Highs of a Book: A Poem

You’re nothing but the mushed, crushed pulp
of bloated, water-logged trees past help,
Pressed into thin sheaves that whinge and yelp,
Black barnacle spreading on it like kelp.

Nought but sheets of paper, ink bled through-
A potent drug of highs and torment. (Why aren’t you taboo?)
Causing rich, drawn-out hallucinations untrue.
So vivid and lifelike- no wonder I’m addicted to you!

It’s all a matter of fickle, fickle perspective.
Are you degenerative or miraculously corrective?
No doubt you’re sweet, zealously addictive.
There’s nothing I haven’t done under your influence.

You lay so innocuously. Spine languid and stretched.
Mine too as I breathe you, consume your every inch.
To some, you may be wicked, or an inanimate wretch.
But to me you’re pure awe-some-nothing more, nothing less.

You’re awe-some as I flip your fresh and fine front cover,
As I finger past first one and then another chapter.
When I flip the last page and you’re finally over,
You’re still awe-some as you wait for another reader.

Why Do We Love the Characters We Do?

It’s no secret that the characters are the most important aspect of YA books. Yes, it’s so much more important that snazzy (does anyone use that word anymore?) brave, new worlds or even a plot (embarrassing, but I have loved books which are absolutely filled with fluff).

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
-Ernst Hemmingway

Characters….Whether it is a Gandalf like wise old mentor, or a butt-kicking heroine like Katniss (or maybe someone more relatable like a female protagonist from any Sarah Dessan book), or a meltingly hot love interest like Raffe from Angelfall, we all know that characters are the bread and butter of a good book.
Sure, a surreal setting or a cute plot is nice to have but ultimately they just form the characters. I guess, you could say they give them the opportunity to shine.

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
-Ray Bradbury

Personally, I’ve noticed I have a pattern when it comes to the characters and books I like.
I love it when the main characters (mostly girls, which I know is unfair but it’s just that I find them easier to relate to),are cynical, smart (though not as smart as they think they are) cheeky ,rebellious,a bit dismissive of the people around them and great liars. I love the con-men (or maybe just the con-women), the mercenaries, the pickpockets and the soldiers who don’t necessarily take the orders that are given to them. In other words I like characters that are more black than white on the monochromatic scale of inherent human goodness.

Is it because I can identify with them? Is it because I like seeing these half-villain kind of characters ironically turn into protagonists? Does it keep me hopeful that I’m capable of being a better person? Or perhaps I just like these kind of characters because they’re the ones capable of doing something, anything- and I want to be that kind of person. Maybe it’s just becuase I really appreciate the fact that they refuse to be defined, that they can play a multitude of roles. It’s hard to analyze how much of what comes into play, but a whole bunch of variables go into the making of a character. And just as many go into the liking (or disliking) of these characters.

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make you’re brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.”
-John Green

Examples: Alex from the Ashes trilogy, Katrina from Heist Society, Calaena from the Throne of Glass series, Mare from Red Queen, etc.

For the love-interests, I think the reasons are a whole lot less complex. I like them witty, a little jaded and capable. Confidence is great as long as it’s not arrogance. It’s a lot harder to find love-interests like this in books than you’d think.
Examples: Akiva from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Jonah Griggs from the Jellicoe Road
And then there are the side characters. These come in huge varieties. You have the totally cliched ones and then you have the ones which are multi-dimensional, insightful, funny and totally human.
Examples: Dee and Dum from Angelfall, Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series
When I say I love a book, it’s probably because I can relate very deeply to a character (usually a main character but sometimes a side one too). It’s because I can imagine them floating or walking or jumping out or whatever from the pages of the book. I can see my friends and family in them. I can see myself in them. And sometimes I can see someone who I want to be or someone I used to be in them. That makes it sound like I have a split-personality disorder. I don’t (at least I don’t think I do). But there are several aspects to my character and I love when I can identify a part of myself in another person- or another character.

