It's been a long time again since my last review!
Author: Jennifer McGowan
Title: Maid of Secrets
Series: Maids of Honor #1
Release date: 7th of May 2013
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Historical, Romance
Pages: 416 pages in Hardback
Source: Bought from the Bookdepository
In this breathtaking start to a series, a secret society of young women make up Elizabeth I’s most trusted royal guard. God Save the Queen—or the Maids will.
Orphan Meg Fellowes makes her living picking pockets—until she steals from the wrong nobleman. Instead of rotting in prison like she expected, she’s whisked away to the court of Queen Elizabeth and pressed into royal service, where she joins four other remarkable girls in the Maids of Honor, the Queen’s secret society of protectors.
Meg’s natural abilities as a spy prove useful in this time of unrest. The Spanish Court is visiting, and with them come devious plots and hidden political motives. As threats to the kingdom begin to mount, Meg can’t deny her growing attraction to one of the dashing Spanish courtiers. But it’s hard to trust her heart in a place where royal formalities and masked balls hide the truth: Not everyone is who they appear to be. With danger lurking around every corner, can she stay alive—and protect the crown?
I was just in London and visited many historical sights and boy did it put this book into perfect context and me in a perfect mood for a historical YA set in Elizabethan London. Generally, I don’t read many from this genre, but this book definitely caught my fancy.
There were several aspects I enjoyed and, overall, I found the story charming, intriguing and full of action, sneaking around, backstabbing and where everyone was or could become a pawn, easily disposed – it was at times quite ruthless for a YA book, some scenes and situations screamed injustice and cruelty. There was a full out Information war happening – knowledge was everything, be it regarding your enemy or friend. Being suspicious of everything and everyone was also a key ingredient to stay on top.
More aspects I liked: The setting wasn’t your usual and what we were shown and described sounded pretty good and vivid. There was so much going on, so many storylines and trinkets of info spilled right and left, but little was actually revealed, also, an abundance of possible secrets that hopefully will be uncovered and explored were touched upon. This is, coincidentally, also the main con: At times there was too much happening to properly follow and understand who/what/where/why?
I liked how all characters were distinct and had their own quirks, presence, good and bad qualities and, most importantly, secrets and agendas. There is much to explore still and an array of characters to pick for full focus. There were some promising hints on possible storylines (mostly romance, which is an absolute win for me) for all the girls in the queen’s guard. Not all the characters, even the presumably “bad” ones were full black, there was a lot of gray and I couldn’t make my mind up about several important players, one moment they were almost nice, the second I wanted to hit them... hard. Well, I guess, everyone’s motives will be made clearer as we go along the series.
The main couple: Rafe and Meg’s relationship, encounters, battle of wits and outsmarting/stealing from the other, which were without a doubt one of the highlights for me in this book, complimented and didn’t take over the plot. I, however, do wish there would have been more of those two “crossing their blades,” but at least it was quality instead of quantity, so I’m happy. I would have also liked to see more interaction between Meg and the other maids, to see the sisterly/comrade bond form between them more in depth.
Meg was smart, fast and talented – an excellent spy/thief. She gets forced into this dangerous world of court with its scandals, betrayals and take-no-prisoners mindset. Despite all her extraordinary abilities, her constantly walking on glass made her vulnerable as well, not only this tough girl who fit like a glove in this world covered in shadows. Also, her inability to succeed in areas some of the other girls had as their specialty was at times adorably hilarious. Meg was a likable heroine who was easy to root for, but I have to complain again: I wish there had been more scenes with her and Rafe! That was the only thing missing.
Rafe – he was awesomely wicked, but incredibly swoony. Till the end and even then I didn’t have him completely figured out and at least to me he managed to stay elusive. Despite this, he was an Elizabethan bad boy who was too charming for his own good and the perfect match for Meg.
A very promising historical YA that exceeded my expectations and only managed to miss my 5 star mark by a millimeter (I’m too picky!). I’m eagerly waiting for the second book and confidently recommend this to all who are remotely interested in historical YA, this is a successful and great addition to that genre.