Friday, October 10, 2008

Children’s Books: Sovay by Celia Rees

Several years ago, I read this author’s first book, Witch Child, an historical adventure set in 17th century Massachusetts, in a colony started by people thrown out of Salem for being too extremist. It was an enjoyable piece of historical fiction and the author has since written three more books.

Sovay (Bloomsbury) is set in 18th century England and Revolutionary France. As in Witch Child, the story is seen through the eyes of a young woman. It appears to be inspired by a traditional ballad which was about a girl who dressed as a man and held up a coach to test her sweetheart. The boy in the ballad passed the test. The fiancé of the heroine of this novel fails spectacularly, but it turns out to be the least of her worries.

Sovay Middleton, daughter of a middleclass radical, has been left alone on the estate. Her idealistic father has gone missing, as has her student brother, who has similar opinions to their father. She knows someone is coming with papers that could destroy her family, but when she uses her highwayman disguise to get them, she finds a lot more than she was expecting. Her father has some dangerous enemies.

On her way to London, to find out what has happened, she is helped by a number of good people, including her family steward’s son, an American spy and a genuine highwayman. But she needs to escape England and her troubles spill over into France, where Robespierre rules and all English are considered spies.

Sovay is another enjoyable adventure which may appeal to girls who like a little more than the standard teen romance. The only thing is, there are a number of men who seem to be attracted to Sovay and you aren’t quite expecting the man she ends up with. It’s as if the author has decided Sovay has to have someone and added a character for that purpose. Sovay is a strong character, if a little too perfect and the novel gives a good picture of the era.

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