Palace of Spies

Palace of Spies

4.0 10
by Sarah Zettel

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Peggy Fitzroy is clever enough to fake her way into King George's court in London, but is she clever enough to survive in his Palace of Spies?See more details below


Peggy Fitzroy is clever enough to fake her way into King George's court in London, but is she clever enough to survive in his Palace of Spies?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sixteen-year old Peggy Fitzroy becomes a spy in the 18th-century English court in the first book in a planned series from Zettel (the American Fairy trilogy). An orphan, Peggy has been raised by her aunt and uncle, who plan to marry her to a handsome but unpleasant nobleman. Instead, a mysterious trio appears and asks Peggy to take on the role of a deceased lady-in-waiting to Princess Caroline. In the guise of Lady Francesca Wallingham, Peggy is quickly ensconced in palace intrigue surrounding the Jacobite/Hanoverian conflicts. Although the complexities of the religious wars might alienate less historically savvy readers, Zettel explains the conflict well, and Peggy’s basic complications are enticing: a jealous rival, a suitor with questionable intentions, and a budding romance with an apprentice artist. The mysteries of allegiance reveal themselves in an action-packed climax as Peggy learns the truth about her parents and comes into her own. Peggy’s voice is light and accessible, and the plot moves quickly. A solid opening volley in a promising series. Ages 12–up. Agent: Shawna McCarthy, the McCarthy Agency. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

* "A rollicking spy caper in corsets. . . . This witty romp will delight fans of historical fiction as well as mystery lovers." —Kirkus, starred review

"Zettel has created a dynamic, immensely likable heroine in Peggy, and she folds in history, both cultural and political. . . . A sequel is in the works, and it will be eagerly anticipated by fans of Libba Bray." —Booklist

"A solid opening volley in a promising series." —Publishers Weekly

"The protagonist, clever and witty, makes a compelling heroine." —School Library Journal

"This combination of willful heroine and royal backdrop will appeal to history buffs and readers who like their subterfuge accessorized by a few frills and ruffles." —Bulletin

"The perfect balance of history and mystery, this novel is fantastic. . . . Sarah Zettel is an author to watch, and readers will be eagerly awaiting the next Palace of Spies installment." —VOYA, 4Q 4P J S

