Author: Katherine Longshore
Genre: YA, historical, speculative
Publication Date: May 15, 2012 (expected)
Summary: In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free–
and love comes at the highest price of all.
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.
☆: 4.5/5 – an awesome look at what could have been Henry VIII’s court!
Review: An absolutely gorgeous debut. This one kind of jumped me from behind – at first I thought it was going to be like so many of the historical YA books that left me feeling pretty uninspired, but the magic that Longshore weaves with her surprisingly masterful use of sensory language and imagery just kind of knocked me on my ass and left me begging for more. While there was a chapter or two that really dragged, “Gilt”, for the most part, is a languid yet tense look at the real-life game of thrones that was the court of Henry VIII and will definitely draw teens in, whether they like it or not.
Beginning with Kitty’s experience of young Cat’s Court of Misrule within the house of the Duchess of Norfolk, Longshore really drew me in with the sensory experience of what a Tudor-ruled England looked, smelled, and felt like. You really experience everything in a very visceral way, and I literally read this one in about two sittings – both within one day. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Even though we all know the fate of the real-life Catherine Howard, seeing it from the age that we know Cat was when she became Henry’s wife was startling, wonderful, and awful as we watch the wolves starting to circle and history is made.
There’s been the frequent observation in other reviews of this book that some of the characters fell flat, but I didn’t see that at all. Yes, some of them could have been rounded out more than others, but as Longshore is taking from history and did her research, we frankly don’t know a lot about some of the characters that were featured in the book in real life, and there wasn’t a lot to draw on. However, I respect her immensely for her afterword talking about her writing and research process for “Gilt”, and after reading the abortion of a book that was “Spirit’s Princess”, it was just the balm I needed to soothe my jangled academic nerves. Longshore admitting where she took liberties was refreshing and really made me respect her. Yes, Kitty could have been more dynamic, but in the end, even in real life she wasn’t as heavy a hitter as Catherine Howard. Cat’s character is so large, both in real life and in the speculative life created within the book kind of blots many of the other characters out. It happens. But the way Longshore crafted the book more than made up for some of the paler characters within it.
I think my favorite part of the book itself was after Cat gets to court, and we see the aforementioned real life game of thrones that was going on with all of the political families/factions of Tudor England at the time – the Howards, the Tudors, and the other families all fighting for supremacy within the thinly veiled fraud that was courtly life. It was addicting to read, and I connected with it far easier than I did with Philippa Gregory’s same content concerning the Tudor court.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for a really well-written historical fiction piece, “Gilt” has to be your choice. It’s on my best of 2012 list so far, and I can’t wait until the next book comes out. “Gilt” is out through Viking Juvenile/Penguin Teen May 15, 2012 in North America, so be sure to check it out then. This is yet another 2012 debut that you just can’t miss.