Barnes and Noble
My Rating: 5
Blamed for her uncle's death, fifteen-year-old Annie is on the run. Knowing the perils she will face on the streets of eighteenth century London, she disguises herself as a boy. Her life on the streets is cut short when she becomes Captain Hawke’s cabin boy.
Not only must Annie work alongside the Realm’s motley crew of outcasts and gentlemen, she must also keep her superstitious shipmates from discovering she is a girl.
Annie vows she will never leave the Realm, where dreams are chased, shattered lives can mend, and secrets are stowed like keepsakes in an old desk drawer. But when her past catches up with her, can she return to the Realm? More importantly, will she have a choice?
Being a fan of the sea and boats myself - there is no better feeling in the world than being out on the water - I was immediately intrigued with the idea of Secrets of the Realm. Although the plot point of a girl disguising herself as a man seems to be used quite often, it is usually in excellent stories. Also a fan of historical fiction, I had high expectations for this novel. Fortunately, they were all met, if not exceeded.
I believe that Annie is a great voice for the story and an excellent character to connect to. She is spirited, knows what she wants, and is not afraid to speak exactly what is on her mind. Although she may sometimes make decisions that are not agreeable, it just adds to her charm, and makes her a more realistic character. After all, I am sure everyone can say that they have acted without thinking quite the amount of times. One of the things that I look for most in a novel is the characters, and if you read my reviews, I believe I mention them quite often. Stout did an excellent job with her characterization. Captain Hawke is one of my favorites. There are so many different layers to him, and even after the book is finished, I want to know so much more about him. Being intimidating and commanding at times, he is also able to show a softer side of him, without losing his air of authority. He holds a very interesting story that will have readers consumed with his character.
Another thing that I enjoyed with Secrets of the Realm also makes it stand out as a YA novel. Most books in the genre seem to emphasize male characters and a strong central romance, which unfortunately causes for a lack of development within the female lead. Stout strays away from this, and although - given the nature of the story - not too many strong female characters can be around, the female characters that are present, Annie in particular, more than make up for it. Along with that, there are many hints of romance without the subject taking over the entire plot.
Dealing with love, loss, determination, the bond between crewmates, standing up for what you believe in, and many other topics that can hit home, Secrets of the Realm is brilliant, entertaining, and a fantastic read for all ages. Those who enjoy a great sailing story and historical fiction in general will devour the novel. Even for those who normally don't, I would recommend giving the book a try.