Megan Whalen Turner wrote this way back in 1997, when it earned a Newbery Honor. Unfortunately, like the human body slowly replacing every cell over a seven year period, libraries tend to do the same with their collections. I remember loving this book in high school (there, now I've dated myself...) but on this trip back to the western New York area, there was only one area library that still had a copy.
The story opens with the unnamed narrator being released from prison into the custody of a royal magus who wants him to steal a stone from a faraway temple for the kingdom. With little background information, the story unfolds beautifully and mysteriously--the thief accompanies the magus, two young men and an older soldier as they journey closer to where this strange stone is said to be kept. Along the way, members of the group recount tales of the local gods from generations past, and the reader slowly is able to piece elements of the story together. Even with these pieces, nobody would be able to foresee the dramatic and clever ending Turner has so artfully crafted. I would love to recommend this to preteen and teen readers of fantasy--close to Lloyd Alexander and Robin McKinley. The content is all appropriate for a class reading, just for teachers out there to keep in mind.