The Diamond Thief: Popcorn-fun YA steampunk

The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling steampunk YA fantasy book reviewsThe Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling

The Diamond Thief is the first book in the trilogy of the same name by Sharon Gosling; it’s a YA steampunk series set in Victorian England featuring Rémy Brunel, a circus acrobat by day and a jewel thief by night. Rémy seems to have some sort of metaphysical or psychic connection with jewels, and can determine just by holding a gem whether it is valuable or a piece of fancy glass.

Thaddeus Rec is an orphaned teenaged detective who is determined to rise through the ranks of Scotland Yard and prove, with the help of an eccentric and elderly mentor, that he is more than the son of common thieves. That mentor, The Professor, functions as the Doc Brown to Thaddeus’ Marty McFly, providing him with a surrogate parent’s guidance as well as all sorts of nifty toys which aid Thaddeus in his investigations. When a valuable diamond goes missing and both Rémy and Thaddeus are accused of the theft, the pair must work together in order to find the gem (each working for their own purposes, naturally) and, in the process, uncover a plot which could threaten all of London.

The action scenes are exciting, and Gosling’s descriptions of various mechanical devices are faithful to the steampunk genre: there are goggles and gears a-plenty, and while the Professor’s creations reflect his curiosity and passion for study, the shadowy enemy’s machines are all meant for warfare and subterfuge. There’s very little ambiguity as to the enemy’s alignment, considering that he engages in grand larceny and keeps legions of child slaves digging beneath London.

Where The Diamond Thief really faltered for me was the romance between Rémy and Thaddeus: the primary action of the novel takes place over just a few days, during which time the two teenagers transition from barely tolerating each other to shouting their declarations of a love so pure and true that it fundamentally changes them both. I’m not against including romance or infatuation in fiction, but if character development hinges on shared feelings, I need to believe it’s something more than just teenage hormones or authorial convenience.

As the first book in a trilogy, The Diamond Thief does its job fairly well. Characters and their backstories are introduced, portentous foreshadowing is delivered, mystical utterances are made, and larger events are set into motion. This was popcorn-fun in a classic matinee movie kind of way, and a quick enough read that I’ll happily read the other two books, The Ruby Airship and The Sapphire Cutlass.

Published in 2013: No-one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Remy Brunel. But Remy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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4 comments

  1. I love Remy’s magical power!

  2. It drives me mad when authors shoehorn in an unconvincing romance. This is not a prerequisite of a good YA story!

    • Exactly! I would have been happy if the two of them had come to a begrudging partnership/friendship, with room for a blooming romance over the next two books.

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