by Celia Rees
Sovay Middleton stands up for herself, her family, and her beliefs. When she finds out her fiance is cheating on her, she dresses up like a highwayman and robs him. When she learns her father is to be arrested for sedition and possibly treason, she rides out once again as a highwayman to steal the warrant then takes off for London to warn her father. When Sovay reaches London she learns that her father and brother are missing, both rumored to be in France. Sovay is determined to find her family and keep them safe. While trying to determine her father and brother’s exact whereabouts she acquires a horrible enemy, the evil chameleon Dysart. Now Sovay must not only save her family and herself but must help save the entire country from the dastardly Dysart.
Reaction: I liked Sovay but didn’t love it. I didn’t find Sovay a very strong character. She tried to present herself as a strong-minded equal to all the men around her but often had to be rescued by one of the slew of male characters. It isn’t necessarily that she had to be rescued that bothered me as much as her sometimes wish to be rescued. At one point she dreams of her white knight saving her. At another she is happy to see her friend Virgil trying to rescue her even though it is a death sentence for him. This instance bugged me because Sovay knew rescue was futile but was glad to see Virgil because his rescue attempt lets her know that she was not forgotten. That seems like a petty reason to be glad to see him. “I know if anyone tries to save me they will die but I soooo hope someone tries so that I know I am loved.” If she was so concerned with saving her family she should have hoped that no one tried to come after her but worked on saving themselves. At times Sovay seemed more like a petulant child who didn’t wanted to be left behind that a strong-willed woman who wanted to be an equal.
Speaking of “slew of male characters,” to quote myself, there were a ton of characters in the novel, a majority of them male and most of them were willing for some unknown reason to drop everything they were doing and risk their lives to help Sovay. There is Gabriel, the childhood friend and steward’s son; Captain Greenwood, the highwayman who takes Sovay under his wing; Virgil, the American spy who keeps Sovay updated on the whereabouts of her father and brother; and, finally, Leon, the ex-aristocrat who fights for freedom in France and with whom Sovay falls in love despite the fact they barely know each other and hardly spend any time together. There are more characters…Sovay’s brother Hugh, Toby, the Fitwilliam brothers, and Lydia to name a few…and sometimes it was just too many people.
My final gripe is that there seemed to be holes or things that didn’t really make sense to me. For example, when Sovay, Hugh, and Virgil travel to France, why is it that Sovay and Virgil are doing all the sleuthing? Hugh is portrayed as committed to his cause yet he never actually seems to be doing anything other than hanging out at the prison and flirting. So, I want to know, where’s Hugh? Why even have Hugh as a character if he isn’t going to really do anything? Also, what is up with Dysart, his castle, his rituals, his sexuality, everything? Dysart was an evil villain whose ideals were hard to pin down. Finally, what happens to Sovay’s father in the end? The story just kind of ends and there is no mention of Mr. Middleton despite the fact that saving Mr. Middleton was Sovay’s goal from the start.
My negativity aside, I would not not recommend this book. It was ok to good. Having read The Red Necklace, I was really happy to read a story about the French Revolution from the side of the English. I hadn’t realized how much the war in France had affected England. The other nice counter-balance to The Red Necklace was that Sovay deals with the end of the war while The Red Necklace focuses on the beginning. I have to say, I think I might have liked Sovay better if I had not first read and looooovvvveeedddd The Red Necklace.
Cover: The cover at the beginning of the post is the cover on my book but I also found this cover. Usually I really like one cover over the other but I like both of these! I think they both are really eye-catching and do a great job of selling the book. Anyone prefer one of these over the other?
Recommendation: Check out some of Celia Rees’ other titles instead. My favorite is Pirates! but Witch Child is also very good.
Read-a-like: The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner