The Pearl Thief - Book Review
UK PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Childrens
When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realise that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.
Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.
Her memory of that day returns in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them form being framed for the crime.
I enjoyed this book, although admittedly it’s a really slow paced read. However the history and old world setting lend this book a lot of charm - not to mention it reminded me a lot of Enid Blyton’s classic Famous Five books - although maybe with not so much adventure.
The Pearl Thief is also a prequel to Elizabeth’s Wein’s debut, Code Name Verity which sadly, was a book I never finished. However I do think I will be giving it another try.
In this prequel the story follows fifteen-year-old Julie who, after the death of her beloved grandfather, returns to Scotland for the summer. But as her grandparents possessions are sold off, their stately home turned into a boarding school, only Julie seems to notice that the family pearls have gone missing.
But when a body is found in the river, Julie begins to suspect foul play. Befriending a family of travellers, she enlists their help to uncover the mystery before the summer ends. But there is more than one deadly plot underfoot, and Julie will risk it her life to see the world set to rights…
The setting of this book was incredible. Thanks to Elizabeth Wein’s beautiful writing the Scottish moors, the old ruins, the river pearls… everything was brought to life in a very colourful manner.
There were also many levels to the mystery. So many plot threads that when the twists came, I totally didn't seem them coming. However as much as I enjoyed trying to figure out who did what, I felt the story dragged in many places and the mystery itself lacked any kind of urgency.
In regards to the characters, they hailed from all walks of life, and each comes with an backstory along with unique quirks and traits of their own. For anyone wanting to learn more about Julie before the war, this is a great book to pick up. She is much more innocent and naive than the women we meet in CODE NAME VERITY, however I sort of wish this story had been kept to a novella, rather than becoming a full blown out book.
I say this because, while I enjoyed the story as a whole, it was often rather boring. There are pages upon pages where nothing happens - at least nothing relevant - and sometimes I got restless which made the book very easy to put down.
Sadly I didn't connect with the romance either. While I liked the fact that Julie appeared to be bi-sexual, I don't know how I felt about her kissing so many people… or encouraging a relationship between herself and a much, much older man. Yet conflicting with that - it was refreshing to read about a girl unafraid to explore her sexuality, even if it did get her in a bit of trouble.
Overall though I still enjoyed this book. If you are the kind of person who likes to have more than one book on the go, this one makes a good back burner. Otherwise I would say prepare yourself for a slow and very scenic trek through Julie’s world.
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Have any of you read Elizabeth Wein’s books? What are your thoughts?