“The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.”
― Milan Kundera

Summer 2015: Books I Plan to Read

Yes, summer has started for me.
And that means temperatures soaring to 40 degrees, a crazy amount of mangoes entering the house, no school and perhaps most importantly, the time to read a bunch of amazing new material.
So here it is. A list of 5 new releases I want  plan to read this summer:

  1. Things We Know By Heart

    Author: Jessi Kirby

    Release Date: April 21

    Things We Know by Heart
    When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

    After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

    Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.


  2. A Court of Thorns and Roses
    (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)

    Author:Sarah J Maas

    Release Date: May 5

    A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)
    When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

    As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.


  3. End of Days
    (Penryn and the End of Days #3 or Angelfall #3)

    Author: Susan Ee

    Release Date: May 12

    End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days, #3)
    After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

    When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?


  4. The Wicked Will Rise
    ( Dorothy Must Die #2)

    Author: Danielle Paige

    Release Date: March 31

    The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die, #2)To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die….

    But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn’t wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?


  5. Saint Anything

    Author: Sarah Dessan

    Release Date: May 5 (expexted)

    Saint Anything
    Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

    Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

    The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Young Elites: A Book Review

Book: Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)

Blurb:

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

My thoughts:

I thought the Legend series by Marie Lu was okay at best so I wasn’t too excited when I heard about Young Elites. That quickly changed after I read the blurb and an interview with Marie Lu saying that she wanted to write about the creation of a villain.

description

Right from the start, Adelina stole my heart (and I was a willing victim).  She’s deformed and is abused by her father who is willing to sell her off as a mistress for a little bit of gold. It’s impossible not to feel any sympathy for her but at the same time Marie Lu has done an excellent job showing Adelina’s dark hatred and her desire to inflict pain, making it obvious that she is no hero. This is made only more obvious when Adelina buckles quickly under Teren’s threats against her sister Violetta to give him information about the Young Elites. I got caught up in this wondorously complex character who likes causing pain but at the same time despises herself for enjoying it. She hates her father but at the same time she really wanted to please him and I think she really did regret committing patricide. This probably makes me sound like a twisted person, but I enjoyed watching Adelina descend the steps towards insanity and darkness. I hoped for her redemption, but at the same time I knew she was never gonna get it.

Adelina’s relationship with Violetta was one of my favourite book sibling relationships. Adelina resents her sister’s naivety and innocence and is clearly jealous of Violetta’s charisma.  Combined with Adelina’s sadistic tendencies, you’d think that Adelina would do her best to hurt her sister. Surprise! She’s fiercely protective of her sister and constantly thinks about her well-being.  Violetta is one of the few people Adelina loves unconditonally and she would do anything (and everything) to keep her safe and happy. Later in the book, it’s revealed that Violetta has a huge secret. I can’t tell you what it is without giving major spoilers but I can tell you that Adelina’s love for her sister is not unrepriocated; Violetta does her best to keep her elder sister safe as well.

Contrary to what the blurb suggest, there is not a love triangle. In fact, the romance plays a smaller role than you would expect. I was not a huge fan of the love interest, Enzo. Sure, he was dark, dangerous, royal and mysterious but his coldness at the beginning of the book kind of put me off and I wasn’t a fan of the tough training he imposed on Adelina. But I guess I’m kind of a hypocrite because during reading, I found myself anticipating the Adelina/Enzo scenes; they had an explosive amount of  chemistry .

So if the book wasn’t full of romance, what was it full of? Action. Swords, knives and control of powers.Not just quantity but quality too. I loved  watching Adelina use her powers (even if I was somewhat creeped out at the same time). Marie Lu did an amazing job giving a description of the working of everyone’s powers and the energy web. Can I just say- Wow!

On a more serious note, the book spends a huge time discussing how the scary appearance of malfettos (those are the young elites) bred first contempt and then fear amongst the society. It got worse when the government started using them as a scrapegoat for all sorts of mishaps and accidents. Stuck among a society which openly discriminated against them and reviled them, the young elites struck back with attacks. And then it continued in a pointless circle (see what I did there?) which just kept escalating. Pretty profound actually, if you think about it. I guess it reminds us not to hate people just cause they look different, or act different.

