Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Book Review: Montacute House by Lucy Jago

Montacute HouseGoodreads description

At first a boy’s body is discovered, then John, Cess’s best friend, disappears . . . What is the mystery behind these sinister events?
Cess works caring for the chickens at Montacute House but on her thirteenth birthday everything changes. She finds a precious locket hidden in the chicken coop and is convinced someone has placed it there for her to find. But the day is overshadowed by fear as a boy’s body is found by the river, and then John disappears. Cess is determined to find him but is soon embroiled in a plot that threatens her world and forces her to draw on powers she never knew she possessed, powers that will place her life in danger if they are discovered by the villagers. Witchcraft, politics and religious ambition combine in this gripping and wonderfully realised novel set in the Somerset of the 1500s.
My review
In Montacute house, we meet thirteen year old Cess Perryn who works as the poultry girl at the Grand Montacute House and is shunned by the villagers because she was born out of wedlock. She lives alone with her mother who was ostracized by her family after Cess' grandparents died for disgracing them and her only two friends being a boy with a clubbed foot called William (this was considered the devil's mark) and a suspected witch called Edith, who are just as much social outcasts as she is. The book begins on the day of her thirteenth birthday around May Day when a shocking event happens in the normally quiet village of Montacute. A boy's blistered corpse is found dumped by the river and no one knows who is is or how he died so soon the village people are abuzz with accusations of  witchcraft flying around. That is not the only mysterious event that happens that day because Cess finds a valuable brooch with the portrait of a lady on it hidden in the chicken coop as if it was meant specially for her. Soon after, her best friend William also disappears and Cess is determined to find him whatever is costs....

I thought Cess was an appealing and likable heroine who grows in character a great deal throughout the events of the book and rises to the challenges she is faced with well. Despite the social difficulties she goes through, she appears to cope well despite the fact she longs to overcome the injustice of it. The lengths that she went to for her friend William were very sweet too and she showed great courage in her efforts to help find him. Despite this, I didn't really like William's character because he appeared to be a bit selfish and immature. I would also have liked to have seen the character of Jasper being more developed.

The plot itself was fast moving and had lots of different threads including mystery, conspiracy, supernatural magic and a hint of romance that worked well together. These kept the plot moving fast with suspense and action but also with evidently researched detail about the Elizabethan time period and the real Montacute House from allegedly existing secret passages, the sights and smells of a small village and a large market town to the practices of witchcraft that is used to help people for the better. I really loved the idea of Montacute House being a real house in Somerset that Lucy Jago was inspired by and it has made me want to visit it now. The author knowing the house also made it seem to come alive more and I could visualise it well. The house is also used on the cover!

My only complaints are that the smidgen of romance seemed to turn up out of nowhere with no signs of it coming and felt unnecessary and as if it was popped in there for the sake of it. Also, whilst the ending made me happy (and I'm secretly glad it turned out that way!), it seemed quite unrealistic to me.

Verdict: Montacute House (being released as The Coven's Daughter in the US) is the story of a courageous heroine packed with an exciting mix of murder, mystery, political plots and magic that captures life in the Elizabethan village of Montacute excellently.

Rating: 4 stars

Montacute House is being released in the UK today. If you would like to find out more it, then look out for my interview with the author Lucy Jago tomorrow. You can find out more about Lucy Jago on her website and view a film of Lucy on location at the real Montacute House in Somerset on Bloomsbury's You Tube channel.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review


  1. I'm dying to read this! Thanks for the review!

  2. I agree with you about the romance. It would have made more sense if she had fallen in love with the other guy (trying to avoid spoilers you will probably get what I mean).

  3. @ComaCalm You're welcome :) I hope you get to read it!

    @Rebecca Herman Yeah, I would have loved that to have happened so much more- I mean she did so much for him!

  4. I've been waiting for your review of this book! I didn't realize this is going to be The Coven's Daughter in the US. This line right here:

    "courageous heroine packed with an exciting mix of murder, mystery, political plots and magic "

    Tells me everything I need to know :) I totally want to read this one! Thanks for your excellent review.

  5. @Small Review Thanks! I think I like the name Montacute House rather than the Coven's Daughter but they probably changed it to make it sound more 'exciting' or something. I hope you get to read it :)

    P.S I LOVED Waterfall!


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