Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
Ugh. They paid someone to design this? Actually, my biggest problem is not the actual design, it’s more that it doesn’t fit. To me, this says, “Time-travel or costume party novel for 11-year-olds”, when actually, it’s a historical novel (no time-traveling involved), more for 14-year-olds. Three years makes a huge difference at that age! But also, it’s ugly.
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.
Yes, first of a planned series.
You probably have to be specifically in the mood for a lighthearted historical mystery, but if so, yes.
Peggy, the heroine, is very likable, very relatable to modern readers. She is not always the brightest bulb on the tree, but the story is fast-paced enough that you may not notice her denseness as much as you would in a slower-moving story. I mean, I did, but I’m a bit older and probably more widely-read than the target audience. However, she is a spy, so if she continues to blunder as carelessly in the next book…well, then it would really be a problem.
P.S. How cute is the bunny???
I mentioned that Peggy is very relatable to modern readers. This does occasionally mean she comes off as anachronistic. Her turns of phrase and some of her attitudes (especially to the fashion of the day) seem too modern. Considering the loving detail with which the fashion has been researched and described, it is especially jarring to have Peggy react as though she’d never encountered such things before.
Zettel has done her research, a fact that is evident throughout the novel. The politics of the time, the fashion, the atmosphere and activities of court, the duties of a lady-in-waiting…all are detailed, without ever feeling info-dumpy. I love this aspect of historical novels the best, and it was also my favorite part about Palace of Spies.
Although I had a few nitpicks with the book, I enjoyed it overall, and can definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a historical mystery that will not strain your brain too much, but will still educate you in a basic way about a time period that is not often written about. Especially recommended for those who are actually in the target age group.
Borrowed from work.