Series: Palace of Spies #2
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on November 4, 2014
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As a lady in waiting in King George’s London court, Peggy has survived a forced betrothal, royal scandals, and an attempt or two on her life. And now she has a new problem: her horrible fiancé has returned to claim her! To save her neck, or at least her hand in marriage, Peggy joins forces with her cousin Olivia and her sweetheart, Matthew. But if she doesn’t play her cards right, her career as courtier and spy might come to an end at the bottom of the river Thames . . .
You can check out my review of the first book in this series, Palace of Spies #1 HERE.
(I love this series. HARD.)
I love Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction and read quite a bit of both, so I wouldn’t say I’m easily impressed. There’s just something so clever about Sarah Zettel’s characters/dialogue, and something so sneaky-educational about her writing. I’ve never learned so much about the time period and customs of King George I’s court as I have from reading her deceptively scholarly Palace of Spies novels.
Peggy Fitzroy, our protagonist, is dealt another wild card in this sequel to Palace of Spies as the fiancé she escaped from in her previous life outside of the palace comes to court to haunt her. We have a setting change from Hampton Court Palace to St.James Palace in London in this book, and the pacing and feel of the novel is something akin to a royal horse-drawn carriage dashing its way through a bumpy country road. Just as Peggy thinks she’s gained some ground, some sinister nuisance becomes a stick in her wagon wheel. Peggy is a refreshing heroine in Hanoverian England. She’s smart and determined and refuses to let outside circumstances and conventions determine her destiny.
The layman’s reconnaissance missions and suspenseful games of cat and mouse were wholly entertaining. The budding romance between Peggy and ”the wrong boy” is the stuff that romance novels are made of. The competitive court atmosphere and games of gossip roulette are pitch perfect. Dangerous Deceptions will be a special treat for those who are eagerly awaiting the new season of BBC’s The Musketeers like I am. The Palace of Spies novels carry all the action, adventure, romance, and wonderful plotting and story telling that The Musketeers does.
It seems like a horribly LONG TIME to wait for the next novel in this series to come out (January 2016), but I know the wait will be worth it. Here’s the cover of the third installment, Assassin’s Masque:
Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
Series: Palace of Spies #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on November 5, 2013
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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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.
Let’s start with the AWESOME book trailer, shall we?
Fans of Etiquette and Espionage will (should) love Palace of Spies.
I try to refrain from doing this- but after reading the book and giving it five stars on Goodreads, I scanned some of the less than stellar reviews of the novel. One reviewer commented that the book had ”casual racism” in it and I was a little perplexed by this.
There were no instances of ”casual racism”, just social norms that were true to the time period which is to be expected in a true-to-form Historical Fiction novel. Even with that being said, there wasn’t anything insensitive to a particular race in this novel that I can recall.
Moving on, I read A LOT of Historical Fiction. I’m not easily impressed when it comes to the HF, and I absolutely LOVED this novel. Palace of Spies was pitch perfect for me. Sara Zettel really nailed the historical voice and feel of the time period.
A sample of Sarah Zettel’s lovely writing:
Whatever indignation I felt was entirely banished by the sudden intrusion of complete bewilderment. Separately, all things made sense. Sebastian’s hand under my chin was warm. His eyes were blue. His brow, beneath the line of his tidy wig, was wide and clear. His mouth was inclined to smile. It was the details that threatened to overwhelm: how one corner of his mouth tipped softly upward, how his long, thick lashes curved as he half closed those blue eyes to concentrate on his task. The soft, persistent pattering of the linen against my face. The crook of his strong finger under my chin and the way in which he guided my head to turn slightly to the left so he could minister to another portion of my wounded cheek.
Although the majority of this book could be considered suitable for Mid-grade readers, it gradually matured as far as context/content goes and felt like a solid YA by the end of it.
Monarchs: King George I, Caroline- Princess of Wales, Frederick-Prince of Wales (King George II)
The settings and descriptions were splendid as the female protagonist, Peggy Fitzroy, assumes her spot under a false identity as one of Princess Caroline’s Maids of Honor in King George I’s court. There are three major location settings, but most of our intrigue and spying takes place at the maze-like Hampton Court Palace.
Some lovely interior/exterior views of Hampton Court Palace where the story takes place:
The premise of the novel is familiar enough: Girl is an orphan with no rights of her own-Girl is forced to betroth a most unamiable man of stature and wealth-Girl refuses betrothal and is disowned by uncle-Girl is forced to accept a mysterious proposition by one who offers to take her in.
Palace of Spies was a page turner for me. The pacing was enjoyable and the Royal mystery was extremely fun and quite possible for the time period. Sarah Zettel has obviously been meticulous in her research of court customs, fashion, affairs, and cosmetics. The author seriously immerses the reader in this time period and the socio-political atmosphere during George the first’s reign.
While reading this I was reminded of a film or two I have seen before, but cannot recall their names at the moment. There was a sort of immersion into action/dialogue/plot, and then moments where time would stand still as the protagonist observed something/realized something/assessed a situation. Maybe like the intro of 2011’s Three Musketeers film– where things are sped up and then slowed down? You know what cinema effect I’m talking about.
Sarah Zettel’s syntax and style is ridiculously good. It might possibly be distractingly good, at first, to the reader because of how ”historical” it sounds, but I found I quickly adapted to the narration.
The narrative is written as a sort of memoir of Peggy Fitzroy, and each chapter begins with a fun heading like:
“In Which Our Heroine Perfects Her Role, Renews Acquaintances, And Unfolds Fresh Mysteries.”
When I read a historical novel that is set amidst the backdrop of a court and involves real historical monarchs, I usually NEED for the historical context to be accurate, and Sarah Zettel does just that. She’s weaved Peggy’s story in and out of accurate descriptions of the history and prominent people of this time period. This is NOT an alternate history novel. There is just a believable fictitious story thrown in. During Peggy’s palace adventure, we see: King George I, Prince and Princess of Wales, Robert Walpole, Isaac Newton, G.F. Handel, the list goes on.
Below: Newton, Walpole, and Handel
I absolutely LOVED that Sarah Zettel put things in perspective by including other non-fictional characters from the world of science, music, and court politics to give the reader an idea of what else was going on in the world during this time period, even if they were just briefly referenced.
There is a touch of forbidden romance that promises much more in the sequel: Dangerous Deceptions. I wholeheartedly enjoyed this book and am now a Sarah Zettel fangirl. I recommend the Palace of Spies series to fans of Gail Carriger. Although, I don’t want to lean too heavily on drawing comparisons between the two because Sarah Zettel’s work deserves to stand alone on its own merits (I enjoyed PoS WAY MORE than E&E). Have you read Palace of Spies? Do share your thoughts. 🙂
And just for fun:
“Water Music” by Handel (1717) – This was played for King George and his royal guests.