A Brief History of Montmaray is a YA historical by Michelle Cooper.
Sophie FitzOsborne is a princess. She lives in a castle. But she wears hand-me-down dresses and the castle is kind of falling apart. And the small island kingdom she lives on is one that hardly anyone even knows about - Montmaray. She lives there with her younger, wild, tomboy sister Henry and her pretty, bookish, smart cousin Veronica. All of them princesses. The King stays in his room, raving and throwing things whenever he catches sight of anyone other than Rebecca, the slightly mad, obsessive housekeeper that worships him.
Toby, Sophie's older brother and the next in line to the throne, is away in England at school. He send Sophie a sixteenth birthday present - a journal. In it, she begins to write. It is 1936 and the cusp of many things. Things that may change her quiet, simple, odd life completely.
It's hard to give much more than that away! So, I'll take it from here with my observations. It doesn't take long to relate to Sophie and her romantic ideals. She's a lover of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, and themes of gothic mysteries and madness certainly come into play in A Brief History of Montmaray.
The rambleshack kingdom of Montmaray is both charming and fascinating, filled with eccentric characters that spice up an already delicious novel. There is a sense of danger and espionage-like intrigue, threats beneath the surface, a sense that is only hinted at through Sophie's blissful ignorance as she writes in the journal we are reading through her naive, sweet, truly likable voice. We experience everything through her unassuming personality, creating a delightful it sometimes slow story.
I admit that at one point I did feel like it needed to pick up the pace. I was getting a little impatient. But not much, because I had a feeling that the novel was going to get deeper - and it did. It really, really did. Illness, death, and war begin to disrupt the quiet peace that our lovable bunch of unorthodox royals have had their entire strange lives. They come across as a regular family in an extraordinary situation.
Eventually there are some moments of strongly written fear that brings about the true sense of gothic mystery and suspense that the blurbs on the book speak of. The climatic, sudden happenings ratchet up the thrill quotient immensely and as the threat of Nazis becomes more palpable. The history surrounding the FitzOsbornes' sizzles with interest and makes me nervous. Because, all of those slower parts early on? Yeah, they made me love them and care deeply. So, now you're terrified for them.
A Brief History of Montmaray has shocks galore near the end and had me on the edge of my seat. I wouldn't dare tell you why, or any details because it would tear from you, my dear reader, the wonderful, scary experience. And it is scary. And grief-stricken, beautiful, meaningful, and lovely!
Michelle Cooper has indeed penned a stunner! And the story continues in The FitzOsbornes in Exile, which I (thank goodness!) have ready to read immediately. I have fallen in love with the FitzOsbornes and absolutely must know what happens next!
If you're a fan of Jane Austen and the Brontes (like Sophie and I), I definitely recommend A Brief History of Montmaray. But, actually, I recommend it anyway. You should try it. I'd be shocked if it doesn't end up affecting you, whether you want it to or not! :)