Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: Palace of Spies - Sarah Zettel

Palace of Spies
Sarah Zettel
Series: Palace of Spies, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Glorious
On Goodreads

Hello, everyone! It has been such a long time since I’ve written a review that I barely even know where to begin! I received Palace of Spies from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group on Netgalley. I was really intrigued by the description and the cover is just so pretty! Sadly, I had to wait a long time to read this one, but now that I’ve finally gotten a chance to read it, I have to say that it was worth the wait.

Palace of Spies is an invigorating tale of a girl, Peggy Fitzroy, who is kicked out of home and has to figure out what to do from there. Prior to getting kicked out, Peggy encountered a mysterious man by the name of Tinderflint, who claimed to know her deceased mother. Having nowhere else to go, Peggy goes to Tinderflint. Little does she know that going to this man will lead to taking up the name of Lady Francesca and journeying to the palace, officially as a maid to Princess Caroline, but also as a spy. While Peggy is under the guise of Lady Francesca, she finds that Francesca may not have been as upfront about what she was doing there as everyone thought. Peggy sets out to figure out what Francesca was up to, which leads her into even more dangerous territory than she ever thought.

I absolutely love Peggy. Truly. I often find that even in characters I really like, there are times when I’m annoyed with them or think they’re stupid. This did not happen for me with Peggy. From the very start of this book you can tell just how great Peggy is. She is the perfect mix of sassy, independent, strong, and curious. She’s brave, but in a smart way rather than a ridiculous and dangerous way. The way she interacts with others shows how well she can handle herself in different situations. She adjusts her behavior depending on whom she is with and what will help the most. Sarah Zettel did a beautiful job making sure that even with these changes in character, Peggy’s actions were still consistent with who she is and believable given her past.

Besides Peggy, there are also several great supporting characters – namely Mrs. Abbott and Matthew.

The way Peggy’s perspective on Mrs. Abbott changes throughout the story was truly wonderful. As a reader, I fully understood why Peggy felt the way she did about Abbott and was able to understand why these opinions changed – the opinions changed to me too! While I first felt Abbott was a mean, old lady, I really began to empathize with her later on. Abbott had a lot of depth and I appreciated the way it was implicitly portrayed and allowed the reader to gather her own understanding.

Oh, Matthew. He is so great. I really loved the relationship building between Matthew and Peggy throughout the story. Matthew is someone Peggy knows she can trust when everyone in the palace seems to have some sort of ulterior motive. Without Matthew helping her along, Peggy would probably never figure out the mystery of Lady Francesca.

Then there are the awful characters – not awful in the sense that they are poorly written, but just that I don’t like them.

Robert. Just… ew. He acts all sweet and nice to Peggy, but it’s clear from the beginning that he is a sneak. If you read this book (you really should), you’ll see what I mean – Sarah Zettel does a great job to balance Robert’s deceptive side with his sweet side while keeping him mysterious enough, making his actions both shocking and believable.

Then there’s the truly awful Sophy Howe. She is a meanie pants – the meaniest meanie pants that ever was. As soon as Peggy first encounters Sophy Howe, it’s clear how dreadful she is. She seems to have distaste for Francesca, the girl who Peggy is acting as, although Peggy cannot determine why. The less than pleasant disposition of Sophy is one of the biggest mysteries Peggy has to solve while disguised as Lady Francesca, along with how to handle such a vile human being.

Besides the characters, there are also beautiful descriptions of the clothing. I know many people may find the descriptions superfluous, but as a costume design major, it makes me so happy. I could totally visualize all the prettiness of Peggy’s dresses. So pretty. I also found the book well researched, in the sense that Sarah Zettel did a good job researching the time period in order to make the characters act in a period appropriate way. She also did a great job explaining those things in a way people unfamiliar with the period could understand. For example, one might not know what a mantua is off the top of her head, but not to worry – it is explained!

Overall, Palace of Spies is a fantastic book filled with mystery, romance, spies, pretty dresses, and more! The pacing was perfect and I could hardly put it down. I haven’t read any other works by Sarah Zettel, but with how much I enjoyed Palace of Spies, I’m interested in reading more of her work. I definitely recommend Palace of Spies to everyone. I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait for the next book in the series! (Please write another book. I’m begging you.)

- Kiersten

Would you pretend to be someone else if you had nowhere to go?
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