The Thief (The Queen's Thief Series #1)by Megan Whalen Turner
"Gen the thief is released from prison in the imaginary medieval land of Sounis by the king's magus, on the condition that he join an expedition to recover the legendary Hamiathes's Gift Stone....For the chance at regaining his freedom, Gen agrees....His ultimate discovery of the legendary stone and the clearing of his reputation are as grand as the fantastic myths… See more details below
"Gen the thief is released from prison in the imaginary medieval land of Sounis by the king's magus, on the condition that he join an expedition to recover the legendary Hamiathes's Gift Stone....For the chance at regaining his freedom, Gen agrees....His ultimate discovery of the legendary stone and the clearing of his reputation are as grand as the fantastic myths the travelers tell on their fateful trip. This is an uplifting book, a literary journey that enhances both its characters and readers before it is over."Kirkus Reviews.
Megan Whalen Turner, author of The Thief (a Newbery Honor winner) and Instead of Three Wishes, lives in Menlo Park, California. In Her Own Words...
"When I was ten I read a lot of great books, and when I couldn't easily find more, I decided I would be a writer and write stories of my own, even though it didn't sound as exciting as reading. The only impediment to beginning my career right then was that I couldn't think of anything to write.
"Joan Aiken said she saw stories all around her, prompted by everyday events. She also said (in her bio) that she'd been telling stories since birth and completed her first novel in Latin class when she was seventeen. And there I was ten years old without a rag of a story to call my own. Roald Dahl said he kept a notebook in which he scribbled his ideas so that he wouldn't forget them. This sounded sensible and I gave it a try. When I forced one out, it sounded like this: Write a story about a blind girl who wants to go to school and be like everybody else.
"Well, that idea just sat there on the page. It did not magically turn into a story the wayit was supposed to. (Or if it did, it was somebody else's story: Light a Single Candle.) So much for Roald Dahl.
"I let the matter drop, I didn't write anything, and I didn't think very much about it again until I was in my third year of college when I had to choose a field and begin a senior project. I thought that writing had to be easier than sifting down to read, say, The Mill on the Floss, and I proposed to study children's literature and write some of my own.
"What I produced was almost uniformly horrible, but I think that was because I didn't want to write anything that wasn't perfect and nothing comes out perfect the first time. I think that anyone who wants to write well has to write copiously first. But I didn't know that then, so I gave up on writing and spent seven years as a children's book buyer in various bookstores. Then my husband, who is a professor of English, got a grant to do research for a year in California and I left my job to go with him. I thought that if I didn't set myself to do something constructive, I might end up reading, say, The Mill on the Floss, so I decided again to write, and I did. I produced short stories that I sent to Diana Wynne Jones. She recommended that I send them to Susan Hirschman at Greenwillow, who agreed to publish them, to my surprise. I had intended them as writing samples, hoping to interest Greenwillow in a novel if I ever wrote one.
"This was so easy and so surprising that it might contradict what I said earlier about a writer needing to write a lot before writing well, but I realize, in retrospect, I did write a lot-English compositions, answers to essay questions on science homework, college papers, and thankyou notes. Especially thank-you notes. My mother always supervised mine and she had high standards. In fact, my advice to anyone who wants to be a writer is to avoid reading any other author's biography. Spend your time on your thank-you notes."
Gen the thief is released from prison in the imaginary medieval land of Sounis by the king's magus, on the condition that he join an expedition to recover the legendary Hamiathes's Gift Stone, said to be hidden in an elaborate maze underneath a river. For the chance at regaining his freedom, Gen agrees. The journey at first is fraught more with psychic than physical dangers: The magus and the other king's men on the tripsoldier Pol, aristocrats Sophos and Ambiadesinsult Gen for his low birth and choice of profession, even denying him proper food and medical care. No adolescent will be able to ignore Gen's resentment, embarrassment, and pain, made palpable through Turner's compassion and crystalline prose. Similarly, Gen's narrative voice, at turns snide, sharp, then sad, will seem familiar to young adults. His ultimate discovery of the legendary stone and the clearing of his reputation are as grand as the fantastic myths the travelers tell on their fateful trip. This is an uplifting book, a literary journey that enriches both its characters and readers before it is over.
