Monday, January 25, 2016

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan Review

Author: Jennifer McGowan
Series: Maids of Honor
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
Buy it on Amazon

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan was one of those books that I had to put down and think about for a while before I could really appreciate it. It was an impulse buy from Book Outlet, but the premise sounded so interesting I couldn't wait to read it. I know this book and its sequels are incredibly under-hyped and not a single major BookTuber or Reviewer that I follow has reviewed them yet. I believe this first installment was published in 2013, and there are two sequels released so far with two more to be published in the next few years.

This first book follows Meg, who is one of five young spies that work for Queen Elizabeth I. So, Shakespeare's time, and if you haven't guessed each book in the series follows a different spy. Orphan Meg Fellows, is brought into spy training after being caught stealing coins from the wrong guy. She is a gifted thief and has a few other remarkable gifts that I won't spoil for you. However, Meg is a valuable asset to Queen Elizabeth, who is trying to sniff out a few rats that are attempting to undermine her rule (through destruction and murder) for two reasons: she's protestant and a woman. So, the story follows Meg as she attempts to do her assignments for Queen Elizabeth to eventually gain her freedom (remember she was caught stealing and is technically a prisoner).

There really was a lot I liked about this book. I mean Teenage Elizabethan Spies, need I say more? The author is also a legitimate historian to this era and her terminology and descriptions of the setting and elaborate costuming were incredibly precise, which I appreciated. She also used real historical facts about Queen Elizabeth's personality and her reign to help push the story forward. None of the story lines about Elizabeth or plots against were exaggerated to the unbelievable and probably could have really happened. Meg's story was also an interesting one and the reader got to experience learning about Meg's parents right along with her, which made Meg a sympathetic character. The romance seemed a little insta-love-ish to me in the beginning but by the end I really did enjoy their relationship development. I also enjoyed Meg's commentary on the roles of women in the Elizabethan era. McGowan made this complex time period easy and fun to read while keeping the events as realistic as possible, which I really appreciate now that I am done with the book. Plus it has a fantastic ending!

So, going into this book I was thinking "spies and murder plots, must have tons of action!" Um, not really. The beginning and end both have a lot of action, but the middle was much more dry. There was mostly talking and investigating and Meg eavesdrops more than anything else. While it was interesting, it wasn't what I was expecting. And now that I look back on it, I think its the setting. I mean they never leave the palace. It's not like a modern spy book with car chases and gun battles. The characters are very proper and very much expected to be lady's of the Queen's court. They talk a lot about dresses and marriage while discussing their investigations. It was odd to me at first. And it made some parts slow to get through. So, just know going in what you are getting into. The only other thing that bothered me was the language. McGowan slipped in and out of modern English and Old English throughout the book. Most of the time they spoke Modern English, which I understand because it is a YA novel and not a historical non-fiction. But she did slip in the Old English occasionally which made it seem kind of inconsistent at parts but not unreadable.

I would recommend this book to YA readers that like historical fiction. Like I said, this is a very interesting time period and McGowan with her background paints a realistic picture of life in the palace with Queen Elizabeth. I originally gave this book 3.5 stars when I first finished the book, but now that I have had some distance I am upgrading it to 4 stars, and I will be reading the next book later in the year.

Get Maid of Secrets here!

Let me know if you have read this book and what you thought of it, or if you are planning on picking it up!

See ya soon,