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The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities. What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

Megan Whalen Turner weaves Gen’s stories and Gen’s story together with style and verve in a novel that is filled with intrigue, adventure, and surprise.

280 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Megan Whalen Turner

16 books5,392 followers
Megan Whalen Turner is the author of short stories and novels for children, teenagers and adults. She has won the LA Times Book Award for Young Adult LIterature, a Boston Globe/ Horn Book Honor and a Newbery Honor. She won the Mythopoeic Award and was shortlisted twice for the Andre Norton Award.

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5 stars
25,464 (30%)
4 stars
30,624 (36%)
3 stars
20,404 (24%)
2 stars
5,398 (6%)
1 star
2,149 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,967 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
July 27, 2018
a summary of this book in 20 words or less:

first half - an obscenely long journey where literally nothing happens.
second half - item stolen and it all. kicks. off.

as you can tell from my quick summary, the second half of this book is where its at. if you manage to get through the most boring horse ride in fictional history, then you will be well rewarded. you will get prison escapes, hot pursuits, clever planning, and not to mention more gen. i really liked gen. my goodness, he was charming. he was honestly my main reason for pushing through the first half of the book - i just had to see how his role in the story played out.

overall, this was a pretty decent read. it was short, but it has me interested enough to see how the rest of the series will go. even with the slow start of ‘the thief’, i have a feeling the following books will be much better!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.6k followers
August 13, 2022
Update 12/29/2018
Clearly I can never get tired of Megan Whalen Turner’s stories and Gen’s refreshing petulance.

Update 6/2011. Let me just say, if you feel so-so about this book (like I did), please give its sequel - The Queen of Attolia - a try. It made me forever and ever a dedicated fan of the series.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed it, but I think I spoiled the experience for myself a little bit.

Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
March 30, 2012

My main reason for reading The Thief was so I could read the sequel - The Queen of Attolia - that I've heard is superb and far better than this first installment. I actually set myself up for quite an underwhelming experience with this book based on reviews and the fact that I'm not the biggest fan of more traditional fantasy with magical realms and such (I never could stand The Lord of the Rings). However, the story was interesting, the writing excellent and the protagonist was a witty, devious little narrator that kept me entertained throughout.

I love the world that Turner has created, even though we've seen so little of it so far - this only served to further pique my interest. I see a lot of potential for this series and I have already ordered a copy of The Queen of Attolia.

There is a twist that I thought was pretty obvious, and usually if I can solve a mystery it would suggest that it's about as mysterious as a gigantic billboard with flashing neon lights... but I think it had more to do with the fact that I knew a twist was coming, and some other GR reviewers were surprised by it. So, you know, try not to, um, think too much about it.

By the way, for people who have read this, isn't the biggest clue in

But, for me, guessing the twist didn't spoil the story at all. I was introduced to a wonderful fantasy world, interesting characters, and a fast-paced plot, and it was all supported by Turner's talent for flawless writing. I cannot wait to read the second book.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,065 reviews69.5k followers
February 26, 2023
An excellent fantasy for the young adult audience!
I mean, the adult audience, too.
Because obviously, I enjoyed it quite a bit and nobody is accusing me of being young. <--I will slap the first person who says at heart - don't test me.


The gist is that Gen is lingering in the dungeons for stealing from the king's Magus. And he got caught because he was bragging that he would steal something from the king's Magus to an undercover agent of the Crown in a bar. In his defense, he did manage to steal it anyway but was promptly caught.
Hence, the lingering in the castle's dungeons.


Lucky for him, the Magus has need of someone like Gen.
Much like Liam Neeson, he's got a special set of skills.
Unlike Liam Neeson, he's not using jump-cut sequences to cover for the fact that he's an old fart trying to hop a fence.


The rest of the story is a fun fantasy/heist with lots of cool mythology, and quite a few twists and turns.
Now, I wasn't surprised by any twists the story took, but I'm assuming that the target audience will have read far fewer books than I have due to their lack of time on this earth, and therefore probably won't immediately recognize all the signs pointing directly at said twists.


Is this middle-grade or young adult? It's won several middle-grade awards, but this seemed more...something. Maybe just better storytelling than I'm used to for an MG title. But if this is middle grade, I'm all for it.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
November 10, 2019
The Thief is the first book in one of my favorite YA series EVER, with just a touch of Greek mythology-inspired fantasy to it. It can be just a little hard to get into at first, but the payoff at the end is brilliant, and the world-building is fantastic. Stick with it through at least the first three books and you won't regret it. Avoid spoilers.

Review originally posted at Fantasy Literature.

Megan 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 respect for 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 five books, with possibly more books to come, but can easily 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 five books in this series and will probably automatically buy anything else she writes. THE QUEEN'S THIEF series shouldn't be missed by anyone who enjoys YA fantasy. In fact, my favorite book in the whole series is the third, The King of Attolia.

HERMES: “I love how Eugenides, the god of thieves like *ahem* yours truly, 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!”
4½ stars, and a big "thank you" to my guest reviewers!
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
350 reviews943 followers
April 23, 2018
Gen is a thief. The story begins with him being rescued from prison by the King's Magus in order to help him steal an object of political power that is so historically obscure it is almost considered a myth.

So there's a lot I didn't enjoy here.

To begin with, this book is mostly composed of a very, very, very long travelling sequence. Now, I should take this opportunity to point out that I don't dislike journey stories. In fact, one of my all time favorite novels is The Lord of the Rings, which is, at its core, a massive journey.

