Review: Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
Release date: November 5th, 2013
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Series: #a in the Palace of Spies series
Rating: History comes alive in a charming and fun mystery led by a hilarious heroine.
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.
Palace of Spies is a surprisingly fun romp through history, and most of that is due to our fearless heroine, the hilarious and spunky and delightfully feminist Peggy. I laughed out loud many a time, because she's just a treasure, honestly.
"Mother already harangues me for overmuch reading. 'A book won't teach you how to produce good sons, Olivia.'"
"That just shows she hasn't read the right books."
It should be more widely publicized that the nimble-fingered creators of lady's attire are raised entirely by she-wolves.
Palace of Spies, originally titled A Most Dangerous Deception, is set during the reign of George I of England. Confession time: British history is my jam. My lady jam. I read all the Horrible Histories I could get my nerdy little hands on as a kid (READ THEM. Know them. Love them) (I especially loved The Gorgeous Georgians, which is about this period on history). I geek out over anything that has to do with a bunch of stuffy, bewigged royals embroiled in PLOTS and SHENANIGANS and the like. It is my thing. If it is not your thing, Palace of Spies just might be the book to make it your thing. Or it will continue not to be your thing, and that will be very sad for you, because it is the best thing.
|I really wish they'd kept the original cover and title.|
Anyway. The plot requires some serious dispension of disbelief: Peggy, and orphan raised by her wealthy aunt and uncle, gets cast out of her home and somehow gets entangled in a far-fetched plot: she will replace the deceased Lady Francesca Wallingham as lady-in-waiting to Princess Caroline, wife of the Crown Prince, aka George I's son. The catch? She has to pretend to be Lady Francesca! And, yes, it's quite ridiculous that people who knew Francesca ever believe for a moment that this girl who is NOT Francesca, just resembles her, is Francesca, but once you sort of get past that, this book becomes a delight. As Jessie from Ageless Pages Reviews said, "It's like historical Miss Congeniality." Lady Francesca might have been murdered, and she was definitely up to something. And undercover Peggy is going to find out!
AND NOW A LESSON FROM ME:
British history is my thing, so I wasn't confused about the historical backdrop of this story, though from what I've read of other reviews, some people are. I actually thought the information was conveyed rather well, though you have to wait a little while for all the pieces to come together. When Queen Anne, last of the Stuarts, died, the crown passed to George of Hanover, the nearest Protestant relation and a large, pasty German man (for reasons, the ruler of England must be Protestant). James Stuart, another family member, got ANGRY and said HE SHOULD BE KING even though he was Catholic and ineligible. But at least I'm not German! was James' logic.
Anyway, Peggy comes into a court that's alive with deceptions and Jacobean (TEAM STUART!!!) plots trying to dethrone the Hanoverians (TEAM GERMANS!!!). Peggy just stepped into a hot mess, basically. She'll lose her life if her deception is uncovered, and she'll lose her life if she doesn't (or if she does!) figure out was Francesca was up to. Plus she's got to be a perfect lady-in-waiting, which means she has to stand all day in corsets, and that's just the worst. Plus, Francasca had a paramour who also seems to be involved in things. Plus there's a handsome artist Peggy feels a connection to who also might know THINGS. Plus Sophy Howe, one of the other ladies, has it out for her. Plus Princess Caroline might know more than she's letting on.
It's a fun, charming ride full of mystery and surprise reveals. Peggy is one of my favorite heroines. The girl is amazing--so witty, so funny and with the best attitude about everything. Only one in a million could do the things she does, but I totally buy it. I'm very excited for the sequel, because for me, this type of book is just what the doctor ordered. If you want your history served with a side of hilarity, give Palace of Spies a shot. It truly brought history to life, and even better, it was just a great read.