Children's Literature - Kim Dare
It is London in 1716. Sixteen-year-old Peggy Fitzroy refuses to marry the arrogant and offensive gentleman her uncle has chosen for her. Cast out of her relative's house, she remembers the mysterious Mr. Tinderflint, a gentleman who knew her deceased mother and days ago told Peggy of a proposition she might find interesting. When Peggy arrives at his house for details, she learns that Mr. Tinderflint's proposal involves her taking on the role of his recently deceased charge, Lady Francesca Wallingham. Francesca was a maid of honor to Caroline, Princess of Wales, and clandestinely passed on valuable information to parties interested in the dispute between the Hanoverian King George and the Jacobites, who insist that James is the rightful king. If Peggy can successfully impersonate Francesca, then this flow of information need not be cut off. Francesca's prolonged illness kept her away from Hampton Court for several months, so when Peggy arrives, skillful makeup and weeks of training allow her to assume the new role. All is not as it seems, though; as Peggy gets more acclimated to palace life, she finds that Francesca's death was not accidental, and she may be next. Wonderfully-realized characters and witty conversations make this first installment in a new series shine. Sadly, the author failed to include any notes that would point readers to further information about this fascinating period of British history. Reviewer: Kim Dare
VOYA - Rachelle David
The perfect balance of history and mystery, this novel is fantastic. Every twist has a refreshing unromantic quality while retaining its ability to surprise the reader. While it requires some thought and curiosity, each page is exciting and every character is sensational. This is strongly recommended for anyone who likes detective, fantasy, and history stories. This novel is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Sarah Zettel is an author to watch, and readers will be eagerly awaiting the next Palace of Spies installment. Reviewer: Rachelle David, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Ed Goldberg
When Peggy Fitzroy refuses the arranged marriage to Sebastian Sandford, her uncle and guardian, Pierpont, throws her out of his house with nothing. Having nowhere to turn, she makes her way to Mr. Tinderflint, a man who apparently knew her mother and who came to her rescue at a party at which her betrothed tried to force himself on her. Mr. Tinderflint, who had offered assistance should she ever be in need, along with his confederates, Mr. Peele and Mrs. Abbott, offer her an intriguing proposition: assume the persona of Francesca who died of a fever, as maid of honor to Princess Caroline, daughter-in-law to King George of England. It is 1716, and George acceded the throne when Queen Anne died, leaving no successor. James III, the Pretender, son of the dethroned James II, felt it was his birthright, thus sparking continuing struggles for the throne. Peggy is to communicate the goings-on at court. Having no other prospects, Peggy unwittingly enters the world of 18th-century espionage. A Most Dangerous Deception, the first book in the Palace of Spies series, is surprisingly charming. There is action, romance, intrigue, and humor. Its characters are appropriately honest, villainous, deceitful, and snobbish. Readers get a nice entree into the royal court—its excesses, politics, and personalities. The book is well written. There is an immediate attraction to Peggy and dislike of Mrs. Abbott. The book's heroine is reminiscent of L.A. Meyer's Jacky Faber's high seas adventures. Primarily of interest to middle school girls, there are strong male characters in this delightful story. Reviewer: Ed Goldberg
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Orphan Peggy Fitzroy is expelled from her caregiver's home when she refuses to marry a despicable suitor. Homeless and desperate, she accepts the help of mysterious Mr. Tinderflint, who reveals surprising details about his connection to her deceased mother. In exchange for information about her mother's life, she must act as his spy, impersonating a recently (and suspiciously) dead maid of honor in the court of King George I. Can Peggy maintain her façade as she investigates palace intrigue and the cause of her predecessor's demise? Full of vibrant descriptions that bring court life and 1716 England alive, the author weaves a dynamic, although at times farfetched, plot. The protagonist, clever and witty, makes a compelling heroine. Fans of J. Anderson Coats's The Wicked and the Just (Houghton Harcourt, 2012), Gail Carriger's Etiquette & Espionage (Little, Brown, 2013), and mysteries will enjoy this adventurous series opener.—Tiffany Davis, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-15
