The Last Duchess - Book Review
MG Historical Fantasy
UK Publisher: Macmillan children’s books
Pattern is only thirteen, but is already rising through the ranks at Mrs Minchin’s Academy of Domestic Servitude and seems destined for a life below stairs. But fate intervenes when she is packed off to the small and secretive Duchy of Elffinberg, to serves as lady’s maid to the lately orphaned Grand Duchess.
Pattern’s young new mistress is excitable and paranoid, yet despite their differences the two girls forge an unlikely friendship that quickly turns into a battle for survival. For picture-perfect Elffinberg hides an extremely dark and deadly secret…
Armed only with her trusty sewing basket, a bottle of smelling salts and J. Bulcock’s inestimable guide, The Duties of a Lady’s Maid, Pattern will need all her wits and resourcefulness when dealing with above-stairs conspiracies and below-stairs intrigue. Darning stockings has never been so dangerous.
This was a super cute story, and one I think fans of Katherine Woodfine and Holly Webb will enjoy. Very character driven with vivid, old worldly descriptions, The Last Duchess was a lovely book with which to while away an afternoon.
Pattern’s ordinary life is turned upside down when she suddenly finds herself shipped away from London, back to the country of her birth to serve as a ladies maid to a young and orphaned duchess. But the land of Elffinberg holds many myths, and Pattern is about to discover that the palace sits on top of the biggest secret of all.
As the residents of the castle gossip, bribe and attempt to plot their way to the throne, Pattern will need all her skills if she is to help her new mistress survive. But first Pattern must gain the duchess’ trust, or be sent back to London in disgrace…
I couldn't help but enjoy this book. In a merge of history and fantasy, Laura Powell brings to life a small country faced with one very big problem. A dragon. And like in any good fairytale, the only way to appease the dragon is to offer him a princess to snack on…. But the characters in this book are no helpless maidens.
Pattern is hearty heroine. Although mousy on the outside, she is quick thinking and practical, winning her battles through sheer will and kindness. A loyal servant, she is a good balance for the hot tempered duchess, and together the two spark a heart-warming friendship.
However the book is set in a fantastical country, and I was a little sad we didn’t get to visit more of it. Most of the book takes place within the palace, with only short jaunts into the countryside. But the village itself teems with life and I hope in the next book we get to see more of Pattern’s world.
The story is also full of plot twists and I often found myself surprised. Between each page and the next I would suspect one thing only to find myself proven half-right, which left me with just the right amount of smugness, yet still enough intrigue to delight in the truth.
All in all, a sweet MG read. 3 stars!