Imperial Spy by Mark Robson

From TheBookbag
Jump to navigationJump to search

Imperial Spy by Mark Robson

Buy Imperial Spy by Mark Robson at or

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A battle between a young female spy and a tough assassin threatens a whole country’s peace in this intelligent fantasy saga. The first of an interesting trilogy we would recommend.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2006
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1416901853

Share on: Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Instagram

A sprightly young spy has just managed to be in the nick of time to save her emperor-in-waiting’s life – and that after making sure the magical illusion that put the previous ruler on the throne was revealed as the horrid plot it had been all along. This latest lethal stage in proceedings is foiled, but leaves a mature assassin agent on the loose, with great skill and a need for revenge on the girl.

An obnoxious beauty goes to the coronation of the new emperor, where she fends off unwelcome attention from a very insistent young suitor, and saves the emperor’s life with tact, when it appears to be under threat.

A new diplomat travels to the country to the south, with news that recent battles will be at an end in a new era of trade and peace. Only what she finds there is going to envelop her in a tangled web of threat, death and potential further war.

If that wasn’t enough, all the women I’ve thus described are one and the same – young secret agent supreme, Femke.

This fantasy, the first in a trilogy of similar titles, is assuredly on the female side, with the strong character I think managing to break the age barrier (she is twenty) and appealing to her teen audience. I don’t think many lads would be put off either, as the book (and Femke’s fighting skills) is definitely also designed to appeal to the boys as well, and works capably in its fantasy elements – as light as they may be. There is magic, confined to a few people, but no fantasy beasties, no major jumps to an alien world – although the discussion about what hanging washing out to dry signifies to our heroine may be quite arcane to many youths. No inventions are used apart from coinage terms and drinks (a cup of dahl, anyone?) and on the whole it is a very nicely done medieval world herein.

However I don’t want to say the book is feminine. Far from it – as if anything the way the story starts right at the crux of an action scene, leaving the reader to work out who and what they have just missed, and then develops into quite a political and strategic discussion period before further action, may well put people of either gender off. Sticking with it brings some awkward details – will the dress-making scene be of import later, we ask ourselves – and finally some real nitty-gritty. This consists of some awkward jump shocks of varying quality, as we might find in a horror film, lots of rooftop escapes, surprise deaths, and more.

The awkwardness over, then, and we have a really quite interesting fantasy novel, with a nicely sustained dark tone. The author could also have scuppered himself – the successful book where someone outsmarts a smart person obviously needs a smart author, and we have one here. There is also a good sense of the relationships burgeoning on the journey south, with Femke, Reynik and Danar all having strong characters, interacting very well, but never taking the book into some diluted area of boy- and girl-friends.

I think the book is quite distinctive in being set so strongly in a diplomatic setting, with lords of court going courting, ambassadors going ambassadoring and so on. On the whole, despite my initial misgivings for the book, the politics does take a back seat to sustained adventure, even though a lot still relies on the state of the emperor – as a military ruler, unwanted by the nobility.

The fantasy realm sets it apart from historical fiction, though, and the end result is perfectly readable for the teen audience (there is very little to stop it being PG but I think the politics and dark mood et cetera would appeal more to the 13 and over), and interesting throughout, if never earth-shattering. I can’t pin my finger on what stops it getting five stars – there are no lapses in narrative drive with unnecessary pages and over-writing, no serious flaws at all, but never a sense of this being a great must-read.

Having said that, I was not at all unhappy to carry on and read the rest of the trilogy, and would recommend this book for anyone interested in a cinematic fantasy series that ignores the scope of made-up animals, and consists of intelligently depicted matters of stately affairs told through strongly written and strong-minded young characters.

I am grateful to the author for sending the set to the Bookbag to sample.

Please share on: Facebook Facebook, Follow us on Twitter Twitter and Follow us on Instagram Instagram

Buy Imperial Spy by Mark Robson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Imperial Spy by Mark Robson at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Imperial Spy by Mark Robson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Imperial Spy by Mark Robson at


Like to comment on this review?

Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.