No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

#19: The Thief -- Megan Whalen Turner

I stepped forward until I could reach to take the stone. Then, with my hand extended, I stopped, and was perfectly still as I watched the pattern of light on the velvet robe shift with the movement of a breath. My heart was like stone inside my chest. (p.147)

Gen, chained to a prison wall beneath the city of Sounis at the beginning of this Newbery Honor book, is a famous -- or rather infamous -- thief, caught and imprisoned for stealing the king's seal and then bragging about it in a wine-shop. He's sprung from gaol by a nameless magus who, it turns out, wants him to accomplish an even more daring theft: the retrieval of an ancient treasure that'll persuade the Queen of neighbouring Eddis to marry the King of Sounis. Gen, pragmatic, accepts the challenge, and finds himself travelling with the magus, a pair of stuck-up young aristocrats, and a sturdy soldier. All of them, of course, have Secrets. Including Gen.

The world through which Gen travels is grounded in Greek myth and legend, though the gods have different names, different purviews, different foibles. And those gods are distinctly real: there's a spooky moment when Gen realises this, a nicely understated pivot-point of immanence.

I liked Gen's voice -- sharp, street-wise, good-natured and cynical -- and the revelation of his secrets, both obliquely through his own tales of his immortal namesake and more directly when he's finally forced to act. And I very much like the grudging respect between Gen and the magus. Looking out for the other two in the trilogy.

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