The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
A re-created Greek myth and territory reminiscent of post-medieval Greece form the background and setting for this tale of political intrigue, adventure and mystery. The protagonist is a young thief of the Hermes variety—mischievous, clever without parallel, and enormously self-confident. A good proportion of the book consists of a long and richly described arduous journey, by foot and by horse, during which the thief, Gen, gets to know the Magus, who has freed him from prison for his own purposes, as well as the other three that accompany them.
Though plenty of heart-stopping action does break out in the last half of the book, the quiet, slow pace of the journey may discourage less experienced readers. For more confident middle school readers, the in-depth character development in the first half of the book will be worth the slower pace as it greatly enriches the impact of what follows. This book would be a good transition story for a reader moving from the lighter plots of children’s stories to the more demanding plots of books for older readers.
Well-liked mostly by middle school boys and a few girls, The Thief, published in 1996, has also appealed to a few high school kids in my classes. A Newbery Honor Book, ALA Notable Book, and ALA Best Book for Young Adults, it has two sequels: The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia, both of which continue the theme of political intrigue and adventure, but also move into slightly more mature themes, such as the cruelty of dysfunctional romance. While the first book would be appropriate for advanced elementary school readers, the second two may not be.