Sherwood Smith is an author I can always count on for a good tale of magic, suspense, and intrigue so was I excited when my library so quickly obtained a copy of The Spy Princess.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Lady Lilah decides to disguise herself and sneak out of the palace one
night, she has more of an adventure than she expected--for she learns
very quickly that the country is on the edge of revolution. When she
sneaks back in, she learns something even more surprising: her older
brother Peitar is one of the forces behind it all. The revolution
happens before all of his plans are in place, and brings unexpected
chaos and violence. Lilah and her friends, leaving their old lives
behind, are determined to help however they can. But what can four kids
do? Become spies, of course!
I was immediately sucked into Lilah's story, and for the first half of the book completely engaged. Lilah is a great young heroine. Resourceful, brave, headstrong, loyal, and questioning she is easy to like. She makes plenty of mistakes. Mistakes based on not having enough information and experience. Mistakes based on thinking she knows best or is impervious to harm. She learns from them and moves on. I loved the relationship between her and Peitar. Great sibling interaction like this is always a favorite element in any sort of book.
I admired the way Smith presented the theme of revolution and does it in a way that is realistic and perfect for the intended audience. She did this by showing it through the eyes of the young and naive, those who would be ignorant of the price of revolution and be caught up in the giddy excitement of it, and letting them watch the truth of it unfold.:
So this was revolution. I remembered how impatient I'd been for it to happen-just so I wouldn't have to curl my hair. But in my idea of revolution, people gathered to make stirring speeches about how we could better our lives, followed by cheers and exciting trumpet blasts as...things somehow changed. Not this horror.
And horror it is. Awful things are witnessed by Lilah and her friends and they are pushed to some desperate measures as the revolution explodes and there is chaos and death. I loved how this was presented and the first section of the novel is a gripping tale of covert operations and revolt. The last section of the book picked this thread back up and was again action filled and fast paced, but also dealt with the harder questions. I liked how the King is shown as being a complex human being, and not just an evil tyrant.
There is a problem, I feel, in the pacing of the middle of the book. I think a little too much time and detail were spent on scenes and with people who were unnecessary to the overall plot. Still that is a only a minor complaint in the midst of a book that was overall an enjoyable reading experience.