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Wednesday 24 April 2024

Review: Her Majesty's League Of Remarkable Young Ladies

Move over MacGyver, there’s a new Queen of Improv in town and her name is Miss Weatherby; that’s Winnie to you and I. 

Young teen, Winnie rocks as an inventeress. Yes, the gender specification is acceptable because the time period Winifred rocks in is the late 1800s as in the latter part of Queen Victoria’s reign, which adds a delicious extra layer of richness to Alison Stegert’s first middle grade fiction, Her Majesty’s League of Remarkable Young Ladies.

This astoundingly long-titled novel is an extravaganza of remarkable indeed. An exciting mash-up of Nancy Drew come Famous Five sporting the Victorian era qualities of A Little Princess. Somehow, Stegert sews it all seamlessly together in a gripping tale of espionage, mystery and for want of a better word, MacGyverness.

Winnie is the only child of a single father whose penchant for engineering solutions for problems that have not even occurred yet outweighs her desire to act primly and properly. She relishes the art of inventiveness, wearing with pride her most prized possession, her mother’s chatelaine; a kind of early day feminine multi-tool which she constantly adds to and improves on. Her aptitude for design and disregard for poised properness makes her somewhat of a renegade at the Beacon Academy for Young Ladies. That is until she is invited into a secret league of she-teens by an enigmatic veiled stranger.

Her talent for creativity is valued in this unique company of spies and her arch nemesis, aka Head Mistress of Beacon Academy, becomes an unexpected ally. But are their individual talents and combined determination enough to flush out a stalker intent on disarming the Royal family?

Set against the beguiling backdrops of Victorian London and metropolitan Paris, this narrative moves swiftly from one intriguing reveal to the next prompting non-stop page turning. I imagine my mystery-mad 12-year-old-self would have devoured this in one sumptuous sitting.

With just the right amounts of Machiavellianism, relationship quandaries and daring, Stegert engineers a story that is a rollercoaster of who dunnit and why moments all delightfully laced with enough history to make the whole tale 150% plausible. In fact, I was convinced Winnie and her father were responsible for the world’s first facsimile machine until royal pug, Bosco put me straight!  

Wannabe spies, connoisseurs of criminology, lovers of historical fiction and anyone else who just relishes an exceptionally well-written adventure tale must include Her Majesty’s League of Remarkable Young Ladies on their to-read list. Awarded ‘Top Prize’ in my books.

Read Dimity’s KBR review of Alison’s picture book, Boogie Woogie Bird.

Title:  Her Majesty’s League Of Remarkable Young Ladies
Author:  Alison D Stegert
Publisher:  Chicken House Books, $19.99
Publication Date:  1 May 2024
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781915026095
For ages:  10 – 14
Type:  Middle Grade Fiction