As the novel begins we are straight away in the world of Elizabethan London as Lucy waits with her two young charges, Beth and Meryl, by the side of the road for Elizabeth I and her retinue to pass by on the way from Richmond Palace to the Palace of Whitehall. Lucy works in the household of Dr Dee, a real Elizabethan personage, who dabbles in magic. A staunch supporter of Elizabeth, she is also a part-time spy for Tomas, the Queen’s fool.
The household of Dr Dee is to move to London to be nearer the lucrative court of the Queen. Lucy experiences many of the sights and sounds of London: the street traders with their wares; a theatrical troupe of players; the funeral of a young nobleman; the dismal Christ’s Hospital for foundlings; the hubbub of the Palace itself.
Thinking to explore London more easily she disguises herself as a boy and soon finds that she is taken on as an extra with the theatrical troupe to play a woman. The players are to stage a new play by William Shakespeare. Tomas asks her to be his eyes and ears because supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots, are threatening to stage an uprising. The title refers to the possible betrayal of the Queen by Mary and her supporters, but also hints at a more personal story for Lucy and her friend Tomas.
The fast pace of the narrative encourages the reader to find out what happens next. Mary Hooper is a natural storyteller, and this book is the third in a trilogy which began with At the House of the Magician and By Royal Command. The book also contains some historical notes about the real-life characters and locations, a glossary and bibliography for further reading. Recommended novel for the young adult category.