This book doesn’t have much of a storyline but I found myself enjoying it just the same. It was all thanks to the elaborate world-building and awesome characters. At parts it got kind of dark and disturbing and I didn’t always like it but as a whole I loved the book.

My Ratings:

Cover: 2/5

Plot: 2/5

Characters: 4/5

Romance: 4/5

Action: 5/5

Plotholes: 4/5

Ending: 3/5

Overall Rating: 4/5

Recommend it to: Anyone who wants to read something dark set in an amazing world with powerful characters. At the same time, all the reasons to read this book make it PG 13.

Book similar to this: Cruel Beauty, The Masque of Red Death and Pure

Blood of Olympus

Book: Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus #5)

Author: Rick Riordan

The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)

Blurb:

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it “might” be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

My thoughts: 

This is the end of the Heroes of Olympus series and the end of books based on Percy Jackson and the Greek Pantheon- Something that I was pretty depressed to hear about but after reading the book I’m starting to wonder if it may be for the best.
Five books in a middle-grade series another five in a young adult series as well as several companion books like the Demigod Files and Gods of Olympus…I think we’ve had a pretty good run.

In this book Percy is featured a lot less than he is in the other books. Don’t get me wrong! He’s still doing heroic stuff but  this book emphasizes that he’s a normal guy. A capable and heroic guy for sure. But at the end of the day he’s just a normal guy with an affinity for the sea, crazy loyalty and just a little bit of heroism. In Blood of Olympus, Percy Jackson stands back a little and lets the rest of the demigods take center-stage.

We get a deeper insight into  the terrifying depths of Nico’s mind. We see the dynamics of Hazel and Nico’s sibling relationship. I wouldn’t say Nico shines in this book (can you imagine him doing that?) but a lot of the focus is put on him. For the first time, we get to see things from his point of view. This was something I had just been dying for-especially after his major reveal in House of Hades.

We finally get to see Reyna and her entire back-story which had been alluded to in Son of Neptune but never brought out. It sounds like an uncommon pairing, but Nico and Reyna get along really well…as friends. Her point of view was the most surprising and enjoyable in the book. She’s not a total ice queen; but she is more mature and has gone through stuff which is a lot darker than what the others have gone through.

Piper…she was the character everyone loved to hate. She’s a daughter of Aphrodite and guys I think we all (as well as the monsters) underestimated her. People thought she did a lot of growing in the last book but whoa, in this book she will blow you out of the water. Do not underestimate the power of…love and charmspeaking and emotions and gut-feelings and instincts.

Leo matures a little bit in this book (although he’s still as hilarious). After House of Hades, he’s a bit Calypso-obsessed and no matter how much I ship them, I kind of found it annoying. As always, he relies more on his wit, words and cunning (are you sure you aren’t an Athena kid, Leo?) than on his brawn. But Leo, fans everywhere want to know- What’s up with all the self-sacrifice?

The idea of family was explored in this book with intense sibling relationships beign featured (Yay for Thalia and Jason, Hylla and Reyna and Nico and Hazel!) and yes, Gaea was partially defeated by taunts of failed family.

This was the end of the entire series and Uncle Rick had a lot of loose ends to tie up. Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book where he tied up everything felt a bit rushed and over-simplified. I was prepared for character deaths and horrible cliff-hangers but everyone got their happy ever-afters. I felt a little bit cheated. I expected tears and bloodshed but instead there were pegasi and smiles all around.

And the ending is why this book gets such a low rating. Somehow, it manged to leave me disappointed and unsatisfied with everything wrapped up just too neatly. I think I’ve outgrown the series, but then this is the end.

My Ratings:

Cover: 4/5

Plot: 4/5

Characters: 3/5

Romance: N/A- (Romance took a major backseat in this book)

Ending: 1/5

Plotholes: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

I would recommend to: Anyone who hasn’t finished the series yet. It’s not my favorite ending but at least it is an ending.

