I’m back for the week until my exams start again and I’ve been delaying this review too long. This is going to a spoilerish review because I’m going to talk about some things that may seem spoiler-like but personally I don’t think they are. So a warning nonetheless. I hope you enjoy!!
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
Series: Maid of Honor (#1)
Genres: Historical fiction, Mystery
Publication: May 7th 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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?
SPIES! ASSASSINS! MURDER! And historical fiction – literally (almost) all my loves. A fun read but I honestly expected more. It engaged me most of the time but there were some cringeworthy scenes. Set in Tutor times, some events or reactions to certain events didn’t seem plausible, especially in terms of punishments (can you tell I wanted more gore?).
I was very optimistic going into this book because it promised some thrilling adventures, crime and mysteries. Sounds great right? And it delivered to some extent.
This book is set in Tutor times in England where our protagonist Meg gets caught pickpocketing. Yes her situation sounds bad. But her punishment is becoming one of the closest secret spies for the queen, a maid of honour. Not very realistic but I was able to look past that because SPIES. I thought punishments during Tutor times were harsh and I thought this book was going to be brutal – spoiler (not): it was not.
I had a good time reading this book but it didn’t meet my expectations. For one, Meg is a really incompetent spy. I think there were more times she got caught rather than do her job. Her special skill was acting but she couldn’t really hold up a façade long before… surprise she was caught. After a while, I pretty much predicted the outcomes of the situation:
Meg: interesting! I’ll inspect without telling anyone (whilst being totally unaware of surroundings but sure, spy)
*gets caught* by someone – talks, banter, seduces, leaves, repeat.
I would literally count down from the minute she started “spying” until…
“And just as I did so, a hand slipped over my mouth”
“I felt a firm hand clamp around my arm”
… so something like that.
So if you’re not a fan of instalove, I’m sorry to say it plays a part in the story. I liked the love interest in the beginning but then his “mysteriousness” and Meg’s trust in him annoyed me and I didn’t care too much. This I never understand in YA books. Just because someone is attractive, it doesn’t mean you should trust them and especially not tell your plans *eye roll*. Hr love/lust got in the way so often, why didn’t anyone realise and take her off the job. In a way, the love interest reminded me of a lesser version of Zach from the Gallagher Girls series who sort of helps the in the mission, flirts and then disappears.
Other maids: okay I was interested in the other maids and their skills and we did get to see them, but for the last half of the book, they kind of disappeared, only returning for convenience. I mean I like the aura of mystery surrounding them and their backstories, but there was little detail and I couldn’t see their development and their skills on display.
- Beatrice: specialises in manipulation. Now that I think about it, she reminds me of a little character from The Selection series, Celeste. Both came from privilege and both know how to play the game.
- Anna: the genius of the group. She was mostly just there when she was needed.
- Sophia: she had THE SIGHT (okay did anyone think about the scene in Shadowhunters).
There wasn’t much explanation but she was some psychic skills which haven’t quite developed yet.
- Jane: the assassin. Excellent.
But I need to talk more about Meg. Something I couldn’t understand was why she was so special and everyone though she was so special. Out of the five maids, what were her superior skills? So I didn’t understand why the queen, Cecil and Walsingham (and everyone that was important) could trust her so much and so quickly with this “special task”. And another thing was her quick attitude change from pickpocketing and breaking the law to unwavering support and protection of the crown. Please explain. Meg’s dialogue also fell flat for me because I think it was supposed to sound like epic and passionate outcries in support of the crown, but they ended up uber-dramatic and didn’t work for me.
The story got a bit convoluted at times and I would forget what Meg’s goal was. Probably because she thinks A LOT. And questions a lot. But of course that attitude stayed in her mind because planning isn’t really her thing. I enjoyed the conspiracy theories but the action fell flat. There was a range of different aspects explored: court politics, gossip, murder, betrayal, royalty, loyalty, and perhaps it was because there were so many exciting things to incorporate that it overall lacked cohesiveness. I have a soft spot for ballroom scenes because they’re just so fun (especially when there’s a totally different goal in mind), but the ones featured in this novel were just… cringeworthy.
And there was this particular scene, one may call it a “torture scene”. I was like yay realistic punishment but that failed (that might be a bit strong) which left me confused and the tortured, well not.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea of this story and these elite maids of honour, but the events were pretty convenient. I didn’t need to be reminded of the character’s cool traits, show me. The ending was quite disappointing and the unravelling of the mystery was quite underwhelming and rushed.
I’ve heard comparisons of this book to a more popular series His Fair Assassin, which I haven’t read yet but I guess if you’re a fan of that series, you might want to give this one a go. I had problems with many aspects of this book, however I was able to look past it and stay for the entertainment value. Despite all my complaints and nitpicking (and this really is nitpicking), it really was an overall solid book. So don’t be completely deterred by my negativity because I repeat, I was an enjoyable book.
Have you read this book yet? Do you have any recommendations of spy/assassin/crime mysteries? Comment below!
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