Read an Excerpt
I Didn't Know How Long I had been in the king's prison. The days were all the same, except that as each one passed, I was dirtier than before. Every morning the light in the cell changed from the wavering orange of the lamp in the sconce outside my door to the dim but even glow of the sun falling into the prison's central courtyard. In the evening, as the sunlight faded, I reassured myself that I was one day closer to getting out. To pass time, I concentrated on pleasant memories, laying them out in order and examining them carefully. I reviewed over and over the plans that had seemed so straightforward before I arrived in jail, and I swore to myself and every god I knew that if I got out alive, I would never never never take any risks that were so abysmally stupid again.
I was thinner than I had been when I was first arrested. The large iron ring around my waist had grown loose, but not loose enough to fit over the bones of my hips. Few prisoners wore chains in their cells, only those that the king particularly disliked: counts or dukes or the minister of the exchequer when he told the king there wasn't any more money to spend. I was certainly none of those things, but I suppose it's safe to say that the king disliked me. Even if he didn't remember my name or whether I was as common as dirt, he didn't want me slipping away. So I had chains on my ankles as well as the iron belt around my waist and an entirely useless set of chains locked around my wrists. At first I pulled the cuffs off my wrists, but since I sometimes had to force them back on quickly, my wrists started to be rubbed raw.After a while it was less painful just to leave the manacles on. To take my mind off my daydreams, I practiced moving around the cell without clanking.
I had enough chain to allow me to pace in an arc from a front corner of the cell out to the center of the room and back to the rear comer. My bed was there at the back, a bench made of stone with a thin bag of sawdust on top. Beside it was the chamber pot. There was nothing else in the cell except myself and the chain and, twice a day, food.
The cell door was a gate of bars. The guards looked in at me as they passed on their rounds, a tribute to my reputation. As part of my plans for greatness, I had bragged without shame about my skills in every wine store in the city. I had wanted everyone to know that I was the finest thief since mortal men were made, and I must have come close to accomplishing the goal. Huge crowds had gathered for my trial. Most of the guards in the prison had turned out to see me after my arrest, and I was endlessly chained to my bed when other prisoners were sometimes allowed the freedom and sunshine of the prison's courtyard.
There was one guard who always seemed to catch me with my head in my hands, and he always laughed.
"What?" he would say. "Haven't you escaped yet?"
Every time he laughed, I spat insults at him. It was not politic, but as always, I couldn't keep an insult in when it wanted to come out. Whatever I said, the guard laughed more.
I ached with cold. It had been early in the spring when I'd been arrested and dragged out of the Shade Oak Wineshop. Outside the prison walls the summer's heat must have dried out the city and driven everyone indoors for afternoon naps, but the prison cells got no direct sun, and they were as damp and cold as when I had first arrived. I spent hours dreaming of the sunshine, the way it soaked into the city walls and made the yellow stones hot to lean on hours after the day had ended, the way it dried out water spills and the rare libations to the gods still occasionally poured into the dust outside the wineshops.
Sometimes I moved as far as my chains would let me and looked through the bars of my cell door and across the deep gallery that shaded the prison cells at the sunlight falling into the courtyard. The prison was two stories of cells stacked one on top of the other; I was in the upper level. Each cell opened onto the gallery, and the gallery was separated from the courtyard by stone pillars. There were no windows in the outside walls, which were three or four feet thick, built of massive stones that ten men together couldn't have shifted. Legends said that the old gods had stacked them together in a day.
The prison was visible from almost anywhere in the city because the city was built on a hill and the prison was at the summit. The only other building there was the king's home, his megaron. There had also been a temple to the old gods once, but it had been destroyed, and the basilica to the new gods was built farther down the hill. Once the king's home had been a true megaron, one room, with a throne and a hearth, and the prison had been the agora, where citizens met and merchants hawked their jumble. The individual cells had been stalls of clothes or wine or candles or jewelry imported from the islands. Prominent citizens used to stand on the stone blocks in the courtyard to make speeches.
Then the invaders had come with their longboats and their own ideas of commerce; they did their trading in open markets next to their ships. They had taken over the king's megaron for their governor and used the solid stone building of the agora as a prison. Prominent citizens ended up chained to the blocks, instead of standing on them.The Thief. Copyright (c) by Megan Turner . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Megan Whalen Turner is the author of the Newbery Honor Book The Thief and its companions, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. She lives with her family in Ohio.
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