Will I read his next book: Maybe. The Magnus Chase series comes out next year and it’s based on Norse Mythology. While I love Norse mythology, I kind of feel that I’ve outgrown Riordan and his somewhat childish (but hilarious) writing style.

Cruel Beauty: A Book Review

Book: Cruel Beauty
Author/Authoress: Rosamund Hodge

Cover: 3/5

Plot:5/5

Blurb:

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

My thoughts:

Despite the unfortunate blurb (trust me, this book is a lot better than the blurb suggests), this is hand’s down, the best fairy-tale book I’ve ever read. It manages to keep the essential elements for a fairytale- a twisted house with bunches of locked up rooms, a curious girl who goes poking around and a father who was stupid enough to give up his daughter to someone he thought of as a monster. But this book…this book transcends fairytales. There’s a healthy sprinkling of Greek mythology (Squee!) and, wonderfully lovable twisted characters and witty, esoteric dialogues (how is it that people shut up in a single house can be so sarcastic, witty and funny in turn?)

Characters: 5/5

What I liked the book the most for was the main character.

Nyx is not a good girl. Not at all. She kind of hates her aunt, resents her father and is deeply jealous of her obedient and beautiful twin sister. In fact the last thing she tells her sister is that she hates her and their mother’s death was her fault. Outrageously shocking, right? Wrong. For the sake of his wife,  Nyx’s father agreed to give away one of his daughters in marriage (read exchange them like they’re property) to a monster. By some cruel twist of fate (or maybe it was just a bad bargain), Nyx’s mother dies in childbirth and Nyx’s twin, who is lucky enough to look exactly like her mother is spared. However, this means that Nyx is the one destined to marry and kill the Lord of Bargains. It’s death sentence but no one in her family seems to understand the sacrifice she is making. Wouldn’t you resent and hate your family too if they were insensitive enough to make a plan to send you to your death without even a hint of sympathy?

So, Nyx has a bit of a dark streak. But at the same time, she’s terribly noble, clever and brave. It’s impossible not to root for her after reading a few pages. She has a very strong sense of justice and is hugely empathetic.

Romance:4/5

Ignifex is Nyx’s husband and he’s…for lack of a better word amazing. His sense of humour is strong and tends to be inappropriate at times (he’s the kind of guy who cracks jokes for fun, cracks jokes to break the tension, cracks jokes at serious times- basically he cracks a lot of jokes).His sense of humour juxtaposes with his reputation of being a dark, mysterious being who cheats people out of their lives, their family and generally their own happiness. He’s a bit of an enigma, really. And he’s completely (not just a bit) bipolar. At one second he could be warning his ‘wife’ with a deep, profound metamorphic story and then the next he would be saying something sarcastic and witty, making you (and Nyx) wonder what he really meant. Ignifex is the type of character who keeps you on the very tips of your toes, alternatively rolling your eyes at the cheesiness of his pickup lines (did they have pickup lines in medieval times?) and then leaning forward wondering if he had finally unveiled some great mystery about himself. He simultaneously infuriates and intrigues Nyx and their chemistry is very obvious.

A lot of things are ambiguous in this book. And the romance in this is one of them. I’m still not clear if there’s a love triangle or not. 

Shade is a servant in Ignifex’s servant, he’s a shadow at all times during the day but during the night he wears a face exactly like Ignifex’s. At first I thought he was the ‘good guy’ because he actively helps Nyx find a way to destroy Ignifex and is portrayed to be gentle and sweet  but like all the characters in the book, he’s a grey character who has done his share of horrendous things. At one point we are told, that Shade is Ignifex’s opposite; what Ignifex has, Shade does not and what Shade has, Ignifex does not.

Ending:2/5

I couldn’t really understand the ending. It was beautiful and it was profound but I wasn’t able to apprectiate all the the depth of the ending.

