I picked up an ARC of this book from the publisher’s booth while attending the North Texas Teen Book Festival in March 2020.
Content warnings: anti-Semitism, attempted rape
Title: The Jewel Thief
Author: Jeannie Mobley
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Expected release date: May 26, 2020
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction
Length: 384 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “A lush, slow-burn romance set in 17th century France, and centered around the broken history of the Hope Diamond– the high-society intrigue of Richelle Mead’s Glittering Court series meets the romance of Melissa de la Cruz’s Alex and Eliza.
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.“
This was truly such a lovely and unique book. I adore historical fiction and the premise sounded too good to pass up. I was so happy to dive into 17th century France and to learn a bit more about the origins of the Hope Diamond.
I found the writing and the story as a whole incredibly engaging, and while I though this would be an epistolary novel, it’s not. Rather the main character, Juliette, tells her story to her former lover, René, as she was put into prison by the king, accused of crimes we aren’t too sure she committed. I really enjoyed the way the story flows smoothly back and forth from past to present. We really get an idea of what life was like for Juliette and her father, the king’s jeweler. King Loui XIV was known as the Sun King, and his vanity shines through in as much as he loves his diamonds and jewels. But like any king, he’s selfish and desires the world to revolve only around him. We see him bring a family low and to ruin with his impatience and lack of mercy.
Juliette is definitely the shining star of this novel. While those around her struggled, she did everything within her power to bring glory to her family. I felt bad for her, though, and how her family slowly fell apart. But I’m glad she was able to see through the fog of her father’s depression.
The whole story is gem-cutting and creating jewels during this time period is really fascinating too. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about it or how in-depth, the mechanics and calculations that really go into creating something worthy for a selfish king.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the romance between Juliette and René, but it ended up being really sweet and wholesome. It’s definitely filled with “first love” emotions but that’s what makes it so good.
However, I do wish we had gotten a little more of the world-building. Juliette’s family has the Kong’s patronage and it’s seen from the beginning they live a lavish lifestyle. Just as a personal preference, I wanted a bit more of that court life and the glittering luxurious-ness of it all.