to steal that he experiences a hiccup of doubt. He's confident in his assertion - he really can steal anything - but only if the object actually exists. Hephestia's Gift is the stuff of stories, myths. Maybe the king and his magus believe it can be found, but Gen knows a fool's errand when he sees one. Still, it's not like he has a choice. His reputation is at stake. As is his life.

As Gen follows the magus into enemy territory, he realizes just how dangerous their crazy quest really is. Attempting to steal an ancient artifact from a neighboring kingdom isn't the best way to win friends and influence people. If Attolian soldiers catch him in the act, Gen will be executed swiftly and without mercy. Returning to his own land empty-handed will earn him a similar fate. Even still, it's not soldiers or kings or guards that Gen fears - it's the gods who've protected Hephestia's Gift since the beginning of time. Angering them could cost Gen everything.

I'm not sure exactly how to categorize The Thief. Its Medieval setting suggests historical fiction, except that Turner insists nothing about the book is historically accurate. Talk of gods and myth smack of fantasy, but it's really not that either. Whatever its genre, The Thief's a quick, entertaining adventure story that will keep you flipping pages just to see if Gen really can steal anything. The tale does drag in places, especially when dealing with the history and mythology of Gen's world. All in all, though, it's a swift, exciting book that should appeal to treasure seekers of all ages.

(Readalikes: The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild language and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. I felt the same way - too much hype. Not sure if I will continue with the series or not.. looking forward to your reviews!

  2. My daughter felt the same way, so we only made it halfway through. I was enjoying it, so I plan to finish it someday.

  3. Bummer. This was one of my favorites, though I think I liked books 2 and 3 even better! It's probably worth reading those if you enjoyed this one even a little.

  4. Tampa - Glad I'm not the only one :)

    Shelley - I almost suggested the book to my 11 yo, but I think he would have been bored to death.

    Melissa - Really? Well, I liked it enough that I'm planning to read the next few books. Hopefully, I'll like them better.

  5. Late commenting, but I think this is one of those series that gets better as it progresses.


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