THE THIEF is a YA novel by Megan Whelan Turner that is an example of a well-crafted plot twist. When doing this kind of structure, you need to have two storylines: the A story, which is what the reader thinks the story is about and the B story, which is what it actually is about. It is helpful to either have a protagonist who is as clueless as the reader, or one who doesn’t share his thoughts until the reveal.
SPOILER ALERT: If you have NOT read this novel and would like to, please do NOT read ahead as this review is a spoiler.
Ms. Whelan Turner tells this story from the point-of-view of the thief, known chiefly to us as “Gen”, who appears to be a low-life criminal plucked from the city jail to do a job for the Magus. The assumption being that once the job is done, he’ll be sent back to the jail, or to the gallows, or on his way.
Throughout the novel, Ms. Turner drops hints that Gen is not quite as he seems. He is well-educated enough to be able to tell stories about gods and goddesses. He is well-educated enough to be able to critique another’s sword play. He is also very good at horsemanship, although he pretends in the beginning that he knows nothing of it.
More hints come towards the end of the novel:
The magus and I were nearly knee to knee, ahead of the others. I dragged the reins of my horse over to one side, and it stumbled into the horse beside it. I brushed shoulders with the magus for just a moment and then turned the horse on its haunches and drove it with my heels back toward the trees on the streambank. As a branched passed overhead, I grabbed it, using my free hand, and pulled myself up into the tree. …(156)
They dragged the bodies out of the water, while I sat forgotten in the tree. I carefully rebraided my hair and watched. When the dead men were laid out on the bank, the magus remembered me. (158)
At the moment of the twist, Ms. Whelan Turner gets out of the reader’s way by using language that is crisp and clear:
The room fell quiet. The soldiers around the magus, Sophos, and me stepped hastily aside. Once the queen saw us, she dropped her hand.
“Oh,” she said in irritation and perfect understanding. “It’s you, Eugenides.” (203)