cover image The Secret of the Rose

The Secret of the Rose

Sarah L. Thomson. Greenwillow Books, $16.99 (296pp) ISBN 978-0-06-087250-2

Thomson (The Dragon's Son) sets her suspenseful novel in 1592 during the height of religious persecution under Queen Elizabeth. After Rosalind and Robin Archer's wealthy merchant father is arrested for being Catholic, the two must find a way to survive. The novel opens as the two roam the streets of London; having exhausted the short list of friends their father told them to seek, they set out for Newgate Prison, where their father is being held (they later learn that he has died there). Nearly destitute after their money is stolen, the two serendipitously meet Christopher Marlowe, resulting in an apprenticeship for 10-year-old Robin at the Rose Theatre, and a role for 14-year-old Rosalind, disguised as a boy, as assistant to the playwright himself. Thomson renders Rosalind's character fully, even as she assumes her disguise (as both Protestant and male), and brings to life the inner workings of the Rose Theatre. The bond among the players underscores Rosalind's loneliness, while the dangers surrounding Marlowe serve as a microcosm of those lurking on the larger British landscape. Ages 10-up.