Marjorie M. Watkins, illus. by Suzanna Leigh
Middle Grade Historical Fantasy/Adventure
Royal Spy picks up very shortly after the first book, Rotaida and the Runestone, leaves off. Without giving away too many spoilers for those who wish to read the first book, Rotaida is asked by King Charlemagne to spy on a Saxon witch and her henchman because she speaks both Saxish and Frankish. Rotaida is kidnapped and escapes, but not without difficulties. She dies her conspicuous red hair and dresses as a boy, where she falls in with a group of monks…who may not all be monks at all.
Rotaida also discovers plots by the Saxons to go to war with Francia, the kingdom Charlemagne rules, because Charlemagne has used force to convert the pagan Saxons to Christianity. She also discovers that some of the mythical creatures that the Christians have written off, like Kobolds and sprites, do still exist and can help or hurt her friends, depending on which side of the war they fall.
The cover illustration for this book shows Rotaida’s two roles in this book: one of a noble girl with long red hair and colorful clothes on the front, and a short-haird, plain-clothed boy on the back. There are also a few black-and-white pictures in the book that help illustrate key points in the story and give readers an image of things like a bridge over a castle moat and battle horses. The drawings are very straight-forward and have some of the quality of the art of that era, which also makes them useful additions.
The book ends with some lose ends, perhaps to leave room for another book to follow. Like Rotaida and the Runestone, Royal Spy gives compelling historical details to a time period not often seen in children’s literature, and the magical elements make it all that much more exciting.