Monday, April 15, 2013

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

 The Spy Princess by Sherwood Smith -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

Twelve-year-old Lilah Selenna is bored being a noblewoman. Her father scarcely pays any attention to her and her older brother Peiter has taken to creating more questions than answering them. When Lilah wonders why the villagers are shouting and throwing stones at her family, she disguises herself as a boy and heads out into the village to investigate. She discovers that the people are angry with her father, the prince, and her uncle, the King and are eager for change. Lilah feels the people are justified in their anger but is quite surprised to discover that not only does Peiter feel the same way, he's also a leader in a revolutionary movement. Peiter's friend Derek is a firebrand ready to strike, but Peiter urges caution and careful discussion. On a visit to the Palace, Lilah discovers an unexpected ally but makes a terrible mistake that results in rebellion and chaos. Amidst the chaos of the aftermath of the revolution, Lilah and her friends must learn what they're fighting for and how to fight the right way. Can the four kids figure out how to save the nation before anyone else, especially Peiter, is killed? This book is a fun adventure story for tweens along the lines of Tamora Pierce and Shannon Hale. The plot is interesting and shows some parallels to American, French and Russian revolutions. (A character borrows phrases from the Declaration of Independence). The moral of the story is woven throughout the plot and leaves the reader to draw conclusions based on the events of the novel rather than hitting them over the head with a major point. I couldn't put this book down until the end. I had a few minor problems though. The title and dust jacket description are misleading. The spy part doesn't come until the final third of the novel. Either the beginning and middle need to be condensed or the book should have been given a different title. There's a magical land that isn't explained very well and those readers having no knowledge of Sartorias-deles are left a bit confused. However, the book can be read as a stand alone. The ending was also very abrupt and the book needs a sequel. Lilah is a spirited tomboy who is eager to escape her stuffy life but isn't quite ready to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. Her personality makes her a great heroine that tweens and young teens can relate to. Lilah hates the idea of romance and marriage so that makes this book suitable for younger readers who dislike that sort of thing. However, there is a lot of violence and people are killed so more sensitive readers should not read this book. I recommend Spy Princess to fantasy fans ages 11-14. 

I discovered after reading this book, that there is a sequel and several other books for middle grades readers about Sartorias-deles. Sherwood Smith has also written young adult and adult novels set in the same universe. (Crown Duel is one of my favorite romance novels ever written!)

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