A rollicking spy caper in corsets. In 1716 London, gimlet-eyed Peggy is 16 and orphaned, living off the charity of her beloved cousin's family. When her grim, unsentimental uncle arranges a marriage of convenience to a brute, Peggy's adventure begins. In desperation, she accepts the help of Mr. Tinderflint, a mysterious stranger who claims to have known her mother and offers her an outlandish escape. When she finds herself in the court of King George I, having assumed the identity of a maid of honor (now secretly and suspiciously deceased) in the Princess of Wales' entourage, her own skepticism about the plausibility of the scheme is part of the fun. Ostensibly there to spy for her employer, she quickly learns that all is not as it seems, and she's left to suss out the motivations of both her friends and enemies while staying one step ahead of them all. In less adept hands, this would be formulaic folderol, but Zettel arms her narrator with a rapier wit; Peggy is observant and winningly funny as she recounts the intrigues, flirtations and dangers she encounters at court. The tale is studded with rich period descriptions of the foods, fashions and foibles of royal protocols. This witty romp will delight fans of historical fiction as well as mystery lovers. (Mystery/historical fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Palace of Spies , #1
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Sales rank:
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
London, 1716    
In which a dramatic reading commences, and Our Heroine receives an unexpected summons. 
I must begin with a frank confession. I became Lady Francesca Wallingham only after I met the man calling himself Tinderflint. This was after my betrothal, but before my uncle threw me into the street and barred the door.
   Before these events, I was simply Margaret Preston Fitzroy, known mostly as Peggy, and I began that morning as I did most others—at breakfast with Cousin Olivia, reading the newspapers we had bribed the housemaid to smuggle out of uncle’s book room.
   “Is there any agony this morning?” asked my cousin as she spread her napkin over her flowered muslin skirt.
   I scanned the tidy columns of type in front of me. Uncle Pierpont favored the Morning Gazetteer for its tables of shipping information, but there were other advertisements there as well. these were the “agony columns,” cries from the heart that some people thought best to print directly in the paper, where the object of their desire, and everybody else, would be sure to get a look at them.
   “‘To Miss X from Mr. C,’” I read. “‘The letter is burnt. I beg you may return without delay.’”
   “A Jacobite spy for certain,” said Olivia. “What else?” “How’s this? ‘Should any young gentleman, sound of limb, in search of employment present himself at the warehouse of Lewis & Bowery in Sherwood Street, he will meet a situation providing excellent remuneration.’”
   “Oh, fie, Peggy. How dull.” My cousin twitched the paper out of my hands and smoothed it over her portion of the table.
   As I know readers must be naturally curious about the particulars of the heroine in any adventure, I will here set mine down. I was at this time sixteen years of age, and in what is most quaintly called “an orphaned state.” In my case, this meant my mother was dead and no one knew where my father might be found. I possessed dark hair too coarse for fashion, pale skin too prone to freckle in the sun, and dark eyes too easily regarded as “sly,” all coupled with a manner of speaking that was too loud and too frank. These fine qualities and others like them resulted in my being informed on a daily basis that I was both a nuisance and a disappointment.
   Because I was also a girl without a farthing to call my own, I had to endure these bulletins. As a result, I was kept at Uncle Pierpont’s house like a bad-tempered horse is kept in a good stable. That is, grudgingly on my uncle’s part and with a strong urge to kick on mine.
   “Perhaps it’s a trap.” I poured coffee into Olivia’s cup and helped myself to another slice of toast from the rack. I will say, the food was a point in favor of my uncle’s house. He was very much of the opinion that a true gentleman kept a good board. That morning we had porridge with cream, toast with rough-cut marmalade, kippered herrings, and enough bacon to feed a regiment. Which was good, because that regiment, in the form of all six of Olivia’s plump and over-groomed dogs, milled about our ankles making sounds as if they were about to drop dead of starvation. “Perhaps the young man who answers the advertisement will be tied in a sack and handed to the press gangs.”
   “There’s a thought. They might be slavers and mean to sell him to the Turks. The Turks are said to favor strong young English men.”
