How I Discovered The Thief
I first encountered The Thief when I was in my teens. My sister picked it up from the library, devoured it, and then begged me to read it. “It even has a surprise twist at the end!” Well, my first thought was, Yeah, right. My sister’s taste and mine are so different. It’s probably another mediocre young adult story with a plot twist you could see coming from the first chapter. Boy, was I wrong! The story kept getting better as I continued to read, and by the time the final twist arrived, I was thoroughly invested in the story and thoroughly surprised. Since then, I’ve read the following books in the series which, rather than disappointing me as so many series do, made me more a fan of The Thief series than ever.
It’s always delightful when the main character is someone as colorful as Eugenides (also called by the diminutive form of his name, Gen). He likes to sleep in, he hates horses and violence, he chews with his mouth open, and he needles and baits his captors mercilessly. While this is monstrously entertaining, if this was all there was to Eugenides, I suppose I would have tired of him eventually, and written him off as nothing but a self-serving street urchin with an enormous ego that drives him to prove himself. But Eugenides is not just a thief. He has plans of his own. And when I discovered what they were, my estimation of him exploded my expectations.
The magus is staunchly loyal to his lord Sounis, and very learned. He is the leader of the expedition, so Eugenides rankles under his authority. The magus withholds much information from Eugenides (and the reader) for the first half of the book, which heightens the suspense for the reader. Despite his obvious distaste for a task that necessitates involving a youthful and insolent thief, the magus attempts to be fair to Eugenides.
Pol’s opinion is that the fewer words said, the better. He is a soldier by trade, and takes his job—and everything else—very seriously. He doesn’t have time or patience to put up with Eugenides’ nonsense, but he, like the magus, attempts to be fair. And when it comes time to draw sword against the enemy, Pol proves that he is worthy of the task.
Ambiades, being a nobleman, considers close contact with Eugenides to be beneath his dignity. He and Eugenides share a sense of self-importance, and bristle when each prods the other’s pride. They also share another trait—they both keep secrets. And when they discover each other’s secrets, a battle breaks loose.
Sophos tries. No one can blame him. But he is not cut out for a long journey, or danger that requires using a sword, or situations that necessitate quick wit and cunning. Despite his naivete, he is winsome in his own way. He is, after all, the only character who genuinely wishes Eugenides the best of fortune, and who proves to be a faithful friend when the plans fall apart and their lives are in danger.
The author wrote the story after she visited Greece, and, while the story is not historical in any way, it certainly carries a Grecian flavor. Greek terms and names abound in the story which, while at first requiring a little more effort to understand and remember, infuses the story with a rich culture. The landscape and mythologies are also quite Grecian, and make me wish to visit Greece myself.
Mythology is very important to the story. The characters trade stories of the old gods, including some stories that provide clues to the rest of the story. No one really believes that the gods exist. They’re just superstitions from older generations. They don’t really interfere with the deeds of men—do they?
What I Learned from The Thief
The Thief was the first story I read that taught me it is possible to write in first person and still keep the main character’s secrets from the reader. When Eugenides says he is doing one thing, you can bet that, in reality, he is doing far more than he’s letting on—as a later chapter will reveal. I was extremely impressed with the author’s ability to withhold information, while at the same time sowing the story with plenty of clues, so that you wonder why you never saw the truth before.
This story does include pagan deities, and half-a-dozen profanities.
I love The Thief and all its sequels. Eugenides’ wit, sarcasm, and snarkiness makes him entertaining in the short-term, and his cunning, intelligence, and relatable vulnerability make him a favorite over the long-term. If you like fantasy and surprise endings, I highly recommend The Thief.
It seemed like only a few minutes before Pol was nudging me in the ribs again with his foot.
Excerpt from The Thief