Next year, the final book in a YA series over 20 years in the making will be released. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner made its debut in 1996, was named a Newbery Honor book, and was a runner up for the Newbery Medal. Sequels were released years and years apart (including a seven year wait between books 2 and 3), which was honestly fine with fans of the series. We are a patient lot, and it gave us more time to digest, enjoy, and reread the books again.
Reader, I was bereft. I wasn’t upset that the series was ending; I was distraught when I realized I literally had one bookish friend with whom I could talk to about the books. How did this happen? It’s a beloved, well respected, critically acclaimed, award winning series, and yet I was one of two people in my Twitter feed who was Tweeting about The Return of the Thief.
I’m going to plead my cause to you, my fellow readers. If you haven’t read The Thief, please, please, please do. And if you read it eons ago and didn’t realize there were other books in the series, now is a great time for a reread. “Okay, Christine. I’ll go read the book descriptions and see if—” NO. PLEASE. DO NOT DO THAT. I’m sorry for yelling, but these are books that are full of unexpected turns and I think the best way to enjoy them is to just go in knowing nothing.
OKAY, FINE, I can tell you some things. The basic pitch for book 1, The Thief: Gen, our titular character, lands himself in the King’s jail after some loud boasting about being able to steal anything. He soon finds himself on a quest with the King’s magus to steal an object thought to be a mere legend. I know that is a very bare bones description, so allow me to present six more reasons why you should start reading these wonderful books.
While the series starts with Gen as the main focus, he is not always the protagonist of the book. Side characters from books 1 and 2 show up front and center in the later books, although Gen is never too far away. Turner has also created two of the most fascinating, complex female leaders I’ve encountered in recent fiction, with the wildly different Queens of Eddis and Attolia. Characters evolve throughout the series, and your opinion of them will vary drastically from book to book.
These are fantasy books that read like historical fiction. Turner was inspired by the landscape of the Mediterranean coast, and there are world building elements that is reminiscent of ancient and byzantine Greece, but it is a world of fictional kingdoms and myths. I think this is a great series if you love fantasy books, and I think it’s a wonderful choice for readers who typically don’t enjoy fantasy, as the fantastical elements are more subtle.
As I mentioned before, this is a series full of twists. But the books are so deftly and masterfully plotted that when you find yourself looking at the man behind the curtain, as it were, you don’t feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under you. It’s a series that holds up to rereads, as you will be experiencing the story from an entirely new perspective the second time around. There are a few shocking, gasp out loud, game changing moments, and I would not spoil those for the world, no matter how desperately I want to talk about them right now.
“I thought this was a story about a thief?!” It is! But it also evolves into something more complex. This is a story about leaders, and making choices for the good of your people, the cost of those choices, and the toll and burden it carries.
I cannot overstate what a wonderful, funny, charismatic, and smart character Turner has written with Gen. You will at times admire him, think he’s gone crazy, find him hilarious, be certain you know what he’s up to, see him as intimidating, realize you both over and underestimated him, and wonder if you can ever trust anything he says. If you get to the end of The Thief and you don’t love him, please don’t tell me—I don’t care! I love him so much.
I’ve been very upfront about the whole reason behind this post: I need more people who will talk to me about this series! Please, read the books (you can get the audiobooks instantly on Hoopla and the narrator is excellent), come find me on Twitter, and we can chat about them for days and days. Did you find this post in the year 2025? Hey, if Twitter is still around, I will absolutely talk to you!
Well, I tried my best to convince you to read The Thief and the rest of the books without going into the spoilery reasons why I think they are so great. You now have over a year to catch up and read the entire series before the end arrives, which is plenty of time to fall in love with Gen and recruit more readers into the fold.
How one reader overcame their reading perfectionist tendencies after reading I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK.
Who was Pure Belpré and why she should be your librarian hero, too.
By the pricking of my thumbs, some Shakespeare puns this way come.