By Royal Command by Mary Hooper

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By Royal Command by Mary Hooper

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fun, light historical adventure with a sassy heroine and lots of simple but accurate historical detail. John Dee gets a caricature makeover; a refreshing change from the usual characterisation of uber-villain or prophetic seer.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747588856

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By Royal Command follows on from Mary Hooper's first book about Elizabethan girl spy Lucy, At the House of the Magician. After saving the life of Queen Elizabeth I, Lucy has become a permanent fixture as nursemaid to the two daughter's of Doctor John Dee, magician and alchemist to the court. Tomas, the Queen's fool, has told Lucy that she can expect more spying missions in the future. In the meantime, Lucy busies herself looking after her two young charges, helping Mistress Midge prepare meals and keep house, gossiping with her friend Isabelle, and dreaming of Tomas' silvery-grey eyes. To keep her espionage skills sharp, she eavesdrops on conversations between Dr Dee and his scryer Mr Kelly and investigates the ghostly noises in the house. It seems Dr Dee and Mr Kelly have plans afoot.

I haven't read the first book about Lucy, but I didn't need to. I eased into By Royal Command very easily, thanks to some unobtrusive exposition and Lucy's own open, garrulous personality. It's a jolly romp, full of intrigue and conspiracy and the odd hairy moment, but it's all tremendously benign and great fun to read. Lucy is nosy, forthright and determined and able to see the funny side of most things; even her rather large crush on Tomas. She's also courageous and very willing to stand up for herself when under attack. If I were a tween girl reader, I'd love this blend of action and adventure with romance and historical detail.

And there is a great deal of simple, but accurate historical detail. The fussiness of Elizabethan clothes is revealed - it takes Lucy forever to pin together the various parts of her outfit when she's off to a court entertainment. Such homely detail is all over By Royal Command - Elizabethan food, transport, and lots of illuminating snippets reveal 16th century daily life in all its colour and squalor. The political background is also laid out in a simple but accurate way. There is mention of Mary Queen of Scots, discussion of the plague and public shock at a Catholic suitor for the Queen's hand. And there's a frost fair when the Thames freezes over, with wonderfully vivid scenes.

John Dee is a particularly popular figure in children's historical fiction, and I liked the way he's treated here. He is portrayed neither as an uber-villain or a prophetic seer as so often happens, but rather as a clever but gullible man, and a crashing snob, not above a little huckstering in order to advance his position at court. Humorously, he meets his match in nursemaid Lucy. She runs rings around him.

By Royal Command comes recommended by Bookbag as a fun, light read for children in the late primary years, especially girls, and especially those who enjoy historical adventures.

My thanks to the nice people at Faber for sending the book.

If they enjoyed this, they might also like Nathan Fox by Lynn Britney, about another junior Elizabeth spy.

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Buy By Royal Command by Mary Hooper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy By Royal Command by Mary Hooper at


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