Series overall rating: 4 stars ★★★★☆
I read this series last year, and I loved it. It’s a YA series consisting of four books: A Spy in the House, The Body in the Tower, The Traitor in the Tunnel, and Rivals in the City. It’s set during the 1850s in London and is centered around Mary, who is not only trying to remove herself from her criminal past, but from half her identity as half-Chinese. Here’s the summary for A Spy in the House:
Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past
See? It just sounds interesting, and I’m here to tell you that it is. I’ve read all four books in the series (somehow I got an UK edition of Rivals in the City in America. I wish the US covers were as pretty as the UK ones.) and I enjoyed each book, but with more fervor as the series wore on.
Mary Quinn is everything a good main character should be in order not to annoy the reader. She is smart, headstrong, a survivor, awkward, resilient, and she learns as the series wears on. She learns not to hide her heritage so much (she doesn’t embrace it but she opens up) and she learns that women don’t have to be either a career-women (I hate that word) or a wife/mother. They can be both or neither. IMAGINE THAT.
Y.S. Lee holds a PhD in Victorian Literature and Culture, so she knows what she’s talking about, which makes this another reason why I loved this series. I know quite a bit about Victorian Britain (it’s my obsession okay) and to be able to read a series and LEARN some things all the while being entertained–sign me up for that any time.
Oh, and there’s romance. James was cute. Okay, enough of that.
Anyways, this series was awesome and I feel like if you’ve read Libba Bray or Robin LaFevers (or any YA historical author) and enjoyed it, you would love this series too. Recommend it, all the way.