My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A Brief History of Montmaray is the first book in the Montmaray Journals series by Michelle Cooper. Montmaray is a fictional island in the Bay of Biscay between England and Spain, with its own fictional royal family, the FitzOsbornes. This particular story is told by 15-year-old Sophie FitzOsborne through the pages of her journal: The year is 1936 and the world is on the brink of WWII, but only time will tell if the Nazis will be a threat to the tiny island where Sophie lives in a crumbling castle with her sister, cousin, uncle (King John of Montmaray) and his housekeeper/carer - and Carlos the Portugese water dog. There is also Simon, who turns up in the story often; he is employed by the Kingdom of Montmaray to act as a sort of Ambassador, and is Sophie's teen crush (although, I have to say that she doesn't really have any other crush-worthy options with no other boys around her age on the island).
Montmaray is a place where there is no agriculture or trade, supplies are delivered by merchant ships, and the dead are buried at sea. Although Montmaray is a kingdom in its own right, the King is crazy and the heir to throne (who isn't really enthused about being the heir to the throne) is in England completeing his studies, so the day-to-day running of the kingdom has become the responsibility of the children. With the threat of a Nazi invasion on the horizon, it is up to Sophie and her family to do all in their power to protect their island home and heritage.
A Brief History of Montmaray is fast-paced, adventurous YA fiction that provides a glimpse into some of history's most defining moments, but they really are just a glimpse so if you are a true History Nerd this book may not be for you. Although I am not a fan of stories written in journal format, I was able to look past that fact as the story as a whole held my attention and I became quite fond of the characters (Carlos the dog was my favourite). However, I found at times the style to be inconsistent: One minute I was in the brain of a 15-year-old girl and the next I was clearly reading the work of an adult author with some pretty awesome descriptive abilities. As an adult reading a YA fiction novel I could tell the difference and it became distracting, almost frustrating at times. However, I know that my 14-year-old self would not have noticed and would have relished the adventure and mystery that this story provides.
I look forward to reading the next instalment and discovering where history and fate take the FitzOsbornes next.
Recommended for girls aged between 12 and 16 years old, and any adults that dig a bit of clever YA fiction.
**Many thanks to the author, Michelle Cooper, for inviting and sending me a copy of this novel to review.