Peril en Pointe, by Helen Lipscombe

mehsi's review

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A ballet school... for spies! Be prepared to learn how to dance and how to kick some serious butt!

I just couldn't resist this book when I saw it mentioned on Twitter. Ballet? Sign me up. Boarding school? Sign me up. Spies? YES! All this combined sounded like a dream come true, and I can honestly say that it was. There were a few elements that had me not happy (namely Willow and Madam), but in overall this was a magical and sparkly experience with tons of adventure, kick-ass lessons, and plenty of dancing.

When we meet Milly she is not the happiest. Her mom has disappeared months ago, Milly quit the ballet school due to some mean girl who kept acting like she was constantly being manhandled by Milly and so her experience there sucked. But she is getting a new chance, and I was just delighted when that letter came in. So mysterious, and it reminded me a bit of Hogwarts and how the young wizards/witches get their letters. I loved how Millie, despite being suspicious, took the chance and went for it.

I loved the school, I loved how they combined ballet with spying. Taught the kids all sorts of self-defence, about weapons, about spying and how to do it, but at the same time also taught them ballet and held competitions and rehearsals. It was just the best cover as ballet dancers have to go everywhere for competitions and schools and whatnot. They could easily go do ballet and in the mean time spy and do covert missions. Perfection!

I loved seeing the teachers (well, not Madame), though I do wonder how the cook got a job there, maybe because she is Topsy's mom? Otherwise who in the world would hire her, I am surprised no kids have died yet. A cake with mayonnaise and other stuff that shouldn't be in a cake? Um...

There are also plenty of twists and turns in regards to the school, to the evil villain (and his criminal school which I loved btw), and what happened to Milly's mom. You keep finding out things, and then being hurled to another truth when you get further in the story. Yes, this story will keep you on your toes.

The ending was just super exciting and I loved the power of friendship. I wish I could have seen Milly's performance, from what we read it is a magical experience. I loved the truths we got and seeing the true villain (I hadn't expected that person at all).

Oh, and I would love that phone. Though hopefully my mentor is less grumpy than the one that Milly got. :P But it sounds like such a cool experience to have someone you can ask for anything (well, unless it is classified).

There are also tunnels! I love it when a story has a building with tunnels leading to all sorts of places.

I loved Milly's friends, and then especially Lottie. She is so sweet and kick-ass. Really, you don't want to mess with this girl. I was delighted that Milly was able to make friends so easily and found a group of people she could trust and be happy with.

But, sadly, I am deducing 0.5 stars for two people, Madame who was just the meanest and rudest person ever and she was a teacher. How she let Milly do pointe in shoes that WERE TOO LITTLE FOR HER. That could probably end a career given how your toes just get nommed by the shoes. OK, sure later we find out some things, but still, booooooo.
And then there is Willow. Yep, the attention seeking *insert mean words* from the first part of the book is also at the ballet school, sadly. I was really unhappy with this event and even considered stopping reading. Sorry, I am just not in the mood for sad little girls who are jealous and act mean and hurt people. But I kept reading and hoping it wouldn't get too much. Sadly, there were quite a few points were I just wanted to stop reading. Willow did ruin my experience in this book, and sorry her sad sad sobstory at the end, please Willow, go away. Maybe harsh, but I have been bullied in the past (a lot) and there is one thing I don't want in a story, it is the bully getting some sort of sobstory, because oh no they don't have parents, or their parents don't care. And we should all feel sorry for the little *insert words* I am sorry, I don't care. Bullies are bullies. Done.

So all in all this was an amazing experience. I flew through the book and I would have finished it if I wasn't too tired and had to sleep. I am very excited about the next book, though I do hope that Willow will be out of it or at least far away. I would definitely recommend this book to all. If you love ballet, exciting events, spies, and friendship, be sure to check out this book.

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san89's review

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adventurous emotional funny lighthearted mysterious tense medium-paced

goldenbooksgirl's review

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In her debut novel, Helen Lipscombe kicks off the Swan House Mystery series by introducing us to Milly, a young ballerina struggling following a scandal she was caught up in at a show and the sudden disappearance of her mother the same night, as she recieves an invitation to study at Swan House ballet school and has her life changed forever. When she arrives, she discovers that the school is actually training its pupils to be both spies and ballerinas, and that being a pupil there may help uncover the truth of what happened to her mum. My favourite thing about this was the setting- it definitely delivers on the huge promise of the premise and I loved how it feels very much like a classic boarding school story, just with added ballet slippers and subterfuge. Speaking of ballet slippers, I also really liked the setting of the shoemaker’s that pops up a few times. The mystery element of the book was fabulous too. Though I was very pleased with myself because I thought I’d worked out what was going on and who was to blame for everything, this book threw curveball plot twists that proved me wrong on more than one occasion, and there was one towards the end that I especially loved. The characters were great too- Milly was a heroine I really got behind and wanted to succeed, and I really liked the friendship group she forms and their scenes together. A brilliant boarding school book with a difference that delivers a satisfying standalone mystery and an even more intriguing beginning for the series to come. 4.5/5

lisasf2f04's review

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adventurous mysterious medium-paced


sarahwithersblogs's review

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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.

Final Thoughts
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.

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