The problem with this book is that nothing even remotely interesting happens while our characters are travelling. Somehow a relatively short 280 pages ends up feeling more like 2800 pages while trudging through scene after scene of riding on horses, campfire chatting, and bickering.

It was over halfway through the book before I really distinguished between all the side characters that weren't the Magus. And of course I had the unfortunate experience of accidentally imagining the Magus as Governor Ratcliffe, aka this guy:


So yea. That was.. not the book's fault but it was certainly interesting.

Anyway, once I finally had a firm handle on who everyone was, I realized they're mostly stereotypical in nature. Angry, masculine rival. Soft, young apprentice who isn't good with a sword. Tough, stoic guardian. Eh.

I suppose it's important to remember that this was published in 1996, and so these stereotypes were probably a lot less abundant at that time. This definitely doesn't read like a modern Young Adult book, but this doesn't change the fact that my experience with these now is no more welcome than it would be reading a book published more recently.

The dynamic between the characters is even confusing for me. I have no idea how I'm supposed to feel about Gen or the Magus because their statements & actions are just a slew of contradictions.

One minute they're all messing around, joking, the next characters are threatening other characters with actual, physical violence. One minute Gen is at the complete mercy of the Magus, the next the Magus is allowing Gen to contradict his mythology stories without reprieve.

Gen even points out the Magus' inconsistency so honestly, I'm just now sure how I'm supposed to view these characters.

Speaking of mythology, this book spends a lot of time exploring mythological characters of the realm & telling their stories, and much less time than I would've liked expanding the world. These sections of the book come off very info-dumpy, and I could feel myself zoning out whenever they would pop up.

Honestly, I can only think of one scene where I chuckled near the beginning of this boring trudge of a book. Otherwise, I spent most of the time hoping it would be over soon.

Relieved to finally make it to the end of this story, I was planning to stick it with a 1 star & forget about it. But then something interesting happened.

The twist at the end practically flips this story on its head, contradicting everything you may have thought about it up to this point. It's almost a brand new story which is the ONLY REASON I am considering continuing the series.

I'm not 100% sure I agree with a twist like the one presented here. I'm not clear how it works, to be honest. It seems contradictory on many levels, but I'll definitely give it points for originality.

This twist brought the book's rating up a bit for me. It doesn't make up for how hard the rest of the of it is to get through. 2 stars it will have to be, but I'm kind of excited to see where the story goes from here because it feels like a fresh beginning.

Read this with the gorgeous miss Kaylin!
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
August 15, 2022
fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one book each month by an author i have never read despite owning more than one of their books.

this is the first book in the queen's thief series, which so many of my fantasy-loving friends have singled out as being the childhood books that turned them into readers. all of us booknerds have specific books like these, that shaped us—dog-eared beloveds we read and reread during our formative years that we still think of with fond nostalgia. these special few create a sort of undercrust that shapes our adult reading tastes, and it's fascinating to little readers' advisory geek me hearing other booknerds talk about their childhood favorites so i can trace that through line and see how their preferences developed and evolved over time.

i don't have a strong fantasy background, and i'm low-key intimidated by all of the supersmart, confident, articulate fantasy readers i've met over the years whose frames of reference are completely out of my depth, so hearing these women (they were always women) speak of this series (that i am too old to have encountered in my own childhood) in such hushed, reverential tones, how could i not want to horn in on that?

so, i went out and bought all of them in one fell swoop because little old ladies ain't got time for half-measures.

i'm not sure if these books were intended for a YA or a middle grade audience—before reading this one, i assumed they were middle grade, but now, judging by the pacing and the complexity of the plot, it seems better suited to an older audience.*

regarding the pacing, i recently rewatched the dark crystal (holy cow, is this lady ever going to talk about the book or is she just gonna keep sundowning into endless digressions?), and i was struck by how long it takes for anything to happen. there's no dialogue for about 10 minutes—an eternity in child-time—just voiceover exposition over a static landscape before slowly panning over those skeksis k-holing around that dang crystal, and the mystics mournfully moaning and it's visually intriguing, but for a kids' movie, it's striking that it takes so long to get anywhere, like those slow-ass mystics doing their slow-ass plod across an expanse of nothing.

i saw it in the theater back in 1982 when i was a tiny person, and i don't remember being bored at all by it, but if it were to be made nowadays, an editor would have lopped off 75% of that opening sequence because kids are squirmy little adderall-filled buggers who need their stimulation right off the bat.

all of that prelude to say that this book came out in 1996 and it is a damn slow burn. even for me, an adult who primarily reads adult fiction, it seemed remarkably slow. not draggy and not boring, but deliberate and leisurely, in no hurry to ferry the reader to the narrative conflict.

the first 3/4 of the book is a journey/quest story, set in a fantasy-grecian realm where a young thief named gen is scooped out of the royal prison where he's been languishing in a cell for months after a particularly cheeky bit of thievery. although he's still technically a prisoner, he's conscripted on a mission to use his skills to steal a Very Important Thing and allowed to free-range (chained and disdained), traveling alongside a magus, a soldier, and two young men close to gen's age; one younger and one older, and the older one is a real jerk.

incidentally, i have no earthly idea how old gen is. because this is a book for younger readers, i started out thinking of him as maybe twelve, but the more i read, the older he seemed and i don't know whether i missed the part where his age was specified or if it's left up to the reader to fill in that gap.

