Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief #1
Genre: Fantasy
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The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities. 

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

It's so sad. This book started out wonderfully and could have easily been a great read for me and the kind of book I'd adore.

We had a main character (Gen, who, unfortunately, was a guy but most of the time read more like a girl) with a sense of humor that I actually found funny. He had some wonderful remarks and internal asides and I was loving him a little for it. Then, adding to the wonderful, we had a secondary cast of dissimilar people all setting out - for their own reasons - on a quest together.

Awesomeness and the first hundred pages were lovely, telling a story of a journey across at least moderately interesting lands. We also had the first hints of what could have been some wonderful friendships.

At this point, I was starting to wonder what could possibly go wrong. Well, I've learnt the hard way to never ask a question you don't want the answer to. Because pretty much everything went wrong. (lol After reading this book, I checked the reviews and everyone else says the first hundred pages weren't very good but the next hundred plus pages were really good and the next books are even better. Yeah, won't be reading the next books if they're more like the second half than the first half.)

The first hints that not all was kosher came to me when characters that were a little abrasive turned downright snippy, surly and abusive. About the same time, Gen started loosing a lot of his humor too, and in several places read like a typical 'spirited' lead in YA fantasy. (Where spirited is just a code word for bitchy.)

This story is told from Gen's first person perspective. Which means that we are about as intimately inside his head as possible in writing. This is not a POV I particularly like, but when it's done well it can be consuming. You get to see the world from this character's eyes. You learn everything they are thinking, feeling and can see how every tiny act effects them. I have read books that do just that, pulling me into the story so completely that to imagine the story being told any other way is to imagine the story being less impactful.

This was not done well.

Apparently, even though we are inside Gen's head the entire time, he still has time to turn into a kleptomaniac packrat without - you know - telling us he was lifting things. This goes hand in hand with the fact that the author seems to like explaining things after the fact. (Like don't describe the lantern until well after we first see it. Which means I was picturing a totally different type of lantern.)

Oh, yeah, and Gen telling us after the 'small reveal' (not to be confused with the 'big reveal,' which I'll get to in a moment) that he suspected all along. No, actually, he didn't because he never mentioned it or thought it. This is either Gen not willing to admit there was something he didn't know (possible) or the author thinking it is acceptable to not play fair with the readers (probable).

Then we have forty pages of…well, what I call sick narration. It's when the main character is sick and things don't follow a easily follow-able path. I've read this before and I always hate it. Really, this was no different.

Finally, the 'big reveal.' Oh, wow, gee, I never saw that coming. To me, this goes beyond unreliable narrator and right to 'author didn't want to work hard to give little hints to the readers.' This to me is a clear case of 'ooh, lookit what I can do. Bet you never saw this coming. Course, I can't actually make my story interesting and intriguing while giving you all the information at my narrator's disposal. So I'll just cheat.' (Sure, there is one slight clue - one! - but the narrator never reacts to it. Sloppy, sloppy.) And the second 'big reveal?' Yeah, I knew that was going to happen. By that point I didn't trust the narrator at all so I knew what everyone else thought happened hadn't.