Editor’s Note: The grading system used here is similar to the 10-point scale used in SDSU courses.
London celebrates Napoleon’s imprisonment, but something is hiding in the shadows that can bring him back and destroy the British empire.
After setting fire to her father’s stables, Georgie Fitzwilliam is sent to the Stranje house, a reform school for troubled girls. But Georgie soon learns the Stranje house is more than a reform school when she’s thrown into a world of espionage to protect her country from the threats of France.
Kathleen Baldwin’s novel mixes both historical fiction and fantasy, making an interesting and unique “spy-like” novel. Though not a true spy novel, Baldwin’s piece still comes across as one to its readers, especially when the girls are trained to be both spies and diplomats.
Even though I enjoyed the novel, I couldn’t help but think Baldwin gave away a lot of vital information in the beginning, since it felt like the beginning of the novel was moving too fast. Baldwin could have left most of the book a mystery and have Georgie slowly learn about everything going on around her. It felt like both Georgie and I, as the reader, were just thrown into the plot.
But there’s one great thing about Baldwin doing this: a reader can see how everything affects Georgie and it actually helps develop her character and the relationships she builds.
To build these relationships, Georgie must first see past the mistrust she has for the other students, though it does help when she’s more or less thrown into a world of spies and diplomats. And the good thing about Baldwin having the girls mistrust each other is that it allows Georgie to learn how all the girls and their talents tie together. It also furthers the plot for later installments in the series.
As for the romance Georgie has, it’s somewhere between amusing and annoying. Most of the annoyance goes toward her love interest Sebastian, and that’s due to him stereotyping how Georgie acts and dresses. But Baldwin cleverly turns his stereotyping into friendly banter between the two, which more or less causes them to fall in love.
I don’t know how to feel about Georgie and Sebastian falling in love in the first book. The length of the book almost makes it seem like instant love, but, surprisingly, it works. Plus, the romance in the novel didn’t outshine and punch you in the face.
There are three books in the series, the first “A School for Unusual Girls,” followed by “Exile for Dreamers” and “Refuge for Masterminds.” With each novel, the point of view switches to another girl. Having the first book be about Georgie, the reader gets a grip of what’s going on and all the characters are introduced without giving away too much.
It was a hard book to put down, mostly because it’s interesting how Baldwin has female characters who take charge in a fictional version of the 1800s. I definitely recommended it to any fan of historical fiction or anyone who wants to read about strong female characters.