gen is a grows-on-you kind of character—a sympathetic unreliable narrator whose mental wheels are always turning as he observes and plots, sussing everyone else out but divulging little of himself, entertaining himself with the light but enthusiastic pestering of a tiny puppy towards a much bigger dog.

he's charming when he wants to be; not often to his companions but to the people they meet along the way, particularly when there's a chance of him getting some extra food out of it. gen is so hungry. all the time.

although little seems to happen on the journey, there's a lot of character development and worldbuilding going on, most notably the stories-within-the-story in which we learn a great deal about regional history and the subtle ways a tale can be framed.

the last quarter of the book picks up a lot of steam, becoming a sort of mashup of a heist plot and indiana jones (specifically the last crusade ), and like a classic heist story, all the small details that surfaced when not much seemed to be happening are revealed to have been very important, indeed. there's some redemption, some grudging respect, and some surprises for these uncompanionable companions

i enjoyed this introduction to the series, and i'm keen on burning through the rest of them to see what adventures await for gen and his thiefways now that the things that have happened have happened. .

* although those madeleine l'engle books were middle grade and my memory of them is that they were highly complex and sophisticated in their themes and storytelling and i was probably seven or so when i read them. NB: "highly complex and sophisticated" were perhaps not the EXACT words i used to describe them when i was seven.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Iryna *Book and Sword*.
447 reviews641 followers
February 27, 2018
1.5/5 stars
Good riddance!!!

I must have read a different book than everybody else had because I cannot for the life of me comprehend how this book has won any literal awards.

As an avid fantasy reader I can tell you that this book is as close to a "riveting fantasy novel" as flour is to being a spice.
Why flour you ask?
Beuase it reminds me of this book - dry, bland and boring.

​And I really tried to tie this book all of the chances I could. I wanted to dnf it after 30 pages, but:
1. I was told that it gets much better as the book goes on. It didn't.
2. I was told that series get much, much better. I still have to see that for myself. One day.
3. I scored 4 books from this series at a thrift store for dirt cheap in mint condition, so I wanted to give it a chance before I donate all of them back and forget I ever wasted my time on them.

But Iryna, what about that awesome twist at the end?
I'm sorry, but that twist? I guessed "the twist" pretty early in the beginning of the book. I'm not saying that I'm Sherlock Holmes (okay sometimes I pretend I am), but after reading many fantasy books that twist is not so twisty anymore - pretty standard trick, if you ask me.

​I can sum up about 85 percent of this book in few sentences.
​Gen (main character) whines, Gen is tired, Gen is hungry, Gen is being a smart mouth, Gen is hungry, Gen is tired, Gen is hungry. The words "I'm hungry" and "so I took a nap" were probably said at least 20 times. If you are looking for the world's most annoying fiction character, you may stop now. Gen got the prize (in my eyes at least). The rest 15 percent were taken up with all the action that this book decided to throw at us and some political intrigues. By that point I just wanted it all to be just over so I could move on with my reading life.

The book is a 280 pages, and it took me 9 days to read it. 9 days! Why? Because I was so unbelievably, out of my mind, ripping my hair out - bored.
Was the twist at the end worth the 200 pages of redundancy and absolutely nothing happening? No, no it was not.

I know I sound very bitter right now, but I was genuinely excited for this book. And it let me down, big time. I hated the first person narrative, and I loathed Gen as a narrator even more. Side characters were bland, world building was okay at best and the plot didn't go anywhere till the last 30 pages.

​Despite all of this I will (not soon, but sometime) continue with the book 2. I didn't suffer through this for nothing, I will see for myself if the series do indeed get better. My hopes are very low though. Lower than low.
Also I looked ahead and book 2 is written in third person, which is an improvement because I don't like first person narration fantasy, BUT who writes first book in first person and then switches to the third person? Who does that? Why?

Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
852 reviews3,882 followers
February 15, 2021

Huh. I really, really liked this? True enough, I've decided to start The Thief in order to get to the sequels - that all my friends adore - and somehow I was at peace with the probable boredom I would feel during this first novel and... My enjoyment felt so effortless? From the characters to the world and the writing, I've been enchanted. Truly.

"I hate horses. I know people who think that they are noble, graceful animals, but regardless of what a horse looks like from a distance, never forget that it is as likely to step on your foot as look at you.
"What?" I dissembled.
"Get on the horse, you idiot."

So there's a lot of walking around as I'm sure Fantasy writers are somewhat paid by hiking brands but eh! I wasn't bored. I said that! So. We're not confronted with Frodo and Sam level of walking, therefore I'm still here and not sleeping on my couch, drooling. That's something! And for those of you who swear by TLOTR, that's okay! We can be friends still! I'm not lending you my couch though. YOUR CHOICE.

Anyway, in The Thief, Gen and his *cough* companions have a mission : to steal a magical stone that will have the deplorable effect to give immense powers to the King of Sounis, a... complete asshole. Don't be too hard on Gen, though : that's not as if the boy had a choice, being a prisoner and all. Their journey gives us the opportunity to learn more about the world Megan Whalen Turner created, as well as the characters and the complex relationship they develop between each other - there's more than meets the eyes, and I live for this stuff, okay?

And how I loved following these characters!

"For my part, I wanted Ambiades to understand that I considered myself a hierarchy of one."

