Published by Simon Pulse on September 3, 2019
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Action & Adventure, Historical, Romance, Young Adult
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The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.
Some legends never die…
Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.
Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.
Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.
Fun, fascinated, and a fan of adventure: all words to describe the Lady Rogue of this book, Theodora.
She’s the daughter of the first woman archaeologist to graduate from a university in Romania, as well as the grand, larger-than-life explorer, Richard Fox. Told between alternating journal entries from Fox’s travel journal and Theodora’s first person POV, The Lady Rogue guides reader to a fun-fueled adventure through Europe that lands us in the depths of fairy-tale like Romania, where some secrets are better kept hidden. The comparison to The Last Magician and A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is pretty accurate, as The Lady Rogue manages to tie in the epic-scale heist of TLM and grand tour feel of AGGVV together in an action-packed, plot-driven, whirlwind of an adventure in the story. We begin with a missing father.
Theodora’s had a horrible day in Istanbul in the beginning of the book (flawed character, much?), and the day only gets worse when, instead of her father returning, she sees the ex-love of her life, Huck, in her hotel room, ready to pick her up. These plans quickly turn moot when two travelers ransack her room and give chase to her and Huck. Immediately, readers are thrown into action: who are these men, and what do they want? Where in the world is Theodora’s father, and why did he send Huck, after she hasn’t seen Huck in a year? Questions rise very rapidly, and the rest of the book is a large adventure that collects answers as it proceeds.
The book is basically TONS of action/adventure within a historical setting, with a spice of family relationships, and a sprinkle of romance. That’s pretty much it. The time period is quite interesting (beginning of 20th century), and yet there is an exceptionally modern feel to the story due to the dialogue and gadgets used (like the retro camera Theodora uses). I’ve actually read both Bennett’s Urban Fantasy series Arcadia Bell and her contemporaries (which are SO. DANG. GOOD), so seeing how she executes a fast-paced YA historical story was really interesting. I must say, the emphasis on action and the fast pace made for less character introspection than I would have liked, but I honestly didn’t mind.
So Theodora, our Lady Rogue. She loves her father very much, but he’s a man that’s very hard to like. She is sheltered by him, left in hotel rooms while he hunts for mysterious treasure, and she’s frustrated that he would disappear on him. When Theodora and Huck go search for him, they encounter MANY obstacles that heighten that frustration. Fox is a man who holds his secrets and emotions quite close to his heart, which makes things complicated. But I really adore how their relationship progressed in the story, and how Theodora comes to terms with that relationship. In general, she’s an “action first, think later” kind of character that frequently puts herself in dangerous situations. But then again, the fun needs to come from somewhere right? She always does it with good intentions, however, and her capricious personality was a blast to read about.
‘See this? I was named after a great empress. I’m royalty – nay, I’m an independent young lady! You may call me Lady Rogue.’
Huck, on the other hand, was less developed, but still managed to hold his ground as a character. All readers know is that he left Theodora super suddenly with no word, and just as suddenly, he comes back to her life. But was it all his fault? Hmm… Either way, he’s a tall, Irish boy who lost his parents as a child and came to live with Theodora and her father at a young age. Basically one of the fam. Except… Theodora has less than family-like feelings for him. They used to have a little heated relationship going on, but neither knows where they stand with the other after the reunion. Can romance blossom on the run from chasing travelers towards Theodora’s mother’s home country, Romania? Or will the burdens of their past bog down that development? (Here’s a point in the favor of ‘yes’: the excellent banter and sizzling chemistry).
‘You’re supposed to be impressed by this. Me big man, make big fire.’
I laid sheets of the newspaper over the cot. ‘Me little woman, cover up skeleton so big man doesn’t get scared.’
So there we have it: excellent character dialogue, a steady stream of action that carries the plot, and neverending secrets being uncovered on an adventure through Europe, and into a magical history. I think this foray into a more fantastical realm was a plus for Bennett, and cannot wait to see where else her writing takes us. (As you can see, I am a BIG fan of hers.) Despite the pretty modern dialogue, Bennett still manages to transport readers throughout magical places in Romania and along the Orient Express. I would recommend this book to readers looking for a super fun (and perhaps on the lighter side) adventure that is non-stop, full of family secrets, and a dash of romance.
Content/Trigger Warnings: mild violence, blood/gore
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Simon and Netgalley for the review copy!
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