The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.
Greenwillow Books/ William Morrow & Company: NY, 1996.
Newbery Honor 1997

Gen, rotting in the Sounis prison for stealing the King's seal, is released by request of the King's Magus. The Magus intends to locate and steal a stone which confers on the bearer the right to rule Eddis (a neutral country between the warring Sounis and Attolia). Gen's thieving abilities are necessary to break into an ancient temple, which the Magus knows is likely to be a lethal attempt. The theft is the least of their problems, though it is certainly trial enough for Gen.

On the journey, much is revealed of the characters in the undertaking. Gen is more educated than one would expect and has more honor. The Magus is pretty much what he seems, though he does not disclose all of his knowledge or suspicions. The magus has two apprentices in the group. Gen learns that Sophos (the younger and kinder) is the heir of Sounis. His uncle decided he needed to be toughened, resulting in his inclusion. Gen believes the surliness of Ambiades is due to his lower rank in terms of lineage and wealth, though he is higher than the lowly thief. Or so he believes. The soldier Pol is there for protection of the group, though personally he only cares for the well-being of Sophos, as an old family retainer.

As the trip progresses, the Magus tells stories of the old gods and temples in preparation for their challenge. He asks Gen to disclose his knowledge of Eddisian legends also, when he learns they differ.

From the first, it is apparent that it is wrong to judge Gen as a thief. He is obviously more than a common thief. He is named after the god of thievery Eugenides. We soon learn that he is favored and aided by gods, though it isn't revealed until the twisted ending why he is deserving and not an arrogant fool.

The Thief joins my ever-growing list of treasured Newbery Honor books. For some reason, I tend to like them better than the Medal winners. The book has a lovely old feel, with the flair of a master storyteller. Mostly historical fiction in tone, though no historical facts, and with only a touch of the fantastic. There are stories within stories and details that you couldn't have known were important. It's a page turner, truly enchanting. By the ending, I can tell there is more excitement to come in the series. And I'll want to be reading Turner's first book, Instead of Three Wishes - short stories. My first encounter with her work was in Firebirds.

related-robbers and outlaws, adventures, similar to ancient Greece and Byzantium, politics, kingdoms, treasure hunt

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