Review: The Occasional Diamond Thief by J.A. McLachlan

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23375168The Occasional Diamond Thief by J.A. McLachlan

  • File Size: 3227 KB
  • Print Length: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Jane Ann McLachlan (December 2, 2014)
  • Kindle: $2.99

Consumed by guilt at the death of her father after a dreadful bout of fever, Akhié flees her home on the planet Seraffa with his gift to her, a rare Malemese diamond. These gems are so special, in fact, that it is illegal for anyone not from the planet Malem to own one. She sneaks back after her father’s funeral, only to be discovered by a young member of the planet’s strict religious government, the Order of Universal Benevolence. But Agatha, recently promoted to be a Select of the Order, reveals her true name to Akhié, then asks her to keep this error a secret. Akhié feels immediately that she can trust Agatha, but does not tell her about the diamond.

Desperate for money, Akhié steals a ring she finds in a washroom and takes it to a man named Sodum. He recognizes her ability to spot quality work and takes her on as an apprentice, training her in breaking into safes, picking locks and other skills she will need to become a good thief ―and avoid the clutches of the law.

Changing her name to Kia, she enrolls at a school for translators far from her home; her outstanding knowledge of four languages at just sixteen years old makes her a star student. She is chosen to go to Malem with Select Agatha on an assignment to help persuade Malem’s government to join the interplanetary Alliance, as atonement for being caught attempting to steal a noblewoman’s jewels at a party.

Once they arrive on Malem, life becomes chaotic for Kia and Agatha, as they learn about the social mores and protocol on this world, and Agatha struggles to become competent in the language. Kia learns who “Sariah” is, the person who owned the Malemese diamond, and starts to work on a plan to return the gem to her.

But they run afoul of the social nuances of Malemese culture again and again. When Agatha and Kia try to rescue a child suffering from the same Malemese fever that killed Kia’s father, they put themselves in great danger.

Ms. McLachlan creates two believable alien societies in Seraffa and Malem as the foundation of The Occasional Diamond Thief. Seraffa, rooted in Earth culture, has diverged noticeably from its mother planet, turning back toward a semi-religious style of government. But Malem is so different from Earth-based cultures as to be nearly unlivable for Kia and Agatha.

Issues of trust, the power of secrets, and the value of popularity are the main themes of Kia’s story, which will resonate with many teen readers. Agatha, not much older, must reconcile the values of trust and compassion that buttress her personality with the life she has chosen as a religious figure, whose focus is keeping people within strict emotional boundaries.

The Occasional Diamond Thief is an enjoyably complex story, in which “doing the right thing” is never as easy as it seems. Both teen and adult readers will find it a compelling tale from start to finish.

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