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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Review: A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper


SYNOPSIS: “There’s a fine line between gossip and history, when one is talking about kings.”

Sophie Fitzosborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed.

A Brief History of Montmaray is a heart-stopping tale of loyalty, love, and loss, and of fighting to hold on to home when the world is exploding all around you.

REVIEW: Sophie FitzOsborne is a teenage girl living on the small island kingdom of Montmaray, a desolated place populated by a decaying craggily castle, wherein there are “as many Royal Highnesses on the island as there are subjects”. Sophie is determined to document life on the island, and armed with her trusty journal, she paints us a vivd picture of life within the castle, which includes a raving, lunatic King with a penchant for throwing chamber pots about his bedroom, extreme weather conditions, illnesses and dangerous German visitors who trespass onto the island in the pursuit of artifacts.

A Brief History of Montmaray is written in the style of I Capture the Castle, and if you are a fan of that novel, you will definitely want to read Michelle Cooper’s compelling romantic, adventure. Though there are similarities, it's important to note that Michelle Cooper has definitely made A Brief History of Montmaray all her own. All the characters were extremely well drawn with strong, quirky personalities – from tomboy Henry with her wild recklessness, to Sophie’s beautiful and brilliant cousin Veronica, with her flair for political debate and historical facts. The novel transpires through the journal entries of Sophie, who is an extremely likable protagonist. I enjoyed flipping through the pages and watching her natural progression into a more mature young woman.

The plot of A Brief History of Montmaray was incredible. The elements of history, intrigue, romance and a dash of the supernatural all blended together in a fast paced, seamless manner. The unexpected plot twists and turns left me reeling time and time again. My heart was pounding especially hard when the Germans came late one night in their relentless pursuit of the legend involving the Holy Grail. But, the ending was what absolutely blew me away. I could not put the book down at that point. I’m not sure if Michelle Cooper plans on writing a sequel to A Brief History of Montmaray, but I would be most eager to snatch one up and continue on with the saga of FitzOsbornes.

This novel was also awarded the 2009 Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature and shortlisted for the 2008 Golden Inky Teenage Choice Award. You can read an excerpt from the novel HERE.

Reading level: Young Adult
304 pages
Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 13, 2009)
Buy at Amazon, Borders, Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble

Michelle Cooper is a speech pathologist specialising in learning disabilities and reluctant readers, so she's passionate about getting children and teenagers interested in books. Michelle was inspired to write her first novel, THE RAGE OF SHEEP, after events such as September 11, when she found that teenagers wanted to engage in discussions about religion and religious intolerance. Michelle lives in Sydney and is currently working on more novels for teenagers, including the sequels to A BRIEF HISTORY OF MONTMARAY. Visit www.michellecooper-writer.com for more information about Michelle and her books.


A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Oh, this one looks good. It was one of my Waiting on Wednesday picks about a month ago!

Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D

I won Michelle's book a couple of months ago, and it was one of my absolutely favorite reads!

Like you, I am eagerly hoping for a sequel - :)

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Fantastic review. You had my heart pounding.