ARC Review: Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel


Title:  Palace of Spies
Series: Palace of Spies #1
By: Sarah Zettel
Author Info: Website | TwitterGoodreads
Age Group:
Young Adult
Genre Type:
Historical, Spies, Mystery, Brittish
Publication Date: Nov 5th 2013
Pages: 368 pages
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers                          

Goodreads Summary:

A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't.

Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she's impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love...

History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut.

The Palace of Spies was an easy and fun read for me. There's just enough of a historical setting and feel to it, without weighing the story down. Teens will have a fun time learning about some of the more interesting (horrendous) contraptions considered clothing and makeup young women were expected to wear during this time period (can you say - Mantua, aka The Cage) and what the dangers presented by a well placed hand-held-fan could do.

“A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't.”


London 1716. Author Sarah Zettel sets up her story for the Palace of Spies during a perfect time for our young heroine Peggy Fitzroy to experience spying first hand.  King George has just ascended to the British throne and the continued threat of Jacobite Rebellions looms in the background ensuring plenty of courtly intrigue and danger for our heroine.

Poor Peggy, as a sixteen-year-old, well-bred female, and orphan, she must follow the whims and dictates of others thought to be her betters, especially those of her uncle whose home and care she depends on. But when a surprise engagement issued by her uncle to a ruthless cad turns disastrous, Peggy is tossed out into the street by. Lucky for her an old and mysterious acquaintance of her mother's has an interesting proposition for Peggy: simply pose as a lady-in-waiting at the palace of King George I, impersonating the recently departed Lady Francesca. But when Peggy learns there's much more to spying than scrumptious clothes, games, and courtly intrigue, but murder- the game becomes much more deadly, with her life in danger unless she unmasks the truth.


Peggy’s  character is a bit saucy, and filled with an easy to like wit and charm. She’s clever and resourceful, and it was easy for me to believe in her ability to impersonated a lady-in-waiting, and assume Lady Francesca’s identity. She kept me fascinated as she tried to ferret out the murderer behind the story, all the while decked out in a Mantua!


There was just a tiny bit of romance in the story involving a sweet, young man she meets at the palace, but not enough to say anything swoon-worthy about it- it was sweet and nice.


I will mention that there is a descriptive/negative scene involving our heroine, her betrothed (the ruthless cad), and her well placed fan. It’s handle with care, but leaves you no doubt as to why this "gentleman" is called a “cad” in the book.


I really enjoyed all the fun little period details, from the clothing, card games and court life to the unique “period voice” the author Sarah Zettel gave Peggy. As a historical, everything was done with a light and fun touch. The Palace of Spies might be a good choice for contemporary readers looking to try a historical with a light feel and voice to it.

"For those among you who have been spared direct experience of the mantua, I shall described this evil spawn of dressmaker's art. It is principally, as I have said, a cage."


The other characters all felt a bit flat to me, with the exception of Peggy’s cousin Olivia who unfortunately wasn’t a big part of the story. I had a hard time getting into the actual mystery of the story because I just wasn’t feeling connected to any of the other characters involved. The intrigued and mystery were there for sure, but I just wasn’t as emotionally invested as I had hoped to be.


Readers who like their heroines charming and a bit saucy, who enjoy reading light historicals and mysteries that feature fun period details, like courtly intrigue, and sprinkling of romance.

RATING 3.5 stars. I liked it!

PLEASE NOTE: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by HMH Books for Young Readers via NetGalley in exchange for my fair review. Thank you HMH Books for Young Readers for the review opportunity!