In the House of the Magician
1570s, Elizabethan England. When country girl Lucy flees from her drunken father and sets off to London to find work, she has no idea how far it is. The first day’s walk leaves her exhausted and hungry. The chance rescue of two small girls leads to her becoming a maid in the spooky house of real life Dr Dee, the queen’s magician and astrologer, who, it’s said, conjures up spirits of the dead.
Lucy, whose besetting sin is curiosity, cannot resist poking her nose into what Dee’s up to. Soon, she gets more than she bargained for. She overhears a discussion between Lord Vaizey and Dr Dee concerning young Alice Vaizey, one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting who has died tragically. Vaizey begs Dr Dee to raise his daughter’s spirit from the grave and promises him thirty guineas. Later, Dr Dee asks Lucy to pretend to be Alice, and promises her two guineas. Lucy, who has just had news that her family has been left destitute by her father’s gambling, has no option but to agree. But now the dead Alice begins to haunt her dreams, begging her to ‘save the queen’. What does Alice mean? And what can Lucy do?
This lively first person narrative illuminates both Lucy’s intelligence and resourcefulness and the superstitious fears of the time. The credulous Dr Dee is well-drawn, too. The court’s anxieties about the threat posed by Elizabeth’s cousin, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, is well brought out, as is the affection which Elizabeth inspired in her subjects.
It is full of fascinating historical detail, not only about life in the Elizabethan court, but also more homely things, like what people wore and ate and how they behaved. Generally (apart from some anachronistic tomatoes) the book would flesh out a study of Elizabethan England. I enjoyed it.
This is an adventure story with a hint of romance, set in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The author manages to engage you right at the start by telling you about Lucy’s rather violent father. It is quite exciting because you never know what is going to happen next. The characters and the setting are very good. The plot is imaginative, although the lead up to the climax isn’t as dramatic as it could have been.
I would say this book would interest girls more than boys, and would be a suitable reading age for 11 to 14 year olds. If you have read any other books by Mary Hooper you will know that they are very good and this is no exception.