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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: Gilt (The Royal Circle #1) by Katherine Longshore

The words loyalty and betrayal are two things that are put to the test in this riveting YA historical fiction novel by Katherine Longshore. I barely know a thing about Catherine Howard, but this story, told through the perspective of her fictional bestfriend Kitty, was quite a read.

Title: Gilt (The Royal Circle #1) by Katherine Longshore
Release Date: February 28th 2013
Published by: Simon & Schuster Children's
Source: Publisher
Buy: Book Depository


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.

Cat and Kitty are inseperable, both stuck in the Dowager Duchess' house, waiting to be married to men they hardly know. Cat dreams of a life better than what's waiting for them. She wants to be in court, to be admired, beautiful, powerful, happy. Kitty shares this dream as well, but as Cat's fortunes turn for the better, Kitty was left where she was, still waiting for the same fate in store for the maidens until Cat came back, swoops her away into the court of Henry VIII. Cat was queen, and Kitty has entered a glamorous life as her best friend. But nothing has prepared her for how cut throat life is, even as a chamberer. Secrets, lies and betrayal are at every corner, burying Kitty and Cat deeper into the dark, complicated life of royalty. Who can Kitty trust? And at the end of it all, can they survive?

Kitty is one of the most loyal and gullible person I've ever read. I understand that life back then didn't leave women much options but her devotion and friendship with Cat was one of the most unhealthiest relationships I've seen. I sometimes wonder why they call it friendship, when it was clear that Cat was using Kitty, exploiting her kindness whenever she could. It was like a master and her servant. Kitty's loyalty was something to be admired, an unusual gift considering what the court can do to corrupt a person, but Kitty never had the will to think on her own. She was kind, understanding, helpful. She had many qualities that made her so much better than Cat but she ended up being a shadow still. Someone pure and innocent like her, I just wanted to give her a hug. She deserves better. A better shot at life, a chance in love, a chance to live freely as she wants. How can she be treated so coldly?

Catherine Howard was a notorious figure in Henry VIII's court. I particularly love how the author gave her character that authentic feel, having read a little bit about her role in history. She was flamboyant, ambitious, greedy, temperamental, childish, cruel and vicious when needed. There were moments when I felt she was genuinely caring for Kitty, but the rest of what she does when she gained power as Queen was foolish enough for me to not treat her as a likable character. Cat might have had a capacity for kindness in her, she could have been a better person, but her fervent need to prove that she can be someone destroyed her ultimately. She was another victim of the machinations behind the court and she'd let them. How can Cat even stand to live on 'borrowed time'? To go so far to produce an heir through the wrong means?

What motivates a person to become so warped? Life in court is enough to scare me and chill me to the bones. How entirely different is it from the modern times? Uttering one wrong word can get your head cut off. A malicious gossip spread can get you killed. Not producing an heir to the throne can strip you of your title. It was hard to read of characters like Culpepper, Jane Boleyn, even Catherine Howard herself and what they've resorted to do for the sake of keeping the crown. Unimaginable, unbelievable, but if it's something you want, something you wish for, how far are you willing to go to keep it? There were different motivations for all of them, even for people like Alice who had to become a spy in order to live. There were reasons, choices for it all. And through all of these you can see just how complicated and connected the story is.

It's fascinating to see key figures like Henry the VIII himself, Jane Boleyn, and numerous prominent people in history move and manipulate the court. It was an interesting setting, heavy with gossip, politics and men and women who are just about ready to do anything to gain power and wealth. Katherine Longshore's writing was so engaging, and she just plunges the readers head on to the world of glamour and danger in this wonderful, historical novel. I loved every single moment of seeing the story unfold in such a rich, old setting, my heart going out to doomed characters like Kitty, William and ultimately, Catherine herself. You know tragedy looms at the end but you just cannot wait to read it all, and the ending just makes your heart ache. A wonderful, wonderful read. Tragic, bittersweet and ultimately a sad but thoroughly enjoyable masterpiece.

Content (plot, story flow, character):
A strong, solid 4. This is mostly because I couldn't get over how Kitty became everyone's doormat in the entire story. She was stronger towards the end, but that's after she knew she can't do anything about it anymore. Still, I just wished she had her own happy ending.
Shining: Worthy of a Goddess' Love!

Book Cover:
Such a perfect visual for Kitty. That was the necklace given to her by the King, right?


  1. I really liked seeing a different side of Jane Boleyn in this book and am very excited to see how she's portrayed in the upcoming Anne Boleyn book.

  2. I've been hearing wonderful things about this book! Great review, Kai!


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