Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

By Ekta R. Garg

October 16, 2013

Rated: Bookmark it!

A young woman gets caught up in palace intrigue when a string of events places her there as a lady-in-waiting in the court of King George I.  What starts as a simple bid to blend into the situation turns into a play to trump her foes and still come out aces.  Young adult author Sarah Zettel thoroughly entertains and engages her readers in the wonderful novel Palace of Spies, the first book in the “Most Dangerous Deception” series.

In London in 1716 Peggy Fitzroy lives with her aunt, uncle, and beloved cousin.  Her mother died years ago, and she doesn’t know her father’s whereabouts.  Although Peggy’s uncle mostly tolerates her, she and her cousin, Olivia, are best friends.  They share several common interests, including a love of drama and all things romantic.  The cousins believe they’ll get a healthy dose of both when Peggy’s uncle arranges her marriage.

A social affair certainly provides them with the drama, and then some.  Peggy meets her intended and makes an emphatic decision not to marry him.  Enraged that she would defy his decision, Peggy’s uncle throws her out of the house with nothing.  For a woman in eighteenth-century England, the lack of any paternal or male support can spell doom.

Desperate for a way out of her dire circumstances, Peggy begins to weigh her options and remembers another person she met at the party.  The mysterious Mr. Tinderflint rescued her from a potentially disastrous situation at the time and later hinted he might know something about her mother that Peggy didn’t know before.  Would Mr. Tinderflint be willing to help her again?

Peggy finds out that the answer is a decided “yes,” but in exchange for refuge she must help Mr. Tinderflint with something: she must masquerade as the Lady Francesca Wallingham in the royal palace.  The real Lady Francesca died under enigmatic circumstances, and Mr. Tinderflint and his associates want to know what happened.  When Peggy gets to court, however, she realizes that life in the palace is more about bluffing than anything else.  She learns that even a simple card game offers the opportunity for intrigue and calls each bluff, but soon she finds out that she could possibly become the victim of the next royal flush.

Author Sarah Zettel walks a fine balance between irony and irreverence, a technique that could quickly go awry in the hands of a less talented writer.  Zettel gets it right on every single page.  She also provides readers with a lot of information about the life of young women in that era while keeping her audience captivated with the mystery surrounding the death of the real Francesca and Peggy’s role in the entire situation.  While the book does include a scene that might be considered inappropriate for its target audience, adults will have fun finding out about Peggy and her life.

I highly recommend Palace of Spies for anyone who enjoys mysteries of any kind, and even though the book is marketed to readers ages 12 and up I think adults will like this one just as much.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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