Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mini Review: Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Release Date: October 2010
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 368
Received: Library
Stars: 3.5
Goodreads Page

I'm starting to think I don't really love Queen Victoria books. Michaela MacColl's vapid, demanding, and DULL interpretation of Victoria did nothing to change my feelings.

Thankfully, Victoria wasn't the main character (though her frequent page-time knocked off my stars). Liza is the main character, and I liked this riches to rags girl a whole lot more.

Liza doesn't spend much time dwelling on her parents' deaths. I mean, sure, she mentions it and it affects her, as it should, but she doesn't mope. She recognizes the suckiness of her changed situation (from wealthy girl to orphaned maid servant) but she's wonderfully pragmatic about the whole thing and quickly learns how to play her cards to improve her lot. A thousand points to Liza for being the go-getter I wanted to read about.

Fans of Susan Dennard's scrappy Daniel Sheridan will probably swoon for Liza's scrappy paramour Will (bonus points for the name Will!). Their slow burn romance and subtle scheming (with the help of a charming street urchin) was the highlight of the book for me.

As for the history, I'd categorize this somewhere between heavy, super-detailed Historical fiction and the more backdrop-style historical fiction-lite. There's plenty to learn, with many of the big historical players making an appearance. While it definitely feels old-timey historical, Prisoners in the Palace doesn't bombard the reader with Details.

Bottom line

Prisoners in the Palace was a quick, light, fun book with mostly-likable characters and a plot that kept me entertained. Chapters are super short, making it a breeze to fly through, though I kept getting hung up on the third-person narrative voice (this book SO felt like it was written for first person!).

Victoria soured things for me, which is not necessarily any fault of the author but did affect my enjoyment of the book nevertheless. Everything else was all totally enjoyable, but none went above "very good" and definitely not into "OHMYGOSHLOVE" territory.

Looking for another book like this?
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  1. I did really love this book (still my favorite of MacColl's three books) but I think I have a big soft spot for Victoria after adoring her Royal Diary (those MG books of royalty; I think you've read some of them?) which is not even one of the most popular. I went back and read my review (from 2011!) and I had some problems with both Liza and Victoria's portrayals but I did really love the book especially Inside Boy and his street patter.

    1. Oh? I don't think I realized she wrote other books. I have read some of the Royal Diaries books, but I didn't pick up the Victoria one because I'm pretty meh on Victoria. Maybe I should pick it up now though. Inside Boy was a highlight for sure! I liked how his street patter came into play.

  2. I remember seeing this one when it first came out in hardcover but, well, I don't really like riches-to-rags stories. Generally because this means the heroine spends valuable time bemoaning the change in her station and being generally useless. I prefer a heroine who pushes up her sleeves and Gets Things Done. So maybe I'd like Liza?

    And, Small, have you watched The Young Victoria? I really liked it and I think it portrays Queen Victoria in a fascinating light. After watching it, I don't think I like her exactly, but I have some compassion for her. As an added bonus, the costumes and the filmography are beautiful!

    1. hm, I think you would like this book, but not love it. Though I do wonder how accurate they were with their titles and such not, which I know would be a make it or break it for you. :)

      I have not seen The Young Victoria yet. I've rented it a few times though, so clearly I have every intention of seeing it at some point :P It was extremely popular in my library.

    2. I'm pretty sure I'm not a historical fiction lover. Now if you toss in some magic, a quest or some type of fantasy to go along side the history, count me in.

    3. haha too true. I do love straight up historical fiction, but I'm always up for adding a dash of magic!

  3. I am so far behind on blog comments, and I have to come back to truly read this post and comment on IT, but I felt like I needed to come here and 1. thank you for recommending me the Queen's Thief series and 2. thank you for leaving me the best comment ever in the history of comments. I'm grinning as I reply to it now - and I plan on returning to this post and commenting many of your other posts (I think I owe you at least four comments?) - but ahhhhhh thank you thank you thank you. :)

    1. LOL! Well, 1) YOU'RE SO WELCOME! The fact that you love them is the best thanks you could give! and 2) you're very welcome! Thank YOU for reading them, lovng them, and writing such an excellent review (which I'm going to link here in case anyone reading this comment is curious)

  4. I didn't know you didn't like Queen Victoria! LOL
    I'm glad the story was okay for you otherwise though I doubt I would be picking it up, since I kind of like Historical lite only

    1. I don't know that I know enough about her to definitively say I dislike her, but almost every fictional account I've read about her has made me think I don't like her. This one is for sure historical fiction lite, so you might like it!

  5. I picked this one out of a bargain bin a few years back, but have yet to read it. I'm actually more interested in it now that I know that Victoria isn't the main character because that's an interesting dynamic. You're on a roll with the historical fiction, by the way! I would like to squeeze in more histfic than I do currently, as well.


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