________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 6 . . . . October 9, 2009


The Jewels of Sofia Tate.

Doris Etienne.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2009.
256 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-55488-230-4.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Megan Lankford.

** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


But what struck Garnet most about the room was that, if it hadn't been for a few modern conveniences such as the television, it was like taking a step back in time. Their home in Owen Sound had also been century home but it hadn't been like this. It had undergone too many renovations over the years.

"I love your house, Elizabeth. It feels…" Like I belong here, Garnet wanted to say. The thought came out of nowhere and she didn't know why it had even entered her mind. Somehow being surrounded by these items from the past offered her solace, like a loyal friend she could count on. But that was so ridiculous. "It—it just feels so comfortable,' she finished, grabbing at the first word she could think of."


When Garnet Walcott moves to Kitchener, ON, with her mother, she has a hard time leaving her old best friend and attempting to make friends at her new high school. Not only is her first friend an elderly, ailing woman, but also her mother spends all her time searching for her long-lost father. However, Garnett's random meeting and quick friendship with Elizabeth Tate, a wealthy widow, soon opens all sorts of doors for Garnet. When Elizabeth tells Garnet that a priceless set of heirloom jewels dating back to Russian nobility may be hidden in her Victorian home, she implores Garnet to help her find the missing jewels. Once Elizabeth suffers a heart attack and becomes stuck in hospital, Garnet, with the help of new friend Dan Peters, must solve the mystery once and for all. Through a slew of puzzles, Garnet discovers more than just the historical jewels, but learns about herself and her own legacy while simultaneously becoming acclimated to her new town.

     Etienne interweaves aspects of historical fiction and mystery through a modern-day coming of age story. While Etienne immediately grabs readers with the initial excitement surrounding the lost jewels dramatized through the historicized foreword, she maintains her captured audience through the realistic and understandable character of Garnet. While the clues and mysterious chase seem improbable, forced, and overly religious, the real problem within the story is the overly didactic ending. As Garnet discovers the missing jewels, she also miraculously learns that she is the rightful inheritor of the heirlooms while simultaneously discovering her mother's father's long-lost sister in the process, all while dating the most popular boy in school. Etienne provides an overly simple and unfulfilling ending to a somewhat complex mystery. While the elevated language and sophisticated plot twists raise the intended audience's age, the didactic and unrealistic plot coincidences provide an unsatisfactory ending to what could have been a thrilling mystery.


Megan Lankford is a student at the University of British Columbia earning a Masters of Arts in Children's Literature.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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