I recently read The Thief by Megan Whelan Turner, the first book in a series that a friend of mine has been trying to get me to read for quite a while. It’s a Newberry Honor book, and I can honestly say that I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner! The DRA for this book is about a level 50, and it’s a terrific book for elementary students. It has action, political intrigue (kids: think of this as government secrets), and the barest amount of romance. More importantly, parents and teachers would be hard-pressed to find anything inappropriate in this book. It was clearly written with its audience in mind.
The Thief starts off from the point of view of Gen, who’s in jail. A pair of guards appear to escort him to a nice room upstairs where the king’s scholar, called the magus, is waiting for him. The magus reveals why Gen was put in jail–for stealing the Sounisian king’s seal–and the reason he was caught–he was bragging about it to anyone who would listen. The magus then offers to release Gen from jail only if he helps to steal a sacred stone from a neighboring kingdom, Eddis. The stone, the magus says, grants the right to rule in Eddis; so the king wants to use it to convince the queen of Eddis to marry him.
Gen has no choice to agree–and he’s already boasted that he can steal anything. The rest of the book reads much like a quest-story. Gen must learn how to get along with his traveling companions: two knights, the magus, and a bodyguard. Throughout the journey, the magus is responsible for educating the two knights, quizzing them on trivia and telling them myths of old. It’s implied that Gen is a commoner and no one expects him to retain anything he hears, but Gen surprises everyone when he corrects a tale the magus tells…and then tells a few of his own.
There’s a twist near the end, but I won’t give that away. For students who know their mythology, this is a great book to use as a comparison; the mythological stories used here are clearly based on greek mythology.
The second book in the series is titled The Queen of Attolia, and only gets better. I highly suggest this series for students. Aside from being great for the classroom, it’s just fun to read. And isn’t that just what we want reading to be?