● Sophos, you're too sweet for this world, let me cuddle you what stop blushing
● Ambiades, what's your deal shut up shut up I am annoyed
● Magus, I've still not forgiven you for the beating
● Pol, ehhhhhhhhhhhhh
Gen! Little filthy mouth! Quick-witted and arrogant little thief! I ADORE YOU. He shows just the right amount of selfishness and cleverness to appeal to me and I can't hide that I loved his voice. Indeed the story's told through his POV, and having started The Queen of Attolia, which is told in 3rd person POV, I can say this : The sequel's writing is objectively more elaborate and I really enjoy getting to know other characters and seeing Gen through other people eyes, but in my opinion the choice of the first POV for this debut is perfect, needed, even, as it makes it so much easier to connect with Gen at first and I've never wanted to let go. Now I'm ready to meet more characters, and the author's choice is perfect.

Ohhhhh, and I know that some readers were annoyed by the Mythology bits but have you met me? Sure, the folklore is not so discreetly ripped straight from Greek Mythology, but as I LOVE these tales I was damn pleased. In the end, I am so, so curious about the directions Megan Whalen Turner will choose for her story, I cannot wait a day to find out. I need more.

Now, let me confess you something : The Thief tricked me... and I couldn't be more happy. If you're curious to know where my weird mind went, and you HAVE READ THE BOOK, please look at the spoiler below and... shake your head at me, I guess. I am shameless though, because being so far off made the experience even better.

Oh, well. In the end, I am so glad I was wrong, and I can't recommend The Thief enough : even if this first novel is by no means astounding, it's short, fun, and you'll meet the most endearing thief I've ever read about. What more could a reader ask for, really?

PS. I'm sorry, this review is TERRIBLE, but I need to get to The Queen of Attolia so... priorities, you know.

My reviews for the other books of the series :
۩ Book 2, The Queen of Attolia ★★★★ 1/2
۩ Book 3, The King of Attolia ★★★★★ [ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I'VE EVER READ]
۩ Book 4, A Conspiracy of Kings ★★★★

For more of my reviews, please visit:
September 15, 2020

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I actually read this for the first time as a child back when it was still a standalone and I remember my edition had a really cheesy, cartoonish cover. THE THIEF is a book that won't appeal to everyone, and even as a child, I had difficulty getting into it. For one thing, it's one of those fantasy novels that revolves around journeys, which I know isn't everyone's cup of tea. For another, it's very slow-paced and mostly character-driven. Towards the end, there's a series of rapid twists, but I think if you aren't into the characters or the world-building, it just isn't going to appeal, and that's fine. Not everybody loves everything.

THE THIEF is set in a pseudo-Ancient Grecian world, where three kingdoms-- Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia-- are constantly at odds, their ways changed and evolved over time following the influence of invaders. Attolia and Sounis are enemies, with Eddis to keep the peace and maintain trade, but of course, that doesn't always work.

Of course, Gen, our hero, doesn't know all that much about politics ostensibly, since he's a lowly thief currently biding his time in prison. He stole the king's seal and bragged about it in a bar, which resulted in his getting arrested and chained to his bed, denied even the creature comforts of exercise in the sun. When he's brought out for release by the king's magus, he's understandably suspicious: they want him for something and it isn't for cake decorating in celebration of his own release party. No, he's the "greatest" thief in the kingdom and they want him to steal something BIG.

Reading this as an adult, I was struck by the maturity of this work. I'd often see it at Scholastic book fairs (remember those?) and I read it in grade school, I think. When I rate children's books and young adult low, I often get comments from people saying things like, "It's a kids' book, what did you expect?" which I think is a bit cheap, really, because it underestimates how clever kids are, and how layered a good YA or MG book should be. Children don't want to feel talked down to, and a really good book for preteens and teens should be as faceted as a diamond, because you want them to come back to it again and again and find new things every time they read it. Those are the books that become timeless.

With THE THIEF, I picked up on a lot of clever banter and references that escaped me as a kid. As a kid, I found Gen's sarcasm to the "adults" very funny and daring (even though I think Gen is an older teen/young man, he is a bit childish in a way that children will relate to). As an adult, he was still amusing but also quite exasperating-- but in a way that felt believable to his character. I was more interested in his developing relationships with the other people in his travel party (Ambiades, Sophos, Pol, and the magus), and how complex it became as we learned more about the other characters and their motivations. Turner also created her own mythology for this book, inspired by the Greek mythology, and that was really fun as well, to see how it paralleled the myths I'm familiar with.

While this isn't a book that will appeal to everyone, I think that anyone who enjoys fantasy books where the focus is on the development of the world and the characters, light political intrigue, and journeying will really enjoy this. At times, it almost has LORD OF THE RINGS vibes, and then at others, it feels more like Indiana Jones. This isn't a fast-paced, action-packed story until the end, but I really enjoyed it as a quiet sort of story that you can sink into until it springs on you. I look forward to reading the sequel.

4 stars
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,097 reviews17.7k followers
August 13, 2018
This felt like such a classic fantasy novel. You know those 2005-era books about journeys that you liked for some inexplicable reason? Yeah. That kind. Except with really good worldbuilding and a lot of potential built up.

This novel follows Gen, a thief hired by a magus of Sunis to find a stone that gives the holder the right for rulership of Eddis.
➽Sunis - the king’s county, attempting to take over Eddis
➽Eddis - the country across, a country they must overtake
➽Attolia - a country lying in between, over which they must journey
➽Mead - a threatening country across the sea.
There’s clearly a lot of interesting potential set up in the worldbuilding realm, and I have a feeling things will get intense and political by the end.

