I received a digital advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks, Adrian Montague has grown up in London, raised by his father to one day enter the House of Lords. But not only does Adrian not agree with his father’s politics, he also has spent most of his life grappling with nervousness and fear he can’t quite explain. To make matters worse, his mother has died recently, leaving behind only a broken spyglass. Adrian grows more and more convinced that it has a greater significance, and so starts to research it. In doing so, he learns he has two siblings, Monty and Felicity, who he never knew existed. And so he sets off to find his family, and perhaps discover the root of the strange illnesses he and his mother both had to live with.
So I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, and I couldn’t wait for the final installment. And I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed—this is full of the same wacky fun and genuine heart as the other two!
Technically we met Adrian in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, but as he was a baby then, this is the first time we really get to know him as a young adult. He makes for a good protagonist, and it was great to see someone with anxiety represented so well—his mind often fixates on potential problems, and the way Lee captures how a mind can spiral into panic is done so well. It rings true without being exaggerated or stereotypical, and though it’s a major part of Adrian’s character, it doesn’t dominate the plot.
I also liked his interactions with Monty and Felicity, who have major roles in this story as well. The strange connection they all have—related but having grown up apart—is fascinating, complicated, and entertaining to watch develop over time. I especially love Monty and Adrian’s growing bond; it’s probably my favorite part of the book. Felicity doesn’t have quite as strong a role as they do here, but she’s still so fun to see again.
We also run into many other characters from the previous two books—like George, Sim, Johanna, Percy, and even Richard Peele—though most of them aren’t around as much as I’d have liked. They’re more cameo appearances than anything else. Especially in the case of Sim, I wanted more development for her, but instead she’s very much a side character, which was a little disappointing.
However, the storyline of this was a fun adventure. I enjoyed the nautical folklore elements (I won’t say specifically what I mean, but you’ll see if you read it), and how Lee has taken existing lore and created her own spin on it. There’s a decent amount of action between the character-building scenes, and the final climactic moment is pretty vivid and harrowing. All in all, quite an entertaining romp, just as I’d hoped!In the end, The Nobleman’s Guide is a lovely final book in this series. There’s mystery and myth wrapped up in a country-hopping voyage. There are pirates and professors and secrets around every corner. There are touching subplots about letting yourself be vulnerable with your family, about accepting who you are and accepting when you might need help. And there is one of the best portrayals of anxiety I’ve seen; it’s honest and sympathetic, realistically painful, but not without hope and empathy. For a historical fantasy that can be rather anachronistic and sometimes a little silly, there’s so much earnestness and heart to this element of the story. Some of the characters were more sidelined than I wanted, and I did find the journey a tad meandering at times. But overall, this is a great book, and a worthy conclusion to the Montagues’ tale.
Overall rating: 8.7/10
The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks will be published on November 16th, 2021!
Content note: There are a few conversations about mental health struggles, including panic attacks and self-harm, and a couple mentions of suicidal ideation. Nothing is graphic, but if these are subjects that affect you strongly, I wanted you to be aware.