Thursday, July 29, 2010
Review - The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Bookdepository / Amazon UK / Amazon US
Librarything / Goodreads
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 2/5 stars
Summary: "I can steal anything."
After Gen's bragging lands him in the king's prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king's scholar, the magus, needs the thief's skill for a seemingly impossible task -- to steal a hidden treasure from another land.
To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.
Thoughts: The Thief was an such disappointment.
Ok, ok. I know it is practically sacrilegious to criticize Megan Whalen Turner in the YA community - but I honestly didn't enjoy this book. Despite being well crafted, I simply couldn't engage with the characters or the plot.
At heart, The Thief is a road film: an all-male cast makes their way against the odds, through dangerous, unwelcoming lands, in search of a too-good-to-be-true mythical item. It is all rather long-winded - and frankly, quite boring. The quest goes on pretty much as you imagine up until the last dozen pages, where we reach a rather surprising twist in the tale. Hell, you might as well skip the middle.
Now, while I found the twist unexpected and rather good at explaining why the hell the ludicrously selfish Gen would allow himself to go along on this bizarre mission, I also had some issues with it. The noblemen that take Gen out of prison are rather evil. Ok, maybe not evil, but certainly selfish and egotistical. They considered themselves above Gen because of their supposedly superior birth-right. Gen was born scum, and he will always be scum - no matter how intelligent or talented he is.
*SPOILERS* I had thought that, at the very least, Turner was proving that Gen could be a hero despite his low-birth. But the ending completely stripped that away! Instead, he was a secret nobleman - which made all of his trickery against them acceptable. Instead of threatening to kill him for his deception - they laughed it off as "a good one". I felt like I was watching Mad Men - the black man gets fired for stealing a pencil, while the white man gets a pat on the back for so successfully tricking the company out of thousands.
I am certain that a lot of people will not notice this when they read The Thief - after all, it is fantasy and fictional universes are allowed to have as many social inequalities as they like. However, I felt that Turner wasted an opportunity with Gen and it honestly unnerved me. *END OF SPOILERS*
But even before the uncomfortable ending, I wasn't enjoying The Thief. There wasn't a single character I liked, the universe was rather stale, and the writing - although perfectly fine - was not enough to keep me hooked.
Bottom line? Decent enough, but I'd give it a miss. Keep your money and buy a latte.