Title: The Jewel Thief
Author: Jeannie Mobley
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Published: May 26th, 2020 (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Synopsis: In the depths of the Bastille, sixteen-year-old Juliet Pitau sits cold and filthy in her cell. Charged with stealing what has come to be known as the Hope Diamond from King Louis XIV, she has one final chance to convince the King that her motives were pure. If she fails, this night may be her last. Recording her confession is Rene, a scribe for the king and the man she loves. But Rene won’t even look her way, let alone begin to forgive her for her betrayal of him.
Before Juliet was imprisoned, she was the daughter of the finest gem cutter in all of Paris. The young King Louis XIV hand-selected Jean Pitau to be his crown jeweler, the only man who could make him shine like the sun. When Louis purchases the Tavernier Violet, a large, deep-blue diamond the likes of which the French court has never seen, Jean is tasked with turning it brilliant. But Juliet’s father has never cut a diamond quite like this – and shaping it is risky business. While Jean spirals into depression, Juliet takes it upon herself to have the diamond cut for the King. But with every misstep, she brings her family closer to ruin, and closer to probable death at morning’s light once Louis casts his sentence.
A huge thank you to PenguinTeen Canada for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
The Jewel Thief takes us back in time to 17th century France, to the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, who has just acquired the diamond called the Tavernier Violet that is today known as the Hope Diamond. The Crown Jeweller, Jean Pitau, is entrusted with cutting this precious gem to make it shine, a herculean task, considering its odd shape. His daughter Juliette watches as the seemingly impossible demand the King has made sends her father into a deep depression and she resolves to do whatever it takes to get the job done. From her cell in the Bastille, Juliette narrates her story as she stands accused of stealing the diamond, and the court-appointed scribe, her lost love Rene, records the confession upon which her fate rests.
17th and 18th century France is among my favourite time periods for historical fiction, and while I’ve come across the history of the Hope Diamond briefly, it was interesting to see what might have happened behind the scenes of what is one of the most famous jewels in the world today. The art of gem-cutting, of creating jewels in the time period and the internal politics in the profession were all something entirely unknown to me and I found it quite fascinating, not to mention, I’m now quite curious how it is done in present day. And of course, the world-building was excellent – 17th century Paris was truly brought to life in this standalone novel and the setting of the story had a very authentic feel to it. The one thing I would have liked to see more of in this aspect was court life itself as I have always found stories of the famously glittering and luxurious French court to be very intriguing and it would have been nice to see it from Juliette’s point of view.
Narrated from Juliette’s perspective, the story alternates between past and present in an exciting and moving narrative that depicts beautifully how she fought and refused to give up even as a diamond and a King’s selfish desires brought her family to ruin. However, despite her ultimately good intentions, she makes some very rash decisions, withholding crucial information several times placing herself and her family in more and more danger. I loved the narration style and it was very easy to get caught up in the story as the tension increased by the page. As I mentioned in one of my recent reviews, I really enjoy this type of story where the book begins with the climactic event and then steps back to narrate the events that lead up to it.
The Jewel Thief was an engrossing novel that I read in one sitting. While this was largely fictional, it was nevertheless a thrilling read and I was very satisfied with how the story ended though the final chapters did feel a little rushed. It was fun to return to one of my favourite eras in history with this fast-paced narrative and I would definitely recommend this book for historical fiction fans.
The Jewel Thief releases on May 26th, 2020.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!