fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA young adult fantasy book review Megan Whalen Turner The ThiefThe Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

“I can steal anything.” With that boast, Gen sets into action a course of events that could affect kingdoms. When he boasts that he can steal the King’s Seal, and then delivers on his promise, he is arrested and thrown into prison, where he languishes until the King’s Magus approaches him with an offer: freedom if he can steal Hamiathes’s Gift, a legendary stone that carries with it the right to rule the kingdom of Eddis.

Megan Whalen Turner writes a delightful mythic fantasy that takes the reader on a secret journey through a country whose culture and religion are loosely based on Ancient Greece. Turner’s land appeals to all the senses; The stench of the prisons, the heat of the sun, and the splendid views of ancient olive tree fields come off the page and play like a movie in the reader’s mind. The landscape, both physically and spiritually, is a vibrant part of the story.

The characters are very well done, from Gen (the whining gutter rat), to the Magus (the determined scholar), to Useless the Elder and Younger (Gen’s nicknames for the Magus’s two apprentices). The evolution of each character, and of the relationships between all the main characters, unfolds naturally and with believable adjustments to the trials they face.

The Thiefstarts a little slowly, but turns into a masterfully told tale of intrigue and adventure. In fact, I may have been late coming back from lunch the day I finished it because I was so sucked into the tale that I lost track of time. There are lots of twists and turns to the story. I saw one of them coming, but another took me completely by surprise. In retrospect, it seems completely in keeping with the story, which for me is a sign of good story telling, and not shoehorning in surprises just for the sake of a Big Reveal.

This is YA fiction that would appeal to a nine year old, but does not lose its appeal for adult readers as well. It is the first book in a trilogy, and I already have the second book on hold at the library so I can continue to follow the adventures of Gen.

~Ruth ArnellThe Queen's Thief (6 book series) Kindle Edition

YA young adult fantasy book review Megan Whalen Turner The ThiefMegan Whalen Turner’s award-winning 1996 YA fantasy The Thief, set in a fantasy world that has very strong echoes of ancient Greece, follows the adventures of Gen, the eponymous thief, as he is yanked from a filthy prison cell to go on a journey with a group of four men who hope to steal an unnamed object. The magus, who is leading the group, is the only person in the group who knows what they are searching for and where it is hidden.

In honor of the deep importance of mythology and the panoply of Greek-like gods in the tale of The Thief, several Greek gods and goddesses have graciously agreed to make guest appearances in this review, to add their brief thoughts and opinions regarding this book.

ARTEMIS: “Actually, when you think about it, the whole plot of The Thief revolves around a hunt. Okay, it’s a hunt for a hidden object, not a wild beast, but still. It’s really quite fascinating.”

Gen spends most of the lengthy journey recovering from his months-long stay in prison, whining about their current conditions and the limited food, and sassing the magus and other members of the group. Although the journey is a rocky one, in more ways that just one, gradually Gen begins to gain the respect of most of the group, and they for him.

POSEIDON: “The role of the river Aracthus in protecting the treasure was a high point. But the story needed more bodies of water and less wasteland. Sea of Olives, pfft. Poor excuse for the real thing.”

The characters are well-drawn and believable, with intriguing layers.

…Ambiades was not going to move a step at the request of a worthless and insolent petty criminal. Ambiades, I realized, was the kind of person who liked to put people in a hierarchy, and he wanted me to understand that I was at the bottom of his. He was supposed to treat me politely in spite of my subservient position, and I was supposed to be grateful. For my part, I wanted Ambiades to understand that I considered myself a hierarchy of one.

The tale of their journey is also interspersed with mythological tales of their world, such as the creation of the earth and birth of the gods, which give additional depth to the overall story.

ARES: “I liked the sword fighting and the importance of the art of war in the plot of this story. Recognize! Too bad most of the fighting scenes were so short. But the conflicts between the countries of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia! Yeah, that has potential.”

The first half of this book is somewhat slow-paced, as the group journeys to their destination, but once they arrive the pace quickens and the plot takes some unexpected and fascinating turns. The Thief has joined the list of my favorite YA fantasy novels.

APHRODITE: “Why does the most beautiful woman in the book only make a brief appearance? Where is the love?” *pouts*

The Thief is the first book in a series of four books, with possibly more books to come, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. By the end of the book, I was a huge fan of the characters and of Megan Whalen Turner. I’ve bought all four books in this series and will probably automatically buy anything else she writes. THE QUEEN’S THIEF series should not be missed by anyone who enjoys YA fantasy.

HERMES: “I love how Eugenides, the god of thieves, is worshipped and honored by the main character. And did you notice how Eugenides doesn’t have to do any of the messengering crap? How about that, there, Zeus? Best book ever!”

~Tadiana Jones

YA young adult fantasy book review Megan Whalen Turner The ThiefThe Thief is an enjoyable YA quest fantasy, set apart from the crowd by its refreshing setting (owing more to ancient Greece than to medieval England) and by a narrator with some tricks up his sleeve. I’ve heard the later books are even better, and I’ll definitely be adding them to my TBR pile.

~Kelly Lasiter

Published in 1996. Discover the world of the Queen’s Thief. New York Times-bestselling author Megan Whalen Turner’s entrancing and award-winning Queen’s Thief novels bring to life the world of the epics and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations and intrigue, battles lost and won, dangerous journeys, divine intervention, power, passion, revenge, and deception. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R. R. Martin. Eugenides, the queen’s thief, can steal anything—or so he says. When his boasting lands him in prison and the king’s magus invites him on a quest to steal a legendary object, he’s in no position to refuse. The magus thinks he has the right tool for the job, but Gen has plans of his own. The Queen’s Thief novels have been praised by writers, critics, reviewers, and fans, and have been honored with glowing reviews, “best of” citations, and numerous awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Newbery Honor, the Andre Norton Award shortlist, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Discover and rediscover the stand-alone companions, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings, all epic novels set in the world of the Queen’s Thief. A Newbery Honor Book.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

  • Tadiana Jones

    TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.