When Lady Katherine’s father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn’t the only secret he’s been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father’s mission, and to take it one step further—kill the queen herself.
Katherine’s opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare’s newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn’t know is that the play is not just a play. It’s a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.
The mastermind behind this ruse is Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen with secrets of his own. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play’s leads, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. But the closer they grow, the more precarious their positions become. And soon they learn that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.
Yo, you all know that this book was going to be right up my alley. I mean, first of all, just look at the cover. Then the title. Then the summary. Like, how would I not like this? I know, the concept is just ridiculous. It was a match made in literary heaven.
That being said, I went into this book knowing pretty much nothing about it other than the fact that it is a historic fiction, and I was craving some good plague related drama in my reading life. So, I was set. The plot itself is super interesting and unique. I mean, the spies on opposite sides of the battle that then fall in love plot is not incredibly unique, but the era and style are not one I had seen before.
The only thing that bothered me a bit was writing style was a bit simplistic. I mean, yes, people were dying gruesome deaths left and right, but somehow (despite that) this book seemed much more like it was geared towards a middle school audience in terms of the nitty-gritty nature of the storytelling and narrative. Everything lined up too perfectly, and no one seemed to be having mental breakdowns (I know I would be if even just ten pages of the plot had happened to me).
This may have been an attempt to show how this harrowing and disturbing lifestyle was nothing but average for the characters, but to me (as I said) it read a bit more like easy storytelling. This is the Elizabethan era, and we’re talking about the battle between Queen Elizabeth and the hidden Catholics of England. It was a dark and dangerous time for the characters we were following, and it was a rather undeveloped era in itself. It read more like something that was happening to characters that were living a posh, aristocratic life in Downton Abbey. I digress. This was not a bad thing, it just made the stress of the book seem less prominent to me.
That being said, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. It was an era I hadn’t read much YA about, and it had a unique flair to the storytelling that made every character seen important and interesting. I see myself picking up some more of Virginia Boecker’s historic fiction in the future, especially since she seems to continue exploring some interesting times in her other series.
All in all, I did enjoy this book quite a bit, and I feel myself on the verge of a historic fiction read-a-ton.
3 out of 5 stars.