Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Review: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee
Release Date: February 28th, 2012
2012 Candlewick Press
Ebook Edition; 380 Pages
Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
4 / 5 Stars
Queen Victoria has a little problem: there's a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quick-witted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary's onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary's most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn't be higher - and she has everything to lose.
The Traitor in the Tunnel is the third novel in the Spy Agency Series and personally, I thought it was the best one so far. I really felt like Mary came into her own in this one and while there was ample character development in the previous novels, I really felt like I got to know her on a deeper level, and saw some of her imperfections and weaknesses, something that truly enhanced her character for me.
In this installment, Mary is serving in Buckingham Palace as a parlour maid and is looking for a thief who has absconded with several pieces of art. While searching for this thief, she stumbles onto a much darker and deeper secret surrounding the Prince of Wales and is slowly drawn into its mystery especially as it touches her personally and profoundly in a way she would never have envisioned. Twisted and tormented by her duty to the Agency but also her duty to the Chinese sailor who may be wrongly imprisoned, Mary sets out to discover the truth and is embroiled in the comings and comings of royalty and the elite. I found her dealings with the Prince and the Queen to be particularly engaging and fascinating; there was one scene in particular with the Prince in which I wasn't certain the outcome would be in Mary's favour and I have to admit I read it with some trepidation. I don't want to reveal too much but it certainly was the fate of many a servant who caught the eye of a nobleman and didn't know how to extricate themselves from a difficult situation. It certainly put another darker element into the story, something that I admire in this author for showing the darker nature of London and the time period.
I felt that Mary really developed as a strong lead character in this novel and I really enjoy her personality; she is definitely someone in whom I empathize and relate if not through experience then through emotion. The personal conflict she displayed as she was trying to decide how to deal with the Chinese sailor as opposed to her obligations to the Agency was interesting and I appreciated being able to delve into her character a bit more to see what made her choose the paths she did. She is also fiercely loyal to those she cares about and often puts those she loves before her own needs and desires and I can't help but admire that. I'm not sure if I could be as selfless in the same situation and it's quite an eye-opener to realize that about oneself.
Despite the myriad plotlines, the story never gets bogged down or becomes too convoluted to follow. One of the things I've always enjoyed about these novels is how everything is wrapped up quite nicely at the end yet you always know there will be another novel forthcoming; it's just in the way things are summed up in the end that you know there is more to come and I love this as I want to know more about the ongoing saga between Mary and James. Did I mention that I adore James and would love for the two of them to become an item? The witty and snappy dialogue between the two of them is a lot of fun and definitely leads one to hope that there may be a future for the two of them, at least romantically. As for anything else? You'll just have to read the novel and see!!
The Traitor in the Tunnel was an interesting historical tale set most in Buckingham Palace and those with a historical bent will definitely enjoy the historical aspects to this novel. With plenty of adventure, romance, and mystery thrown in to the sweeten the pie, this novel is a fun read and I enjoyed it tremendously. I am definitely looking forward to Rivals in the City when it is released.