Friday, May 18, 2012
YA Historical Fiction
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I originally passed over this novel, not realizing that it was YA historical fiction (see Cover below) but after seeing more information, I decided to give it a try. After all, I adore the Tudor period in which this takes place. But I did have my reservations as I prefer stories about Henry VIII's second wife Anne rather than his fifth wife Catherine Howard, who is the focus of this novel.
Well it is actually narrated from the perspective of Catherine's best friend Kitty, starting when both girls are young teenagers living as basically forgotten wards while their families may or may not make them advantageous matches. Kitty is shy, cautious, and loyal; she supports the sparkling Catherine through all of her daring-from inviting boys into their sleeping chambers to stealing and lying for her. Thus once Catherine achieves her goal of a crown, Kitty and their peers are brought to court with all of the glitz and gilt before her downfall.
As an exciting character who does things, Catherine is fascinating to read about. Kitty is more retiring, which at first I enjoyed but too soon my modern sensibilities bristled against Tudor codes of conduct and made me want to reach in and manipulate scenes to be more my taste. Especially frustrating was her infatuation with a young man who hangs with Thomas Culpeper, a rapist and the man with whom Catherine dallies. The writing wanted to take me away while Kitty lusted but the man was so despicable that I just grew disgusted. The frustration also grew as Kitty stayed away from a man she might truly love and who loved her in return. That was probably my least favorite aspect.
I did really like the presentation of Henry VIII. At this point, he is about fifty but still thinks he is the young hot stuff he once was. He is willing to turn a bit of a blind eye to his young wife's youthful exuberance but will not tolerate infidelity or anything that makes it seem like he was played for a fool. We only see a little bit of him but I enjoyed those bits.
I also liked brushing up a little on my history. This is definitely not a dry history book so don't worry that it is a litany of facts but it did help me put events in order and leave me craving some more historical fiction! Any recommendations for (ideally YA but adult is okay) reads about this period?
Overall: An enthralling read (I read the first half really fast) that captures the debauchery and manipulations of Henry VIII's court and the perilous position of women at the time.
Cover: I actually originally thought this was erotica and passed over it before reading about it on goodreads so I do not think that it accurately captures the book's content.