*The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The first book in a top-notch series about an extraordinary thief and the intertwining of three kingdoms is amazingly well done.

rr_the-thief*The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. Greenwillow Books, 1996. 304 pages.

Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15

Recommended For: Ages 12 and up

Eugenides, a cocky thief, is hauled out of prison by the Magus of Sounis to steal a treasure from the mountains of Attolia. It’s complicated to explain their quest, but they are pursuing a lost gift of the gods to give to the king of Sounis, who will then claim sovereignty over the neighboring country of Eddis.

In spite of the wine shop boasting that landed Eugenides in prison, his skills as a thief and usefulness to steal the treasure appear questionable. The Magus and company tolerate him as they would a trained beast. Eugenides complains throughout, despising his companions and the journey, until his abilities are put to the test along with his faith in the gods. The conclusion spins the reader’s expectations, revealing that there is more to Eugenides than we realized, whetting the literary appetite with characters and schemes that are increasingly complex and set the stage for the richer story that unfolds in succeeding volumes.

Turner’s series is set in a fictional era with a mélange of Ancient Greek and medieval elements. Her writing is excellent, though sometimes she is too subtle by half, and is worthy of reading a second time. Eugenides is a fascinating character whose story weaves together the future of Sounis, Attolia and Eddis.

This is the first title in my favorite series that has been published within the last twenty years, followed by volumes that are increasingly brilliant and beautifully written. Readers with a taste for adventure, history, fantasy, swordplay (and a bit of romance!) will find plenty to feast on in this story.

Cautions: language (profanity; a few instances of “damn” and “by the gods”)

Overall Rating: 5

Worldview Rating: 4.75

Artistic Rating: 5

*indicates starred review. This title is one of our Winter Book Fair picks this year! 

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Megan Saben

Megan is Associate Editor for Redeemed Reader, and she loves nothing more than discovering Truth and Story in literature. She is the author of Something Better Coming, and is quite particular about which pottery mug is best suited to her favorite hot drinks throughout the day. Megan lives with her husband and five boys in Virginia.

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  1. Samkok911 on August 4, 2017 at 7:38 am

    This is a good book. Read it if you can.

  2. Elise4 on October 15, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Do the following books jump up a lot in the romance area? If I introduce the first, my daughter will want to read all the rest.

    • Betsy Farquhar on October 15, 2019 at 7:29 am

      That’s a great question. The second book definitely has more romance than the first book, but it’s more like Pride and Prejudice (romantic tension) than anything “steamy.” The third book includes romance/romantic tension between a married couple. That being said, we definitely feel that this is a “YA” series. The themes are rich, the books are complex, and teens just have a bit more maturity/ability to enjoy them. I think a mature 7th or 8th grader would be fine (my own daughter read these at age 13). If necessary, the first book really can stand alone if it needs to. There’s a bit of language, but no romance. And each book in the series has a slightly different feel. The protagonist grows up/matures, so each consecutive book feels just a bit older.

      • Elise4 on October 15, 2019 at 7:36 am

        Thanks for your input!! I will definitely check it out! The first one sounds like a perfect match for her.

  3. Sharon on October 6, 2020 at 10:19 am

    I have just recently read all of the books in this series up to and including Thick as Thieves. I am glad I read The Thief before giving it to my 12 y.o. daughter because of the darker themes of Gen’s life that aren’t explained until well past the time you think you know him. While I enjoyed them, I don’t think she is ready to process through all of that correctly just yet. I would definitely put these more at a 15 and older age range, not only for the unsavory aspects of Gen’s life for most of the book, but for the complicated plot. My daughter is pretty literal, so I think the plot twists would have been lost on her.

    Also, did anyone else find Thick as Thieves to be a thoroughly unsatisfying read?? In my opinion, it would have been a great story had it been condensed and incorporated into another story that included the difficult circumstances Gen and Irene were facing.

    • Betsy Farquhar on October 6, 2020 at 10:35 am

      Thick as Thieves DID feel a little long…. And since we all want to hear the rest of Gen’s story, it felt like a delay. (Soon, we’ll have that next book in hand!)

      The rest of the series is definitely “teen” in terms of themes and sophistication, but there are many twelve year olds reading and enjoying The Thief. As with so many great books, a lot depends on the person reading: the story can be read at different levels—and holds up to re-reads. Good for you for knowing your daughter and waiting until she can best appreciate the book.

  4. Sharon on October 21, 2020 at 7:12 am

    I am no literary analyst, but until Betsy or someone else at RR gets a chance to review the last book in this series, The Return of the Thief, I wanted to warn parents of a few difficult themes, including brutal war/violence scenes and loss, and an unexpected homosexual relationship between 2 supporting characters.

    From an adult’s perspective, the book is wonderfully done, weaving together Pheris’s potentially tragic life with Gen’s “ruthlessness and compassion.” It explains much of Gen’s background and the awful way he came to hate killing. In Return of the Thief, much of this terribly flawed and yet sacrificial character is brought to life with such skill that he is indeed my favorite literary character of all time. Indeed, as Kemet said in Thick as Thieves, “What a piece of work he was. I don’t know why I like him as much as I do.”

    For younger teens, I recommend that parents pre-read this book to determine the appropriateness of the content for their own children.

    • Betsy Farquhar on October 21, 2020 at 7:16 am

      Thank you, Sharon! We are working on our review and will be touching on many of the things you mention. Well said!

      • Sharon on October 21, 2020 at 10:12 am

        Thank you, Betsy! I am looking forward to your review.

    • Jenn on October 22, 2023 at 3:09 pm

      Very helpful! Thank you!

  5. Annamarie Door on October 31, 2020 at 2:42 am

    Hi, Betsy. You look familiar. Did you go to Covenant College?

  6. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner – Bibliotheca on November 24, 2020 at 7:47 am

    […] REVIEWED ELSEWHERE: Book Loves Reviews, Common Sense Media, Dear Author, The Deliberate Reader, Maya Joelle, Redeemed Reader […]

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