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Review: The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner

Genre: Fantasy, YA Published: Greenwillow Books, 2009. Originally published 1996 by Harper Collins Rating: 3/5 stars

“A little danger adds spice to life.”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this indeed was my first time reading The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. The Thief holds the humble honor of being the very first book I ever added to my “want-to-read”-shelf on Goodreads, and until now, used to be the book that has been on that shelf the longest. Today is the day that it finally was cast from its throne (leaving … in its place). Did it live up to the expectations though? Yes and no. The Thief reads and feels a lot like a classic quest-fantasy, and was a very enjoyable read as such. I can’t help but feel it was a very middle-of-the-road read, though, and didn’t quite blow my mind (yet).

The plot is simple: Gen is a thief recruited from the Kings prison to participate in a quest to steal an ancient artifact that hold great political power. The first half of the novel focusses on the journey, and is honestly quite slow and repetitive. The runtime of this segment could have quite easily been halved if all the talk about food and Gens complaining would have been cut out.

The second half of the novel is where things get more interesting: Gen sets out to stealing the artifact, and we learn more about the political implications of this mission. This is where the novel shines; Megan Whalen Turner builds an extensive world that, although we only see the tip of the iceberg in this novel, feels in depth and full of potential for the sequels. A world with a deep backstory, history and lore unfortunately often comes with a lot of exposition, as is the case here. There is quite some “butler-dialogue” (people telling each other information that they should both already know, just to inform the reader), but not so much that it affected my overall enjoyment.

What did affect my enjoyment however where the aforementioned pacing issues. The first half of the novel is quite slow, whilst the second half tries to cram too much in towards the end. This especially shows in the character development and relations. The attitude of some of the main characters, particularly Gen, Sophos and the Magus, towards each other takes 180-degree turn that I frankly didn’t feel was earned yet. I would have liked to see more interaction that would have warranted such a change of heart between them. This would likely also have made the final twist at the end a bit more impactful, as it felt a little clichéd and anticlimactic to me, as is. Despite the previously mentioned flaws, I did have a good time with The Thief, and I think it does a great job of setting up a series that has a lot of potential for great things. I’m excited to see where it goes from here and I’m happy that, even 23 years after release, I jumped on this bandwagon. In summary, it’s a flawed read, that has some clichés, pacing issues and rushed character development. If you enjoy fantasy (especially the older type of 90’s fantasy) however: don’t sleep on this one like I did. It’s a short read and, especially if the rest of the series gets even better, worth your time.

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