Gilt (The Royal Circle, Book #1)
by Katherine Longshore
Release Date: May 15th, 2012
2012 Viking Juvenile
Hardcopy Edition; 406 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Historical / YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars
When Kitty Tylney's
best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's
heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with
fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck
in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her
affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of
secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric
rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good
friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.
Gilt is one of those books I went into not really knowing what to expect, but which turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed this novel tremendously, even staying up quite late on a work night in order to finish. Gilt is certainly not the most detailed, sophisticated, or even the best version of Catherine Howard that I have read, but just the fact that it was lacking in those details that often turn away readers from the historical genre, such as language, description, and some questionable representation of historical characters, this fact is what made it so much fun to read.
I thought the friendship between Kitty and Catherine Howard was quite compelling, and found myself both drawn and annoyed by both of them throughout the novel. Cat was quite manipulative and her machinations put everyone's life in jeopardy, although she was too shallow and selfish to see where here schemes and manipulations led her until it was too late. Dreaming of a life full of fancy clothes, jewelry, and parties, Cat was quite unprepared for the political side of court life and often found herself not paying attention to the nuances between courtiers and other powerful members, thinking that as Queen she was safe from all outside manipulations. The fact that she was King Henry VIII's fifth wife should have always been kept firmly in her mind, and that King Henry liked to manipulate rules and regulations to suit himself or his whims and fancies. Katherine Tylney was an enjoyable character, although I did wish she would have grown a backbone as she grew older as Cat's manipulations and treatment of her was cruel. I realize that women with little support from their family and left under the care of others have little say in the world at this time, but I did wonder if she was quite so weak-willed in history as she was portrayed in this book. There were times though, when I wondered if any of the characters liked themselves, or even if I liked them very much, as they all seemed to be after something, or to want something. I do remember thinking, if this what court life was like, count me out. And it probably was. I really liked the parts when everyone tiptoed around King Henry wondering what he was going to do to them when he was in a foul humour; it says a lot about how he was really running his country at this time. Interesting!!
One of the things I really enjoyed in this novel was the author's fluent style of writing. She was very descriptive without being overly descriptive (not that that has ever bothered me in the past), and I found myself flying through the pages with ease, enjoying the dialogue between the characters very much. The use of modern language made it very easy to understand the crux of the story rather than waste time trying to figure out what the characters are trying to say, and while this may appeal to those who don't read a lot of historical fiction, finding it much easier to read, I did find it very weird to hear that type of language from sixteenth century historical figures and was kind of taken aback several times. I think I would have liked to have seen some language from that type period to make it seem more authentic. And even knowing the outcome, I was hoping the ending would be somewhat different. But the author uses foreshadowing and other literary tools quite well, slowly building up the tension, even where I didn't notice it, until I found myself quickly turning the pages in anticipation, and realized how well it was done.
Gilt was an enjoyable take on Catherine Howard's rise and fall during her years of marriage to King Henry VIII. I enjoyed this novel tremendously as I found the writing style to be quite flowing and easy to read, although I would have liked the language to be more in tune with the time period. The flow between the characters worked very well and I found the interactions to be quite interesting. While not being at the top of the list for what I would consider completely credible research as many licenses were definitely made, it is still very obvious that the author put a lot of time and effort into researching her characters and the time period as well as everything else that goes into a historical novel. I am definitely looking forward to Tarnish, the next book in this series, which will feature Anne Boleyn, to be released June 18th.