Saturday, 07 August 2010
Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief is a novel both broad in scope and minutely personal. It is the story of Gen, a talented thief that at the story’s opening is captive in the king’s prison, victim to his own bragging. But when the king’s magus wants to steal a fabled relic from another kingdom he needs a master thief, and none is more skilled than Gen. So begins Gen’s adventure, as the magus and his companions set out on a journey to steal the unstealable.
Turner fashions a well wrought web of history and political intrigue, painting it on a canvas of half-forgotten gods and myths. The first half of the book is relatively slow as we learn about Gen’s companions and the kingdoms they inhabit, but I was never bored. The world, based loosely on ancient Greece, is lush and interesting, and the characters are all deeper than they first appear.
Unfortunately The Thief suffers from one major flaw: the story is told from Gen’s point of view, but we know next to nothing about his personal history or motivations until the very end. Gen isn’t an unreliable narrator, which, handled well, can make for a clever twist; he is a deficient narrator, simply omitting key pieces of information until he springs them on the reader with self-satisfied relish. It makes an otherwise thrilling story somewhat flat; Gen could have been a lot more interesting and sympathetic a character if we had known his plans all along.
Despite my complaints, I did enjoy The Thief. I have it on good authority that the following books are better, so I’m looking forward to reading those too. Megan Whalen Turner has created a vivid, fascinating world, and I can’t wait to see what else happens there.