   It is  a  tribute to  Olivia’s  steadfast friendship  that  my urge to kick never extended to her. My cousin was one of nature’s golden girls, somehow managing to be both slim and curved, even before she put on her stays. She possessed hair of an entirely acceptable shade of gold and translucent skin that flushed pink only at appropriate points. As if these were not blessings enough, she had her father’s fortune to dower her and a pair of large blue eyes designed solely to drive gallant youths out of their wits. Those same gallants, however, might have been surprised to see Olivia leap to her feet and brandish an invisible sword.
   “Back, you parcel of Turkish rogues!” she cried, which caused the entire dog flock to yip and run about her hems, looking for something very small they could savage for their mistress’s sake. “I am a stout son of England! You will never take me living!”
   “Hurray!”  I  applauded.
   Olivia bowed. “Of course, our Hero kills the nearest ruffian to make his escape, the rest of the gang pursues him, and he is forced to flee London for the countryside—”
   “Where he is found dying of fever in a ditch by the fair daughter of Lord . . . Lord . . .”
   “Lord Applepuss, Duke of Stemhempfordshire.” Olivia scooped up the stoutest of her dogs and turned him over in her arm so she could smooth his fluff back from his face and gaze adoringly down at him. “Lady Hannah Applepuss falls instantly in love and hides our Hero in a disused hunting lodge to nurse him back to health. But Lord Applepuss is a secret supporter of the Pretender, and he means to marry his daughter off to a vile Spanish noble in return for money for another uprising—”
   “and as she is forced onto a ship to sail for Spain, he steals aboard for a daring rescue?”One of the dogs decided to test out its savaging skills on my slipper. I gave it a firm hint that this was a bad idea with the toe of that selfsame slipper. It yipped and retreated. “Can there be pirates?”
   “Of course there are pirates.” Olivia nipped some bacon off her plate with her fingers. “What do you take me for?” She turned to the dogs and held the bacon up high so that they all stood neatly on their hind legs, and all whined in an amazing display of puppy harmony.
   “You really should write a play, Olivia,” I said, addressing myself once more to my toast, coffee, and kippers. “You’re better at drama than half the actors in Drury Lane.”
   “Oh, yes, and wouldn’t my parents love that? Mother already harangues me for overmuch reading. ‘A book won’t teach you how to produce good sons, Olivia.’”
   “That just shows she hasn’t read the right books.” Olivia clapped her hand over her laugh. “You outrageous thing! Well, perhaps I shall write a play. Then—”
   But I never was to know what she would do then. For at that moment, the door opened, and to our utter shock and surprise, Olivia’s mother entered.
   My Aunt Pierpont declared she could not bear the smell of food before one of the clock, so she daily kept to her boudoir until that time. My throat tightened at the sight of her, and my mind hastily ran down a list of all my recent activities, wondering which could have gotten me into trouble this time.
   My cousin, naturally, remained unperturbed. “Good morning, Mother. How delightful of you to join us.” Olivia possessed admirably tidy habits when it came to other people’s property and forbidden literature. She folded the paper so its title could not be seen. “Shall I pour you some coffee?”
   “Thank you, Olivia.” Aunt Pierpont had been a celebrated beauty in her day. She still carried herself very straight, but time and four babies had softened and spread her figure. Twenty-odd years of marriage to my uncle had wreaked havoc upon her nerves, and she was forever clutching at things; a handkerchief, a bottle of eau de toilet, an ivory fan. this morning it was the handkerchief, which she applied to her nose as she drew up her seat next to mine.
   “Good morning to you too, Peggy. I trust you are well this morning?”
   “Yes, Aunt. Quite. Thank you for asking.” I slipped a glance at Olivia, who was busy pouring coffee and offering it to her mother with sugar and cream. Olivia shook her head, a tiny movement you wouldn’t catch unless you were looking for it. She had no notion what occasioned this unprecedented appearance either.
   “Isn’t the weather fine today?” Aunt Pierpont’s hands fussed with her lacy little square, as if about to pull it to bits. “Olivia, I think a stroll in the garden will be just the thing after breakfast.”
   This was too much for even Olivia’s composure. a flicker of consternation crossed her face. “Yes . . . certainly. We’d be glad to, wouldn’t we, Peggy?”
   “Erm, no, my dear. I thought just you and I. Surely, Peggy won’t mind.”
   “No, of course not.” My mind was racing. What could Aunt have to say to Olivia that I couldn’t hear? Had Olivia received a marriage offer? Her looks and her father’s money meant she had cartloads of youths chasing after her. Worry knotted in my stomach. What would I do in this house without Olivia? Uncle Pierpont often grumbled about sending me off to Norwich to “make myself useful” to his aging mother, thus saving himself the cost of my keeping.