While the characters aren’t my favorite ever, a few have serious potential. Sophos is a really sweet character I wanted the best for. (Am I the only one who spent around eight pages thinking him and Gen would be a thing?) The magus is a character I started out hating and ended up sort of liking. Gen, our lead character, has a sarcastic sense of humor and a somewhat duplicitous narrative that made him easy to love.

Something that stood out to me here was the subtle discussion around classism, the mage’s belief that Gen is lesser because he is an immigrant. Some of the things he said about Gen’s culture – the comments about how he knows Gen’s culture better than Gen’s mother did.

My biggest thesis statement about this book - my most overreaching opinion, if you will - is that this book is an extended prequel to what promises to be an intriguing series. And not to offend anyone, but honestly: isn’t that every first book in every good series I’ve read in my life? I’ve heard a lot that the sequels to this get better, and I totally believe it — the worldbuilding here is so complex, so intricate, that a mediocre first book is almost needed to build it up. You can’t go straight to the climax - you have to go for the basic premise first.

Hey, I’ve always said that middle book syndrome is a myth and the middle book is usually better than book one in good series. And I stand by that. So everyone agreeing with me for once is actually totally nice.

Overall, while I didn’t think this was the most stunning book ever, I’m super excited to continue on.

here are my other series thoughts:
book one - ★★★☆☆
book two - ★★★★☆
book three - ★★★★☆
book four - ★★★★☆
book five - ★★★★☆
book six - TBD

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Profile Image for Bibi.
1,288 reviews3,230 followers
August 5, 2020
Yes, it starts off slower than molasses. Yes, you will be perfectly misdirected by Ms Turner. Yes, you will wish to set it aside for these reasons.

And all I can say is, Don't.


Because you absolutely need to read this book in order to get to the sequel, The Queen of Attolia, which is one of my fave books as well as having one of the best male protagonists of all time. Seriously, I love Gen to bits.

Read this series.
Profile Image for Keith.
56 reviews26 followers
December 5, 2013
This was another book my wife insisted that I read. It was our before-bed read aloud book last month.

Reading 10-15 pages a night, the first half of the book was enjoyable, but unfolded rather slowly. I was a bit puzzled about why my wife was so enthusiastic about the book. Then, about half way through, the excitement and tempo increased a few notches, and it become a real page-turner.

This is a fantasy novel, but it is not your typical swords and sorcery adventure. There are swords, and even a couple of fights, but the closest we get to sorcery are some mysterious occurrences that could best be described as super-natural. Turner's alternate reality evokes the feeling of Greece. The landscape is rocky, somewhat mountainous, and filled with olive trees. The "old" religion has the feeling of Greek mythology although the divinities are mostly different. And the political backdrop is a set of small rivalrous kingdoms that could be stand-ins for the city-states of ancient Greece.

The story is told (first person) by Gen, a thief who opens the book imprisoned in the kingdom of Sounis. He is freed by the King's Magus---a wiseman-type councilor---who needs a skilled thief to help him recover a lost artifact. They set out on this expedition, accompanied by the Magus's two apprentices and a soldier. In the first half of the book, we slowly get to know the characters through Gen's eyes, and learn something of the world where this story is set. Turner does a good job developing and describing the mix of relationships between the members of this quest---rivalries, respect, jealousy---and as we get to know the characters better, it becomes apparent that there is a bit more to each of them than meets the eye.

Midway through the book, just when it seems that the entire plot is going to be character-driven, the tempo increases dramatically. There are fights, escapes, chases. Amongst this action there are still the puzzles of characters whose motivations we don't entirely understand---including our narrator, who carefully hides a few secrets of his own until the end.

All-in-all, a well-told story, with a good combination of plot, characters, and an interesting setting.

Once again, my wife picked a winner. I should pay more attention to her recommendations.
Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 167 books37.8k followers
July 18, 2013
Having dutifully tried a few new things to my lack of satisfaction this past week, I turned instead to an old favorite that I knew would be a pleasurable read. This is a book that re-repays a re-re-read, not only soon, but after finishing its sequels once they widen one's view of its world and characters.

There is not too much one can say about The Thief that is not a spoiler, and this is a book that should NOT be read with preconceptions. Set in an alternate fantasy world loosely inspired by Greece both ancient and medieval, it opens with a bedraggled young thief, Gen, being plucked from the king's prison in Sounis to accompany the king's magus on a peculiar quest, for which his talents will be needed. Written as a first person memoir in Gen's engaging voice, it is classified as YA, and was a Newbery Honor book when it first came out in 1996, but really, I mention this mainly to make the book easier to find in a library or bookstore. Simply written but never simple.

Trust me. Just read it. Then read it again, because it will not be the same river twice.

It has at this time three follow-ups, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings, of which my favorite is The King of Attolia. These should be read in strict order for the best and most delightful effect and to avoid big honking spoilers.

I do wonder, idly, if Turner has been unduly constrained in further development of the series by the book's YA-market origins. It seems to me further expansion would require shifting to adult-market fantasy as the main characters age out of YA parameters, which would be tricky but not impossible to bring off. If it were to be kept YA it would almost have to jump to the next generation, which also has possibilities, but may not be where it (or its writer) wants to go.

Ta, L.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews884 followers
March 16, 2023
“Do you mean that we are out here in the dark looking for something from a fairy tale?”

