Code Name Verity was my favorite book of 2014. I reluctantly picked it up after some favorable Cannonball reviews and was immediately entranced. The story, the writing, and the characters kept me on the edge of my seat until I finished in a wave of tears. When I saw that Elizabeth Wein had written a book that involves Julie Beaufort-Stuart, a main character from Code Name Verity, I was once again a little reluctant to read it. I was afraid that it would not live up to Code Name Verity, and that I would end up disappointed. I was also worried that Wein would somehow change my impression of Julie, and I didn’t want anything ruining Code Name Verity for me.
In the end, I had no need to be worried. Although The Pearl Thief was not quite as moving or suspenseful as Code Name Verity, it was still an interesting, fun story that gave a lot of insight into Lady Julie’s younger years. I’m glad I read it, and I plan on reading Rose Under Fire when I get the chance.
The story begins with fifteen-year-old Lady Julie showing up at her maternal grandmother’s castle three days early from boarding school. Her grandfather, the Earl of Strathfearn, has recently passed away and the castle’s been sold to a boy’s school to pay off medical and other debts of her grandfather’s estate. Julie is there for the summer to help her grandmother and mother pack everything up and resettle with her parents at Craig Castle.
With no one expecting her, no one is at home when she arrives. Julie goes for a walk along the river and finds herself waking up three days later in a hospital. She was hit in the head from behind and has a wicked concussion. Shortly after her return home from the hospital, she discovers that a man working on relics and antiques from her grandfather’s estate has disappeared.
With the help of her brother Jamie, who comes to visit, and new friends Ellen and Euan McEwen (Scottish Travellers), Julie starts hunting for the truth of what happened to both her and the missing man.
Julie is precocious and easily bored. As I read, I could see why her personality was perfect for being a spy in Code Name Verity. I thought Wein did a good job in showing how Julie’s character was influenced by her very privileged upbringing. On the one hand, she asks, and expects to get, everything that she wants. She could be a very annoying character if not written well. But she is also so caring, fun, and eager to learn about people and the world around her, that she is eminently likable. Wein also did a good job in showing the bias and discrimination constantly facing the McEwen family and how that affected them and their friendship with Julie.
The mystery part of this story was good and kept me interested, but it wasn’t the highlight of the book. I was curious to discover what happened but not emotionally invested in the outcome like I was in Code Name Verity. There wasn’t a ton of sleuthing going on. Julie was primarily able to figure out what happened when she either remembered or accidentally came upon information.
I enjoyed this book and I’m glad I read it. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Code Name Verity and wants a little more time with Julie Beaufort-Stuart.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.