Spy for the Queen of Scots

Written by Theresa Breslin
Review by Linda Lawlor

Mary, Queen of Scots has sometimes been criticised as vain and foolish, but this fascinating account of her reign does much to redress that. It is told by Jenny, the Queen’s closest friend, who is privy to her misgivings and her struggles, and who sees at first hand the attempts made by John Knox and the various factions at Court to influence and later to destroy the young Queen.

Jenny is Mary’s constant companion, working quietly in the background to detect the spies, poisoners and traitors who threaten the Queen. Her affectionate, fiercely loyal character gives the book a depth and resonance no mere historical account could achieve, and her own doubts about the man she herself has fallen in love with effectively mirror the uncertainty of the Queen’s situation.

Breslin has previously won the Carnegie medal for children’s fiction, and her Remembrance is a modern classic. This book in its turn will not disappoint. With a few deft details she captures the atmosphere of a court in turmoil, where luxury and extravagance are the backdrop for plotting and intrigue, and while Jenny is ready to do anything she can to protect the Queen, she is always presented as a girl of her time and her station. It is a thrilling tale, full of midnight escapes and daring rescues, and the fact that readers already knows its sad outcome will not prevent them from thoroughly enjoying it.