Gen can steal anything. The novel by Megan Whalen Turner can undoubtedly steal several hours from the life of the reader who opens The Thief.

Thanks to a miraculous twist of fate, Gen becomes a member of an expedition searching for a long-lost, legendary item. A thief with a scathing tongue, a stoic mage without magic, a silent soldier and two curious students (Useless the Elder and Useless the Younger) - that’s the whole company. Their mutual relations quickly become complicated, and although they have the same goal, they differ in their motivations and ideas on how to achieve it.

This might appear as a dull setup for a relatively short tale. Some of the plot twists or revelations concerning travel companions will be quite clichéd and easy to predict for experienced readers. No bells and whistles. But hear me out; no one is who you think they are. Things are happening beyond what you think is happening. There are layers and layers of meanings. The spice of the story is added by the auto-ironic approach of the narrator, even though at the beginning, I wanted to throttle this empty egomaniac quite often.

What is remarkable in the prose of Megan Whalen Turner is that contrary to a typical fantasy novel, The Thief does not feel the need to dazzle readers with fights, powerful magic or supernatural skills. And yet, although during the long journey, which for a change is not full of dangers, frantic escapes, chases or skirmishes, the reader will not be bored. I also liked how real everything was: wounds take a long time to heal, and not everyone is a sword master or rides horses very well. A mage is, in fact, a scholar who does not cast spells at all, and you will have to wait for the first skirmish of the armed for many, many pages.

It is true that the beginning is not very encouraging, but as the pages go by, the novel gets more and more captivating. The sudden twists and turns, the hidden secrets of the protagonists, and the unexpected choices they make, all of this makes reading very enjoyable. There is no way, however, to word any criticism about the ending. Although the pace of the story is not even, the finale is perfectly balanced, and the author reached a pinnacle of craft here: Through a masterful mixture of revelation and suspense, she made reaching for the second volume of Gen’s adventures a must, not just a possibility.

A friend gently suggested that I am making questionable reading decisions when bypassing this for other mediocre YA series. So, here I am, a contrite reader ready to admit my mistake. The Thief is not an epic, nor is it a long and intricately plotted novel. But what is truly remarkable about this book is how nice it is. It is light, flowing, and uncomplicated, but also a bit surprising and unconventional. It is like a favourite episode of your favourite series. You know everything, you expect everything, and you will absorb it all with a smile. If you are looking for a breather or just something to reset a “reading fatigue”, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Also in the series:

2. The Queen of Attolia ★★★★★
3. The King of Attolia ★★★★☆
4. The Conspiracy of Kings ★★★☆☆
5. Thick as Thieves ★★★☆☆
6. Return of the Thief ★★★☆☆
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,682 followers
July 16, 2021
Brilliant and amazing, but four out of five stars because this, in my opinion, is just setting up the truly world-shaking events of the next two books.

Edited on rereading in 2021: FOUR stars? Girl, what was wrong with you?

Now that I know the twists, I was laughing in sheer delight throughout this. I don't know what was going on the first time I read this, but now I could truly appreciate how clever Gen is, and how this all fitted together so perfectly.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,645 reviews1,512 followers
September 10, 2023
reread 2023

I originally read this in 2015 but after seeing a goodreads friend finish the series I'm thinking it is time for another go. Plus I had to read the first 4 books, with my eyes as there was no narration. But now all the audiobooks are complete and the AMAZING Steve West is the narrator. I think I need this in my life soon.

I liked this book even more than my original read. I think part of that was listening to the amazing Steve West and part of it was knowing a little about the story so I could manage my expectations a little was the other half. Gen had come off a little whiny the first time but knowing what a manipulator he was now I looked at it all differently.

Overall a great re-read and I'm excited to continue the story.

Original review 2015

Buddy read with some friends at Buddies Books and Baubles

I am a master of foolhardy plans, I thought. I have so much practice I consider them professional risks.

EVERYONE told me not to expect much from this book and to be patient. They said the beginning isn’t very good but the second half is pretty good and the next two books are amazing…so just hang in there. Well I found that to be true and false at the same time.

It is true the second half of this book is much more interesting, there is more going on action wise and the last 100 pages just fly by. But the first half isn’t that shabby either if you are paying attention. The only reason parts of it felt a little long are the backstories to the gods feathered in a little like info-dumping. They are interesting lore stories but it is unclear how they fit into the book until later and almost felt like filler while I was reading them. However with Gen the Master Thief there are clues to be found and double meanings to a few things that don’t become clear until the end of the book. I found it to be quite entertaining trying to figure out who/what Gen really is and what his true purpose was.

But even if you find the first half a little dull this is a short book at only about 215 pages so it really doesn’t take that long to go through and figuring out Gen’s story is totally worth it. He is a lot of fun to read as he is antagonizing his traveling companions.
While we ate, I picked at the magus. I liked to watch him lose his temper and then regain it when he remembered that I was supposed to be beneath his contempt.

I did guess quite a few things about Gen correctly, but I also guessed just as many wrong so there were still some surprises to be had and enough interest generated about the three kingdoms in the story that I’d be interested in continuing.

Even though this book is listed as MG/YA it didn’t really read that way and I hear the later books are more adult than this one. Overall a really quick fun read that had action, mystery, betrayal and a few unexpected surprises that made it all the more interesting to read.
Profile Image for Kaya.
218 reviews223 followers
February 27, 2021
I can't say this book is bad but it isn't great either. The main downsides are boring interactions, a dull protagonist, and a plot I couldn't care less about. Nothing even slightly exciting happens. The start reminds me a bit of the Throne of Glass series and that's the only remarkable thing about this book. I'm not even a big fan of Throne of Glass.

