Review Detail

3.0 1
Middle Grade Fiction 335
Who will rule England?
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The book’s format is unique as the author presents the story as a three-act play. However, the story itself is written as a familiar narrative, not the scripted format of a play. The opening pages offer a teaser about a chase scene later in the book until the narrator realizes she should probably start at the beginning. The titles of each act are shared which helps readers anticipate what’s to come. The narrator explains that the prologue talks about past events and gets the audience ready for the show. Asides are included where the narrator speaks directly to readers and shares specifics about topics related to the plays or the story in general. There’s even a soliloquy, a longer form of an aside.
Information from this time is shared which makes the book historical fiction. It describes Emilia’s clothing including her thoughts that pants would be much more comfortable and useful than petticoats and dresses. She is the main character and meets William Shakespeare early in the book (before he’s written any of his famous plays) and she discovers they share a passion for writing stories and plays. The moat protecting Queen Elizabeth’s castle is also where body waste is dropped and transportation is by horseback or carriage. The well-known conflict concerning claims to the English throne by Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots establishes the major problem driving the plot. A section at the end of the book provides further details concerning the connections between the book and actual historical events during this time.
The narrative is told through the eyes of Emilia so readers gain insight into the complicated contrast between her thoughts and her actions. She has no experience as a spy but she’s been warned about what to expect in Mary’s castle. She remembers Shakespeare’s comments about an actor becoming their character and she heeds that advice as a lute player. Emilie’s nervousness will create empathy in readers since there’s an air of hostility from many of the castle residents she encounters. Her job is to discover how Mary is secretly communicating with supporters outside the castle which creates a mystery for readers to solve. Also, Emilia must secretly pursue her interest in writing a play as women don’t have the same opportunities as men. As always, she is accompanied by her pet dog named Mouse and the spaniel proves to be a competent assistant in adventure and the spy business.
What didn’t work as well:
Readers may want more drama in the plot although Emilia mounts a daring escape from Mary’s castle. The evidence she uncovers doesn’t generate the reaction she expects and that part of the story may feel anticlimactic.
The final verdict:
The author develops an entertaining, informative story featuring the intrigue surrounding the contested claims to rule England between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots. Emilia’s relatable character carries the plot as she tries to create a contest-winning play while investigating alleged plots to bring Mary to the throne. Readers may want more suspense but I still recommend you give this book a shot.
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