   “Well.” Olivia delicately blotted her mouth with her napkin. “Shall I fetch my bonnet, then?”
   “Yes, yes, do.”
   Olivia scurried from the room, the canine flock trailing behind. Left alone with my aunt and my now thoroughly queasy stomach, I found it difficult to fit words to my tongue. “Peggy, you know we are all very fond of you.” Aunt Pierpont squeezed the much-abused handkerchief in her fist. “Yes, Aunt.” I stared at that strangled bit of lace and fancied it might soon yield some milk, or a plea for help. “And we’ve always had your welfare at heart.”
   This is it. I am bound for Norwich and a damp cottage and a deaf old woman who can pinch a sixpence until it screams. I’d been there once before, one interminable, gray winter, to nurse the dowager Pierpont through a cold. She’d made up her mind that if she was to have nothing but gruel and weak tea, no one else need have anything better. I must have written a thousand murder plans in my diary in those months. Had her serving girl been able to read, I would have been hanged straightaway.
   “I was very fond of your mother,” my aunt added suddenly. “You have grown to be very like her. Did you know that?”
   “No.” In fact, she never spoke of my deceased mother. No one did.
   Aunt Pierpont gave the handkerchief a fresh twist. “Well, you have. Just as pretty, and just as willful. You must. . .” She bit her lip, and another ripple of fear surged through me. But before she managed to continue, the door opened to admit Dolcy, the parlormaid.
   “I beg your pardon, ma’am.” Dolcy bobbed her curtsy to us. “But Master says Miss Fitzroy is to join him in his book room.”
   So, the end had come. I rose to my feet. My aunt smiled encouragingly at me and gave my hand a limp pat. Norwich. Empty. Gray. Flat. With a vicar whose sermons lasted a full two hours every Sunday and Thursday. My stays squeezed my breath, making me unpleasantly lightheaded as I walked to the door. No books in the cottage, no hearth in my bedroom . . .
   Olivia stood in the dim hallway, bonnet dangling in her fingers.
   “I heard everything.” She seized my hand at once. “What have you done? Tell me quickly.”
   “Nothing, I swear.” We were due to attend Lady Clarenda Newbank’s birthday party that evening. I didn’t care for Lady Clarenda, nor she for me, but the party would provide a welcome change of scene. Because of this, I had been treading very gently around my uncle so he should not be tempted to forbid my going.
   “Hmmm.” Olivia frowned. “Well, then, it’s probably something trifling. About expenses, perhaps.”
   Neither  one  of  us  believed  this,  especially  with  her mother waiting to have some urgent, private conversation in the gardens. I walked the narrow, dark corridors to my uncle’s book room and found myself wondering if this was what it felt like to walk toward a trap one knew was coming. Unfortunately, unlike Olivia’s imaginary hero, I had no way to fight back.
   The dominant feature of my uncle Pierpont’s book room was his desk. I had never once been in this room when the great ledger was not open on that gleaming surface, accompanied by bulwarks and battlements of letters and documents sealed with all colors of ribbon and wax.
   Uncle Pierpont himself was a skinny man. He had skinny legs beneath his well-cut breeches and silk stockings. His arms had knobby elbows that always looked ready to poke through the cloth of his coat. the clever fingers of his hands seemed made for counting and writing sums. Slitted eyes graced his long face on either side of a nose at least as sharp as his pen. When I walked in, he was bent so close over his ledger, you might have thought he was using his nose rather than the goose quill to write out his accounts. His short-queue wig, a bundle of powdered curls, clung to the top of his head at a most dangerous angle.
   I was determined to remain calm and resolute, but that room and the Desk had some magical power to them. By the time I crossed the long acre of carpet to stand in front of uncle Pierpont, I was once again eight years old, alone, poor, terrified, and trying desperately not to fidget.
   Tthe great clock in the corner ticked, and ticked. My uncle continued his laborious writing without once glancing up. I valiantly battled against fidgets, against fear, and against wondering what uncle would do when his wig slipped off his shiny forehead, which it surely must at any moment.
   Finally, Uncle Pierpont finished his column and lifted his nose from the page. “Ah, there you are at last.”
   “Yes, sir,” I replied meekly. The quickest way through these interviews was to agree with whatever was said.
   “I have some good news for you, Peggy.” Uncle Pierpont plucked a sheaf of documents bedecked with ribbons and red wax seals off one of his paper battlements.
   “Good news? Sir?”
   “Yes.” Uncle Pierpont pushed the documents across the desk toward me. “You are betrothed.”

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