Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Palace of Spies

3. Palace of Spies, by Sarah Zettel

Palace of SpiesThis has a lot of elements I enjoy: a smart female protagonist, intrigue, and an interesting historical setting (early 17th Century, in the midst of the Jacobite uprising). Peggy is an orphan living on her uncle's reluctant charity. The only bright spot in her life is her cousin Olivia, who genuinely loves her. But then Peggy is informed about a betrothal to a man she scarcely knows--a man who then proceeds to assault her in the garden at a party. When she tells her uncle she will not marry this man, her uncle kicks her out of the house. With no money and nowhere to go, Peggy follows the address given her a by a mysterious gentleman (who saved her from the assault at the party). There she finds that the gentleman and his business partner want her for a daring and dangerous plot: to take the part of one of the princess's maids of honor (a young girl who recently died).

Peggy agrees, somewhat relunctantly, and the plot takes off from there. The plot is admittedly a little slow as Peggy struggles to get used to the expectations of the court and the intrigues and rivalries with other maids. Then there's the footman who presumes an awful lot on his relationship with Francesca (the girl Peggy is replacing), and the young artist who's drawn Peggy's attention. It's only when Peggy begins to fear the real Francesca's death was no accident that she realizes she must solve the mysteries surrounding her new life, or she might face the same fate.

As I review this, it occurs to me that there are several plot holes: how is it that no one realized Francesca was replaced? She'd been ill, yes, and yes, the custom of the time was for a great deal of face paint (some of it lead, yikes!), but still, someone should have realized it. (Like maybe her former lover?). But I had a lot of fun reading the story, so I'm willing to overlook some of those gaps. There is, as mentioned above, a sexual assault early on that is pretty disturbing, so even though this book is written for a YA audience, it's probably not appropriate for very young readers.

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