Today I have a lovely historical fiction, geared to the YA audience: Palace of Spies by Sarah Zetel. This also counts toward another book to my NetGalley November challenge… you will want to check out the concept and information on that here.
A unique perspective of court life from a little-fictionalized period during the reign of George I, the first in the House of Hanover to rule Great Britain, taking the throne in the early 18th century. Much has been written or interpreted of court life with Henry VIII or Elizabeth I, the opportunity to read another author’s perspective on intrigue and the doings of the time was irresistible.
Peggy is sixteen, a ward of her aunt and uncle after her parent’s death, and plans have been made for her to wed. Finding the offer not to her liking, she refuses the betrothal, and her Uncle puts her from his care and protection. A well-bred young lady, she is wholly unsuited for life on her own, and when an offer to impersonate a Lady in Waiting to Caroline, Princess of Wales is offered via a man who claimed to have known her mother.
Seeing no other options, Peggy agrees to the deal: assuming the identity of Lady Francesca, she begins her new life. Yet many questions begin to haunt. Jacobites, uncomfortable with the ascension of George over an English born heir are restless. While the Acts of Settlement specifically stated no catholic could assume the throne, their favored James, even though he was the half-brother of the dead Queen Anne. Peggy isn’t sure if the information she is gathering will be used by the Jacobites, a courtier looking to gain further position, a blackmailer or even something more serious.
What she discovers is that the real Lady Francesa has mysteriously disappeared without a trace, and she could be anywhere, even dead. When you add in those questions, and the fact that Peggy is asking questions and placing herself in danger, the tension works nicely and builds carefully to keep the reader engaged without overwhelming them with clever trickery. And lest we forget, Peggy is a sixteen year old girl: Boys are a must. And there is a sweet relationship starting to develop, although primary focus is on discovering who is behind the real Lady Francesca’s death.
I adored Zettel’s use of the conventions common to 18th century writing, referring to the ‘Dear Reader’ and other little literary side notes. While I loved Peggy, and found her strong and clever, there were moments when she was overly complaining about her clothing or other people, and her language use did lapse to modern use. While it wasn’t as laden with Jacobite references and history, this is the first in a series: I can only hope that as the series progresses more historical references will be added in. Yet, this is a book written ultimately for the YA market, and is one that I would certainly recommend to readers 14 and up. The story is fast paced and the characters are clever, the court intrigue is detailed meticulously and is quite entertaining. For people unsure about historical fictions, or those who enjoy them, this certainly is a series and an author to check out.
Title: Palace of Spies
Author: Sarah Zettel
Genre: Contemporary Mystery, Historical Non-Fiction, Suspense
Published by: Children's Division, Houghton Miffllin/Harcourt
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't.
Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she's impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love...
History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.