A thief named Gen got out of jail in order to help a Magus steal an ancient treasure. When the identity of the thief is finally revealed I was occasionally interested in the plot, but not enough to care. Gen had been locked up because he bragged too much about stealing the King’s seal. Gen has his own agenda. All that mythology was bland as hell too.

I got through the first 100 pages with the hope it'll get better because I was told it would. The writing style was too factographic and spiritless. I wasn't interested in the world setting and didn't like any of the characters. I won't be coming back for the sequel because I couldn't connect to the characters. The whole time I was waiting for something to happen, but nothing essentially did. Suddenly I was at the end with a poor excuse for a plot twist. This book has a very slow pace with an almost non-existent plot. They've started their journey, and then traveled, and traveled, and traveled. And yes, you guessed it - they traveled. Maybe I should've found the banter interesting, but I didn't. I started skipping it at some point.

Gen is obnoxious, underdeveloped, uninteresting, and annoying. He's like a male version of Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass. The brilliancy he sometimes manifested didn't do much for me. He's so arrogant that I really lost interest in whether he'll succeed in his quest or not. The author tried so hard to make him sassy and witty, but none of it had any impact on me.
September 21, 2010
What do you do when you want to gain possession of something that's nearly impossible to obtain? You hire a thief who can steal just about anything.

Gen has no disillusions about his abilities as a thief. He's actually named after the god of thieves, Eugenides, as a matter of fact. While his father wanted him to be a soldier, he knew that was not the life for him. Instead, he honed his skills at stealing, until he was one of the best in the land. Too bad he did a little too much bragging about stealing the King's seal and ended up in jail. He's approached by the King's magus and offered a proposition, steal something for the King, and he'll be released from jail. If he refuses, he'll simply disappear (not in a good way). It's not a proposition an intelligent young man would say no to. So begins this story.

Gen is one of those characters that I couldn't help but enjoy. His irreverent, jaundiced, but very insightful view of human nature insinuated him into my affections. I like that kind of humor, so I tend to gravitate towards main characters like Gen. From the beginning, I knew he was a thief, but that didn't make him unlikeable to me. Instead, I wanted to find out what made him tick, and I was rooting for him to come out of this story for the better. I liked that I saw some character growth in him as this story progressed.

The Thief is a story set in an alternate world in which various gods hold the devotion of the populace. I liked how part of the story was hearing the tales of the gods who made this world; and those stories are very smoothly integrated into the plot, playing a crucial role in the narration, characterization, and the unfolding of this story. Reading the extra material at the end of this novel revealed Ms. Turner's thought process. I could see a heavy Greek mythology influence, but there were unique elements about the pantheon and the story-telling that showed the author's specific vision. There are also aspects that surprised me, in that the gods actually play a real role in this story. I liked how the fantasy elements didn't dominate, but the focus is Gen's character and his quest to steal something that has the potential to affect three kingdoms in this novel.

There was an interesting twist towards the end that I was not expecting at all, and I always give my respect to an author who can do that, and surprise me. I'm not a jaded reader, by any means, but I read a lot, and I've seen a lot of common plot devices; so a writer who can throw me a curve ball is always appreciated.

I have to say that this Newbury Award Winner did impress me. It's one of those stories that doesn't try to go elaborate, but has a richness that won me over as a reader all the same. Fortunately, this is part of a series, so I can look forward to more adventures in this interesting world.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.6k followers
January 4, 2017
This book seemed promising but I ended up a bit underwhelmed.
I'm still planning on continuing the series since it apparently gets better!
Profile Image for Jean.
523 reviews
March 25, 2008
A thief sprung from jail to help a Magnus steal an ancient treasure, warring kingdoms, political intrigue, sword fights, narrow escapes,a mythology invented especially for this fictional place, and a quest--everything, it would seem, to keep me reading. So I am wondering why I so disliked this book that I had to force myself to keep reading to the end. I think I hit upon the answer spoken by one of Turner's characters near the last weary lap of the book: "Oh, fine," I told him...but I didn't really care. I didn't care much about anything..." And that is my experience with this book in a nutshell. The characters never matter to me. Gen, the thief, is so arrogant and obnoxious in playing his role that I could really care less about whether he succeeds. And the other characters are never really fleshed out enough for them to matter to me either. By the end of the book when the identity of the thief is finally revealed I began to have moments of interest, but not enough to be anxious to read the sequels.
Profile Image for Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen).
425 reviews1,642 followers
May 1, 2018
2 Stars and a mini review because I am the worst

- Super straight forward writing style that was unbelievably boring
- Forgettable plot
- Forgettable characters
- An MC who doesn't take things seriously but also isn't funny

- The last three pages
- seriously they make it seem like this book was one really long prologue

*shrugs* 🤷🏻‍♀️

Read with my split-soul, Mary! 💖
(I will tag when not on mobillleeee)
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
681 reviews3,952 followers
September 5, 2018
this is one of those books where I liked it, and then I didn't like it, and then I was gonna dnf it, and then I liked it again, and then I was bored again, and then all of a sudden I loved it Essentially, a really big rollercoaster of emotions. Overall coming out of this I do feel it was a positive experience hence a three star rather than two, but there was some close calls.

