Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A king orders a young thief to carry out a near-impossible heist under threat of death. "In addition to its charismatic hero, this story possesses one of the most valuable treasures of alla twinkling jewel of a surprise ending," said PW of this 1997 Newbery Honor book. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)
A king orders a young thief to carry out a near-impossible heist under threat of death. "In addition to its charismatic hero, this story possesses one of the most valuable treasures of all-a twinkling jewel of a surprise ending," said PW's starred review of this 1997 Newbery Honor book. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Donna Freedman
This unusual, complex book is about Gen, a young thief who's liberated from prison to go on a quest with the king's scholar. The scholar needs a skillful burglar to obtain a mythical stone that's supposed to protect its owner from death and guarantees the right to rule. Young readers will identify with the feisty, scornful Gen who pushes the boundaries of his captivity as much as he can (and is frequently punished for it). They'll also enjoy the sword fight scenes. However, this book isn't an easy reader; the writing is flowery and it's important to pay attention to explanations of intrigue and politics.
VOYA - Becky Kornman
Gen, a lowly but skilled thief of poor upbringing, has been rescued from prison by the king of Sounis to help steal Hamiathes's Gift, an ancient stone, which will make the king the rightful ruler of Eddis. According to legend, the stone has been hidden for generations, and no member of a party that has sought after it has ever returned. Setting out on the perilous journey to find the stone, Gen is accompanied by the king's scholar-the magus, a soldier named Pol, and the magus's apprentices, Ambiades and Sophos. Along the way, these companions constantly taunt Gen for his low station in life, making fun of his speech and manners. Gen, however, entertains his cohorts with stories of Egenides, the patron god of thieves-stories he learned from his mother, who was also a thief. Arriving at the doorway to the temple that houses Hamiathes's Gift, Gen outmaneuvers all the traps and mazes that lead to the stone. Successfully completing his mission, he begins with his partners the journey back home to Sounis. But the thieves' luck takes a bad turn when they are attacked by Attolian horsemen, betrayed by Ambiades, and imprisoned-losing the stone in the process. The thieving party escapes the Attolians and finds themselves in the presence of the Queen of Eddis herself, where it soon is revealed that Gen the common thief is not at all who has claimed to be. Clever and well-written, The Thief is well deserving of the Newbery Honor it received, and its place on ALA's Best Books for Young Adults. The narration flows, the characters are well developed and believable, and there is plenty of action and suspense. Gen's true identity came as a complete surprise to me, although when I reread the book I saw the foreshadowing that I had missed the first time around. The imaginary setting closely resembles ancient Greece, and the gods that play a significant role in Gen's stories-and eventually in his life-are much like the Greek gods. An author's note acknowledges that the landscape described in the book resembles that of Greece, but the setting is imaginary and the story is not meant to be historically accurate. This book will be popular with YAs who like adventure. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 6 UpThings are not what they seem in this story of wit, adventure, and philosophy. Gen, an accomplished thief incarcerated for stealing the king's seal, is dragged from his cell by the king's magus, who is on a quest. The prize is Hamiathes's Gift, said to be a creation of the gods that confers the right of rule on the wearer. During the quest, the magus and Gen take turns telling the youngest member of their party myths about the Eddisian god of thieves. Turner does a phenomenal job of creating real people to range through her well-plotted, evenly paced story. No one is entirely evil or completely perfect. Gen is totally human in his lack of discipline, seeming lack of heroism, and need for sleep and food. The magus makes the transition from smug, superior scholar to decent guy in a believable fashion. Turner also does a neat job of puncturing lots of little prejudices. There are many deft lessons in this story. As absorbing as it is, the best part lies in the surprise ending. Though it is foreshadowed throughout, it is not obviousits impact is more like morning sunlight than a lightning bolt. This book is sure to be a hot item with adventure and fantasy lovers, and YAs who like snide, quick-tempered, softhearted heroes will love Gen.Patricia A. Dollisch, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA
A thief's quest for a priceless gemstone forms the background for a tale of redemption, tolerance, and cooperation in this first novel from Turner (Instead of Three Wishes, 1995, etc.).
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.