Recommended Age: 13+
Genres: Mystery, Drama
Tags: murder mystery, crime, diversity, royalty
- Mild violence: Descriptions of murder and mental breakdowns. Mild language: Brief threats and insults.
Grace Blakely is a teenager recovering from the trauma of watching her mother die. With her military father deployed and her older brother in military training, she’s sent to live in the U.S. embassy with her grandfather, a place she hasn’t returned to since the death of her mother. Adria is a country with both a monarchy and representatives from various foreign countries, which already makes it both delicately political and endlessly fun. But this beautiful country is not without its secrets, and with so many powerful people fighting to tip the scales in their favor, Grace’s determination to discover the truth behind her mother’s murder just might get herself killed.
Some books have a setting that acts as its own character, and the country of Adria is definitely one of those cases. Ally Carter dreams up a political playground, which opens up endless schemes and opportunities for conspiracies. Embassy Row is sectioned off land all owned by different countries, and all residing in a monarchy led country in a made up location (though it sounds like it’s south of Europe, somewhere along the coast). The United States embassy is between Germany and Russia, and not too far from both Iran and the royal palace. It’s a very ambitious location, and the fun and creativity behind the setting is the best part of this series.
Grace is an unreliable narrator, though she doesn’t mean to be. Her disjointed memories, unresolved trauma, and stubborn fixation on conspiracy theories fuels the plot with plenty of adventure. She prioritizes truth above everything, including her own safety and sanity, pushing and prodding at sensitive topics until it lands her everywhere from hospitals and mental health facilities to secret tunnels and abandoned houses.
Sometimes main characters have to be reckless and stubborn in order to push the plot forward, so it’s important to have a strong cast of characters. Ally Carter specializes not just in conspiracies and espionage, but heartwarming friendships and giving her young characters quirks and skills that make her stories much more fun. Grace’s self assigned best friend Noah is a nice balance between goofy and responsible, a true politician’s kid. Rosie is way overqualified for her minor role in this story, and could easily become both the future president or the head of the CIA. Grace’s grandfather is all gruff family pride and Ms. Chancellor is a truly impressive overall human. It’s funny how Grace is continually so amazed by Ms. Chancellor, with mounting fear and respect at each newly discovered secret.
If you like secrets, spies, and teenage run operations to overthrow government conspiracies, Ally Carter’s books are always a smart choice.
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