What I Read in November 2016 Part II. . .The Assassin's Masque by Sarah Zettel-- Young Adult Historical Mystery
Peggy Fitzroy is supposed to be mourning her uncle, but there was no love lost between them so she is focused on protecting her aunt and keeping her cousin's temper under control. When a mysterious veiled woman shows up at the funeral, announces she knew Peggy's mother and they were "Birds of a feather", Peggy's curiosity is piqued. Her family members aren't providing any answers and there are more questions and more intrigue at court. Her Royal Highness believes that the Jacobite plot Peggy's uncle was involved in was only one strand of the web but with enemies at court, Mr. Tinderflint not answering questions and her father conspicuously missing (again), Peggy doesn't know what to think. She can't be sure she can trust her allies anymore either. She can rely only her beloved cousin Olivia and true love Matthew for help. Can they ferret out the plot without getting anyone killed?
This is a fabulous ending for Peggy's story. It kept me turning the pages and I couldn't put it down until I had finished the whole thing (past 2 am). There's lots of intrigue and adventure in this novel, plus romance and some humor. In parts it reminded me of the later Harry Potter books when Harry learns certain things about his trusted allies and himself that make him question his role in the plot to overthrow evil. Peggy finds herself in a similar situation. Like Peggy, I couldn't figure out who was telling the truth, or at least who wasn't telling the whole truth. Unlike Peggy, I knew when someone wasn't sincere but it was doubtful which of her adult allies she could trust. Even Sophy becomes an unknown factor. There is some violence and darker parts to the story but there's plenty of humor to balance it out. The Prince's masque is an especially funny section of the book, in the beginning anyway. The questions surrounding Peggy's aunt and Uncle Pierpont's mother are not fully resolved and that's the only thing I found to complain about in this review.
I love how all the characters have so much depth, even Sophy avoids becoming a cliche in this novel. I just love Peggy. She's sassy, intelligent, witty and loyal but she's not perfect. Peggy has a temper, she is unsure of herself at times, she makes mistakes and dare I say it - has nerves! I like her as she is. It makes her a fun heroine and someone readers can relate to. Her true blue cousin Olivia is a little silly, with an overactive imagination, but she's lived and sheltered and pampered life so she knows little of real life the way Peggy does. She provides a lot of the humor. I can't help but love her though. She's so much fun and her energy and enthusiasm for schemes are infectious. Sophy goes through the most character development in this novel alone. She's complicated. She actually has a lot in common with Peggy so naturally they don't get along. I was surprised at some of the things she did in this book but then not surprised by her motivation. I think she is a victim of gender roles in Georgian England and just wants to get ahead the only way she knows how, while Peggy accepts her fate as a poor orphan and anything else is a bonus. She's more tough than Sophy. The Princess of Wales is awesome. She's more shrewd and a better judge of character than her husband, she directs the spying action within the court, manages her young family, spends alone time with her husband all while ready to give birth! I must look her up and find out if she really was an amazing, strong woman.
Matthew is a swoony hero. He's too good to be true outside the pages of a book. I just loved him. He's a great boyfriend for Peggy. He loves her but understands her need to direct the action and will willingly follow her into danger and fight for her. What a guy! Peggy's father is a little mysterious. I'm not sure I really like him. He's a roguish sort of character and not much of a father. It's easy to see where Peggy gets her brains the more we learn about her parents. Mr. Tinderflint is a more complicated man than he appears at first. He is a lot like a certain character in Harry Potter. Still, I liked him a lot and didn't want to see him lose his head if things went wrong. The Prince of Wales is a simple man. He redeems himself late in the story and makes up for his bad judge of character.
The villains are pretty much the only standard characters in the book and only just barely avoid being cardboard. Julius, Lord Lynnfield, is by far the most cunning of the villains. He is ruthless and cruel. Sebastian has a very nasty temper and can't be forgiven for what he tried to do to Peggy in the first book, but I almost feel bad for him. Almost. He has a tough time as a younger son and is less hard than his brother. Mrs. [name omitted to avoid spoilers] is a crafty woman. I can not justify her actions the way Peggy seems to. Her daughter is completely mad!
This is a fun trilogy with a great heroine for anyone ages 13+. There's plenty of action for boys and romance and strong female characters for girls.