Title: Peril En Pointe
Author: Helen Lipscombe
Publisher: Chicken House Books
Publication Date: 4th July 2019
About the book:
Ballet Shoes meets Murder Most Unladylike in this fresh and funny spy story! Milly yearns to dance like her ballerina mum – but during the biggest performance of her life, she messes up and her mum disappears. Six months on, Milly receives an unexpected invitation to join the Swan House School of Ballet. Thrilled, Milly accepts, only to find that Swan House is no ordinary ballet school: it’s a ballet school for spies. Can her new skills help her discover the truth about her mother’s vanishing act?
What I Thought:
I sat down yesterday to read my first book of 2020 and I started with a backlist read. Peril en Pointe was published in 2019. After disaster at the Scarlet Slipper ballet contest Milly finds herself with a mysterious scholarship to Swan House Ballet School, once there she discovers this is no ordinary ballet school but a ballet school for spies. Oh one thing I forgot to mention Milly’s mum has been missing since the night of the Scarlet Slipper contest.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely adored mystery books when I was growing up, as an eight or nine year old I absolutely devoured The Famous Five series. So when I first read about this book set in a ballet school that was also a spy school I wanted to absolutely love it, and I didn’t quite.
I thought the overall plot was interesting, I think it took a little bit of time to really get going, which is perhaps to be expected with it being the first book in what I assume is designed to be a series. The premise, location and a whole cast of characters needed to be introduced. That said I feel like an awful lot happened in the last couple of chapters. I hope if a second book appears the action is a little more spread out throughout the book. However it was a satisfying conclusion, I got answers to most of my questions, and I was even surprised by one aspect of it.
There are a lot of characters to get to grips with in Peril en Pointe from Milly herself, to her family, schoolmates, teachers and some additional characters that cross her path. To begin with Milly I did really like her character, I could understand the pressure she must have felt wanting to fill her mother’s famous ballet slippers! I thought she was a genuinely likable character and I hope she retains that likability in any future books.
I really enjoyed Milly getting to know Spencer and Lottie, I think they make a great trio, a quartet if you include Merv who was quite amusing. I think the Captain and Ms Celia have a lot of potential and I’m interested to see where the characters go in future books. I also have to give a special mention to Babs, although she only really featured at the beginning of the book Milly’s gran was absolutely hilarious, and I hope she’ll reappear in any future books!
The two characters I struggled with the most were Willow and Madame. I just wanted a little more from both of them, at the very end of the story we get a little explanation about why they are the way they are but to be completely honest they felt a little two dimensional, the characters that were easy to really dislike. I wish they’d shown a redeeming feature or two earlier in the story just a little something to make me think twice about them.
This has really left me wondering, am I, as an adult, expecting too much from a middle grade read, or does me even thinking that maybe I’m wanting too much from my characters doing younger readers a disservice… I think the latter is probably true and that younger readers would be happy for the characters to be varying shades of grey rather than black or white.
I found this to be such a hard book to review. It’s probably the first middle grade I’ve read that I’ve had to really remind myself I’m not the target audience and maybe I’m looking for too much in it. It wasn’t everything I was hoping it to be but it wasn’t bad. It certainly picked up for me towards the end of the book, so if I second Swan House Ballet School Mystery appears I’ll certainly give it a go.
About The Author
Helen grew up in Wales and has been writing since she was little. Often when she should have been practicing the viola, or more recently, doing the ironing.
Having studied at Exeter College of Art and Design, she went on to work in agencies in London, Singapore and the Caribbean.
Helen recently earned an MA in Creative Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. She now lives in the Cotswolds with her sometimes creased, but always proud family.
Connect With Helen
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As always if you’ve read the book let me know what you thought! If you’ve not read it yet will my review convince you to pick it up?