Turner, Megan Whalen. The Thief: The Queen's Thief, Book 1.
This YA book is a delightful! My first book for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge III proved to be exciting and fun with several great characters.
Gen, a young professional thief, finds himself incarcerated in prison for not only stealing the king's seal, but bragging about it to one of the kingdom's spies. The king's magus decides to release Gen and to use his skills to steal Hamiathes's Gift, a stone given by one of the gods that confers the right to rule on the possessor.
Gen, a filthy charmer, complains and carries on throughout the trip, alternately annoying and surprising his companions. He is funny, witty, whining, egoistical, clever, and clear-sighted-- immediately sizing up his fellow travelers. He refers to Ambiades and Sophos, the other two young people on the journey, as Useless the Elder and Useless the Younger.
A sort of hero's journey with an unlikely hero, this tale has as much emphasis on the characters as on the events. The quest is important and has some exciting moments, but the joy in the book is the characterization and wonderful dialogue.
I really enjoyed the myths associated with Hamiathes, Eugenides, and the gods, as told by either the magus or by Gen. Gen often contradicts the magus, professing to know more about the myths than the magus, which the magus finds amusing. Gen will occasionally win admiration from his companions and then turn around and lose all the ground he gains by stealing food or by other behavior that highlights his lower class sensibilities.
As with all good YA fiction, this book appeals to adults as well. It was a Newberry Honor Book in 1997 and deservedly so, as Turner does such a marvelous job with the characters and the plot. There is a section called Extras at the end of the book that includes a wonderful section about Turner's inspiration and her favorite books and authors.
I did not want the book to end and am delighted to know that there are two more in the series. And I've already ordered them!
Other reviews: Angieville, Literary Fangirl...
Fiction. Fantasy. 1996. 280 pages