Author: Celia Rees
Pub. Date: August 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Historical fiction
Age Range: Young Adult
Synopsis/Teaser: Sovay Middleton is not your average aristocratic maiden. Growing up in 18th-century England, Sovay has a taste for adventure, and at age 17, one of her favorite pastimes is highway robbery. But the lovely Sovay gets in too deep when she holds up the carriage of one of England’s most influential- and dangerous- men. Sovay soon finds herself forced to clear her family’s name and save those she holds dear from the horrors of the Revolution in France.
Review: “Sovay, Sovay, all on a day/Dressed herself in man’s array…” Thus begins the “traditional ballad” given at the start of Sovay. I presume the book is based on it. Celia Rees has taken the idea of a girl posing as a highwayman, set it in England and France shortly after the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and made it into a well-developed and thoroughly gripping historical thriller.
The first book by Celia Rees I’ve read was Witch Child, a historical fiction bordering on fantasy based on the Salem Witch Trials. I enjoyed it very much, though found that, as the mystery builds, long passages of speculation slowed things down quite a bit. The same issue was the main flaw of Sovay. I’d have to read other works of Rees’s to know for sure, but that is probably just one of her weaknesses as a writer.
Also in Sovay, I couldn’t help but grow increasingly annoyed as Sovay’s romantic pursuits grew more and more cliché. Which handsome young man will she choose? Oh, with so many admirers, it is rather difficult. But I suppose, when you’re beautiful and headstrong and very rich, it just comes with the territory.
I realize I’m making this sound like I didn’t like Sovay. Don’t get me wrong. I totally did. It offers a unique view on the French Revolution, and Celia Rees’s writing is excellent. She’s one of the few authors I’ve read who can actually get away with near-constant description of characters, places, objects, etc. Seasoned Rees fans and newbies alike will be sure to get something out of Sovay.
Recommended for: Francophiles, history buffs, and fans of mystery and mayhem.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars