Thanks to jrl64 for loaning me this series… though this being a Newbery honor book, you’ll find the series in the library as well.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner When we first meet the thief, Gen is in jail, chained hand and foot and, without urgency, plotting how to escape. It turns out Gen had bragged that he could the king’s seal, and was promptly arrested when he succeeded. But very soon he is offered a deal: travel with the king’s Magus to steal an object from another kingdom so old and mythic that almost no one believes it exists now, if it ever did. After all, it was purportedly a gift from the Gods, and who in these civilized times really believes in the Gods? If found, it would enable the king to take over the neighboring mountain land of Eddis without a struggle. Gen also is named for Eugenides, the God of thieves, in this Greek-like world with somewhat more advanced technology than that of classical mythology. As the journey begins, Gen is whiny and belligerent, struggling with the Magus and the nobles and soldier sent to accompany them. But as the story goes on, new aspects of both Gen and his companions are revealed, and the final plot twist was entirely unexpected. The people are interesting, he setting beautiful, and the politics tricky enough to be interesting without involving so many players as to require great mental power. I plowed right through onto the next two, and am now joining the friends who loaned me the books in hoping for more.