Plotholes:4/5

Cruel Beauty is a beautiful book which is about the consequences of one’s actions, shades of grey and sacrifice. All of these are very ambiguous topics so it’s not really a surprise that this book is unclear at some points, using metaphors which you have to read a couple of times to truly understand. I don’t understand why the blurb markets this book as a simple, frivolous, fun fairy-tale; this book is not exactly light reading (although it is pretty fun). At some parts it can get dark and at others it gets very deep.

Overall Rating:4/5

If you’re looking for a good young-adult book based on a fairy tale, then I would recommend this book to you. It’s beautifully gritty and dark- just like a REAL fairy-tale (not a Disney one) so you might want to keep that in mind when you finally pick it up to read.

 

Maid of Secrets : A Book Review

Book: Maid of Secrets (Maids of Honor  #1)
Author: Jennifer McGowan

Maid of Secrets (Maids of Honor, #1)

Cover: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Blurb:

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?

My thoughts:
I always love a protagonist who is a little bit bad. Assassins, mercenaries, traitors to their kingdoms, etcetra, etcetra. It’s all in the moral dilemma.  Plus, it’s always nice when the narrator is a bit spicy and not completely made of sugar. So when I saw this historical fiction set in Queen Elizabeth’s court about a pickpocket, actor and eavesdropper who was fresh off the filthy, crass streets of poor Victorian London, I was immediately intrigued. Combined with the promise of an interesting romance and a lot of spy work, this book was irresistible. And it did a pretty good job living up to it’s promise.

Character: 3/5

I adore Meg. She is smart and witty. I love the constant references she makes to theatre and acting. Although she may be a thief (or later a spy) by profession, Jennifer McGowan makes it pretty obvious that her true passion is acting. And Oh God! She does act well! Even when she finds herself in unfamiliar situations where her first reaction is to flounder, she is able to don an actor’s mask and get what she wants.
Yet, throughout the book she’s able to retain her air of innocence. She’s almost simplistically naïve about the fact that her Majesty’s spies may ask her to spy on them. Her discomfort with kissing and being in love and her clumsiness when she has to pretend to be both is simultaneously amusing and relatable.

The other maid’s were portrayed very stereotypically. There’s Jane the practical (I’m not sure what fits her best) killer, assassin?, Anna the smart one, Beatrice the pretty seductress (think mean girls) and Sophia who can see the future. However I’m still pretty sure we’ll be able to see more depth in these characters. This book focused on Meg alone; the other books promise to focus on each maid of honor. Maid of Deception, which releases later this month will be Beatrice’s story.

Romance:4/5

Count Rafe is a Spanish courtier (we later find out that he’s only posing as one; his main role is a spy). Right from his first appearance in the book, he catches Meg’s eye and he in turn is attracted by her. Meg makes use of this attraction to pick-pocket important letters and documents from him. When he catches her, he makes things a lot more complicated. Although it was pretty clear from the beginning that he was the main love interest, it wasn’t so clear whether he was trust-worthy or not. Confident, bold and Spanish- what more can I say- I fell in love with him almost as much as Meg did.  This is one of the few historical romances that I actually like. They’re both talented liars, pickpockets, and spies, providing us with a stunning amount of tension and chemistry

Ending:3/5

No cliff-hangers. No happy ever after. I kind of want to know what happens next but I don’t think another book from Meg’s point of view is necessary. I’m definitely looking forward to reading from Beatrice’s point of view. She strikes me as a super interesting character and I hope she mentions Rafe and Meg’s romance (at least in passing).

Plotholes:4/5

This was a very fun read. It probably wasn’t linguistically accurate for the time (although kudos to Jennifer McGowan for trying); it probably wouldn’t have much sense to me if it was though. From what I know of sixteenth century London, it’s accurate enough.

There are no deeper messages entombed in the book. Or at least none that I could see. The book seems to answer two questions well: ‘Who do you owe your loyalty to? and, ‘Thief or spy?’

Overall Rating:3.5/5

This was a fun read and it’s rare that I can say that for a historical fiction book. I’d definitely recommend this book to any teenage girl. I think you’d like the spy aspect of it, the gradual friendships and the romance. At the same time, you won’t be bogged down with too much history or court politics.