Montacute House by Lucy Jago (Published by Bloomsbury UK, May 3, 2010)
Cecily Perryn, called Cess, is an outcast in her village of Montacute during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. She was born out of wedlock and her mother has never revealed the identity of her father. After her grandparents died, she and her mother were forced to leave the family home and live in poverty. Their only income is Cess's wages working as a poultry girl at the grand Montacute House. Being poor and illegitimate makes Cess an easy target of the villagers' scorn. The only person who accepts her is her good friend, William, who is Cess's age and also seen as "different" by the villagers because he has a deformed foot.
On the morning of her thirteenth birthday, while gathering the eggs, Cess finds a necklace hidden in the coop, with an elegant portrait of a woman. Cess wonders who left it there and why. Then she learns several boys from nearby villages have gone missing, and one has been found dead. Soon after, he friend William goes missing as well. Cess is determined to solve the mystery, while learning about her own newly discovered magical powers, but in doing so, she discovers a plot more terrible than anything she could have imagined.
This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. I thought it would mostly be a historical mystery, but the fantasy suplot was stronger than I expected, and I'm not sure it was really necessary or important to the main story, which was Cess discovering a terrible plot while searching for her missing friend. At times I thought it distracted from that. The ending was also somewhat too good to be true and there was a little bit of romance that seemed to come out of nowhere and didn't make much sense. But it wasn't a bad read overall, I did enjoy the story, and I think other readers who enjoy historical fantasy will as well. The historical setting is really well done, I'm just not really sure what the fantasy sublot added to the story.