I started this because I LOVE thief stories. I will continue to keep reading stories about thieves and heists until the day of my death because I LOVE THEM. On the surface this is a pretty basic thief story - We follow Gen, a notorious thief taken out of jail and charged by the king of Sunis to find an ancient stone. Whoever possesses the stone gains rightful leadership of the country called Eddis.

So the beginning part of this book is really boring. The first half follows Gen, the Magus who pulls him from prison and three soldiers as they travel to the fabled location of the stone. Literally nothing happens in this section and I considered dnf'ing the book. <

b>There isn't much to cling to at the start the writing is a little stale and uninspiring. The characters didn't really .. do anything. Often their actions and behaviours contradicted earlier behaviour and it was hard to get an understanding of their personalities. The three soliders were all very one dimensional to me and hard to tell apart. One thing I DID appreciate was the unreliable narrator I love unreliable narrators and it was used really well in the second section.

This book definitely picks up in the second half. There is significantly more action and the politics and worldbuilding introduced through section one starts to come into play. In this section, Megan Whaler Turner turns your expectations on their head and if you liked the ending of The Fifth Season I think you'd like this book too (it's not the same thing, but it's got a similar vibe)

And the Earth had no name. The gods know themselves and have no need of names. It is man who names all things, even gods.

Definitely the highlight of this book was the politics introduced and how this is going to play out in the next books. I liked the discussions around class, social structure and war here. There is a lot of discussion about culture and immigration, and the perception that lower class, uneducated people are inherently less valuable than upper class educated people. The thematic work is, I think, the greatest strength of this book. And Turner has tied it into the general politics and worldbuilding in such a way I know it's going to keep coming up, and I'm really happy about that.

This reads like a giant prologue but I think it's going in a great direction. Even though I truly disliked the first bit I truly enjoyed the final part. I would love to see the characters get fleshed out some more, but if that happened, and the political intrigue keeps on this trajectory, I think this could be a series I really enjoy.

Profile Image for Holly (Holly Hearts Books).
375 reviews3,094 followers
August 24, 2019
This is a very high end 3 star rating. Like the Gucci of 3 stars. This book laid out such an interesting foundation to the story and I know it can only get better from here. (which is why I bought the rest of the series.. oops)
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
596 reviews3,590 followers
February 23, 2019
I started this in the cold winter of 2017 and finished it in the harsh political climate of Trump and Brexit in February 2019. Everyone says the sequels are superb, which is the only reason I pushed on. But boy, was it tedious. 80% of it is traveling and Gen whinging about wanting three meals a day. Despite all the footwork though, I don't have a good handle on this fictional world or its culture.

Here's to The Queen of Attolia stepping up its game.
Profile Image for Riley.
429 reviews21.7k followers
December 27, 2017

The second half of the book totally made up for the slow start. I am very intrigued by this series now
Profile Image for Sunny.
277 reviews255 followers
March 20, 2022
The Thief deserves more stars than I am giving it. It follows the story about a thief who is freed from prison by the king to steal something that is only mentioned in a fairy tale. This task is the road to his freedom. So what choice does he have but to take the offer? It’s either this…or spend his days in prison.

Our protagonist, Gen, is so full of wits. I found his personalty to be the best part of the story. From his sarcastic comments to his broody manner, everything about him was entertaining. So why exactly did I not give it a higher rating? Well…I found the writing to be too descriptive. Yes…there is such a thing. I love when books are through in telling a story, but there is a thing as too much.

I didn’t want to know every single detail. I didn’t need to know the exact feet of distance from that block of wood to that piece of stone. I didn’t need to know exactly how parallel one object was from another. I barely had room to use my imagination because EVERYTHING was laid out for me. Turner’s writing is easy to understand, but I think the book could have worked with less descriptiveness. This doesn’t mean Turner’s words are boring. Her writing displays an epic journey to success, showcasing character development as well as plot twists and light suspense. Though the 'twist' in the story was very predictable in my opinion. I think anyone can figure it out if you really pay attention.

This book is perfect for fantasy lovers. I will say however, this book sides with being a more classic and traditional fantasy. It is very slow paced, especially the first half, but this is the kind of series where the first book is just setting up for the second one, which I heard is far more superior in terms of story telling, writing, and character development.
Profile Image for Lara.
4,154 reviews340 followers
January 20, 2012
I'm giving up on this one. It's not BAD, just...excruciatingly BORING. To me, anyway. I found the main character obnoxious and all the other characters underdeveloped and uninteresting, and over half way through the book, nothing's really happened--they've started their journey, and then traveled, and traveled, and traveled, and traveled, and traveled, and...you get the picture. I've heard really good things about this series, and maybe at some point in the future I'll give it another try. But I have too many other books that look far more exciting than this one has been, so I'm moving on to one of them.
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,869 reviews2,246 followers
April 15, 2019
The first 150 pages out of 270 was them walking around and sometimes eating. What. The. Heck. I love me some fantasy but I need a dang plot.. Have zero interest in these characters or where this series is going. Why is it so dang hard to find a good book to read???
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
852 reviews3,882 followers
December 31, 2017
Me : I need to stop with that obsession with The Queen's Thief series and Eugenides.
Also me : *downloads the first audiobook on Audible*

Really though, I had no idea that Steve West narrated this book! Is it reason enough to listen to this less than a week after having read the book? Absolutely.

My review of the novel : here
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