Published by Turner on October 31st 2017
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Mari’s long time caretaker passes away and this leaves her with a dilemma: find work elsewhere as her caretaker’s family does not want her or be placed in a home. Mari is a dwarf who has been with her mistress for a long time and the life of a dwarf can be very rough. On an outing into town she meets a traveling magician who tells her she can work with him as a prophet. Seizing the opportunity to earn an income and have her fate in her own hands she takes him up on this offer. Mari soon learns that the offer is too good to be true as the Magician double crosses her and she is sold to the Queen of Spain. At the time (1600’s), the aristocracy believed dwarfs to be prophets and good luck charms.
The Queen hopes to use Mari as a prophet and also to spy on her husband. It is not long before Mari gets involved intrigue, secret alliances and scandal. She must use her wits to stay ahead of others at court who would love to show her as being a false prophet. Mari must use her wit when making prophecies and avoid being outed as a fraud. She learns that court can be a lonely place. One never knows who has a secret agenda, if there are hidden truths, hidden alliances, hidden enemies, if you are being tricked or fed false information. Mari often has to think fast on her feet to stay ahead of the game. Along the way she begins to realize that what she thought she knew about a certain character at court – she did not as she did not have the entire story. I have often seen dwarfs portrayed as buffoons/clowns at court and it was nice to see Mari be treated as a valuable member of the Queen’s cabinet. I appreciated that Mari was a fast thinker and played an important role in court. She is capable and cunning – and she needs to be as she is not really a prophet but a woman trying to survive while living a lie.
This debut novel was inspired by Velázquez’s Las Meninas. This book gives the reader a unique look at King Phillip and Queen Margarita of Spain through the eyes of Mari. Not only was life rough for a woman in the 1600s but it was even more dangerous and hard for a dwarf. The Author has done a great deal of research in writing her book and does explain in her Author’s note when and why she took liberties. I enjoyed the Author’s unique way of telling history through the eyes of the Queen’s dwarf. While reading this book I thought of Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River which also focuses on a dwarf and her story. Please not these book are not alike but as it is rare to read the story of a dwarf, and I could not help but think of another book I have previously read about a female dwarf character.
I received a copy of this book from the Author in exchange for an honest review.