Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin

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Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Thoroughly enjoyable historical novel presenting, for once, a positive interpretation of Mary, Queen of Scots. Nicely paced and full of flavour, fans of historical fiction will love it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Doubleday
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0385617054

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

Jenny is not only a lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots; she's also one of her oldest and closest friends, brought up with her at the French court during Mary's long betrothal to the Dauphin. Jenny is fiercely loyal to Mary and so, when she overhears a whispered conversation about poison, she decides to turn spy for her queen. The French court is full of plotting and spying but, when Mary returns to Scotland after her young husband dies, Jenny discovers the warring clans of Scotland present her mistress with even more danger.

Can Jenny protect her mistress? And is the mysterious but charismatic nobleman Duncan Alexander a loyal subject or a traitorous threat?

Never underestimate the positive influence of a good, old-fashioned historical adventure or romance. I read dozens as a child - children's novels by Rosemary Sutcliff and Geoffrey Trease, romances by Jean Plaidy and Anya Seaton, graduating on to people such as Mary Renault and Dorothy Dunnett. Without this foundation, I doubt whether my interest in history would as enthusiastic as it is, or whether I would have read works by serious historians such as Alison Weir, Chris Skidmore or Keith Lowe. Historical fiction takes licence with characterisation but it's mostly pretty accurate on events. So readers gain both knowledge of what happened and curiosity about which novel best represents what an historical figure was really like.

Spy for the Queen of Scots forms part of this honourable tradition. Was Mary really as rash, foolish and sexually irresponsible as she is so often presented? Or did her circumstances reduce the choices open to her so thoroughly that she really did the best that she could? And why is her intelligence and charisma - a matter of contemporary record - so often played down in comparison to her glittering cousin, Elizabeth I of England?

We see Mary through the eyes of a lady-in-waiting and one who loves her very much. We see the intrigue and plotting but most of all, we see a woman pushed into corner after corner, always on the edge of disaster. It's nicely paced and Breslin paints a vivid picture of the chaos created in Scotland, not so much by the pressures of being a small country amidst aggressive neighbours, but by the greed and ambition of its own nobles. And, most importantly, we see a Mary we can like.

Recommended to all fans of historical fiction. Enjoy.

Other historical fiction you might enjoy: Treason by Berlie Doherty, set in the Tudor period andwritten with great verve by an author who really brings to life the setting and characters; The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird, a beautifully written story about the witch hunts of the 1700s and the persecution of the Covenanters in Scotland.

Buy Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin at Amazon.com.


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