_The Thief_, with spoilers galore--extra long for your enjoyment

Anita Graham amgraham at cygnus.uwa.edu.au
Fri Mar 8 09:03:35 EST 2002

>> _The Thief_, or Why I Don't Like Cheating
> a long, mumbling and juicy ramble
> by Melissa Proffitt

Thanks Melissa, you answered so many of my questions only moments after I
asked them. (OK, I hadn't read ahead in the list. Smack hand).


> >But what about Gen's taking the stone from the mage and hiding it in his
> >hair without telling the reader, allowing the reader to believe it's been
> >lost?  In omnisecent voice that would be fine, but in a first person that
> >strikes me as somehow selling the reader short.

But doesn't that make Gen an unreliable narrator. He's been unreliable for
everyone else, why not for us too. Especially as we're just readers of a
history book. He's perhaps read enough of them (Euclid?) to want to make one

(If this is NOT what's meant by an unreliable narrator, I apologise and
admit that I haven't studied EngLit since I left high school, a VERY long
time ago.)

> It's the issue of Hamiathes's Gift that I see as cheating, and
> I'll tell you
> why.  The structural climax of the novel happens at the moment that Gen
> reveals that he's had the stone the whole time everyone thought
> it was lost.
> In order for this to be the climax, *the reader can't know the
> truth*.  The
> reader has to be just as surprised as the magus and Sophos in
> order for the
> climax to retain its emotional impact.  In order to do this, Turner has to
> manipulate the first-person POV and take advantage of the reader's
> assumptions.

But I thought the climax of the novel was also involved with Gen's
identity - just revealing who he is, although by the time you get there you
are not entirely surprised.

Gen doesn't tell us everything he does or doesn't do. For instance, while
its clear that he's furious enough at being blamed for stealing food that he
nearly reveals more of himself than he intends, the issue is left there,
it's not followed through, at that time, to find out where and why the food
has gone. In fact, he never states explicitly that he didn't steal the food.
Yet, his reactions - frightening the magus and Pol when he no longer acts
the thief, and suddenly being very competent with his horse - are more clues
for us as to his true identity.

> This bothers me so much because _The Thief_ is in all other respects a
> superior book, and one that deserves attention.  The competing versions of
> the mythology, with their references to oral history versus scholarly
> history, are alone worth the price of purchase.  The characterization is
> sound and compelling; even the "evil" characters retain their humanity.
> Sympathetic characters are hurt and one even dies, because the narrative
> demands it--and Turner doesn't flinch from this, though I wonder
> if she felt
> a twinge at sending Pol to his death.  I know I would have.

I still mourn Pol. Why couldn't he have lived? And why do we not hear more
of Sophos ("Wot's in a name?-- she sez . . . An' then she sighs, An' clasps
'er little 'ands, an' rolls 'er eyes. ") in the next book?

 And the
> relationship of the gods to humankind is beautiful, particularly Gen's
> encounter with Hephestia and the other gods.  I loved the moment when Gen
> tosses off a casual, not-serious prayer to Eugenides--and it's answered.

Oh yes, the gods are good.

> _The Queen of Attolia_, thank heaven, doesn't have the same problem.  In
> fact, it impresses me no end, quite aside from the fierce emotional
> attachment I developed to it.  It is on the short list of my desert island
> books (though to be honest, if I were stuck on a desert island
> with only the
> books I couldn't live without, I could build myself a two-room
> bungalow with
> those books alone).  I think Turner is an author to watch.

Well I'll have to read it again. Just to find out.

Anita the superficial, I'm afraid.

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