Amy's only friend and ally is the sparkling young heiress Aurelia Vennaway. So when Aurelia tragically dies young, Amy is devastated.
But Aurelia leaves Amy one last gift. A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. A life-changing discovery awaits... if only she can unlock the secret.
I've been excited to read this book ever since I first heard about it. For a debut novel it is very impressive, full of wonderful characters with a plot that will keep you reading.
I did find Amy as a narrator a tad overdramatic, but you can't help but feel for her - especially considering her history. I found myself questioning her unwavering loyalty to Aurelia at times, and my opinion of Aurelia constantly changed throughout the course of the novel. All we know of Aurelia we learn through her letters and Amy's memories of her - yet she has such a strong presence in the story that she is still very much a character. Henry Mead was delightful, but I had also hoped to see more of Quentin Garland - however much of a scoundrel he may be he definitely had more to offer the story. My favourite character though has to be Mrs Ariadne Riverthorpe. Full of witty retorts and brutal honesty, revelling in scandal and causing a stir, she was just brilliant.
The 'treasure hunt' itself wasn't as compelling as I was expecting, and it's made clear relatively early on what the great secret is going to be. The real story is Amy's journey from shrinking unwanted orphan to a bright and confidant young woman, and I left the novel feeling as if I had taken that journey with her. The 'treasure' Aurelia leaves for Amy is not just her secret but the ability for Amy to build a life for herself and make her own way in the world.
At 550 pages this book is definitely on the long side, and it is a little drawn out in places, but don't let that put you off! This is a coming of age story of friendship and family, so gently compelling that I raced through it in a couple of days.
4/5 stars - It's easy to see why Amy Snow won Richard and Judy's Search for a Bestseller competition! I'm certainly looking forward to reading more from Tracy Rees.