Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Gilt (The Royal Circle #1)
By Katherine Longshore
Viking Juvenile

To Sum It Up:

Since the age of eight, Kitty Tylney has lived in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Kitty couldn’t imagine life without her best friend, Catherine Howard, who clearly rules over the other girls in the Duchess’s care. Cat is about to become a queen for real when she’s chosen to go to court as a maid of honor to King Henry VIII’s new wife, Anne of Cleves, and then manages to turn the king’s affections to herself. Kitty is reunited in London with her best friend, who is now Queen of England, but Cat’s secrets from both the past and the present threaten the happiness of the two young women.


Every so often I get a hankering for a good historical fiction read, so I had high hopes for Gilt. Although I’m more of a Plantagenet buff than a Tudor one, I was really looking forward to reading this because it was a very promising combination of YA and historical fiction. Sadly, though, I couldn’t form an attachment with any of the characters, and the book didn’t offer much in the way of an in-depth portrait of Catherine Howard, the doomed fifth wife of Henry VIII.

The story is told through the eyes of Katherine “Kitty” Tylney, one of the many charges placed into the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Kitty considers Catherine “Cat” Howard to be her best friend, but Kitty is more like a sheep trailing in Cat’s domineering wake. At first I felt a little sorry for Kitty, whose parents didn’t shed too many tears upon their daughter’s departure. As the novel went on, however, I found Kitty to be increasingly whiny. When Cat leaves Norfolk House for London, all Kitty does is mope about how Cat has abandoned her for the glamour of court life. Even after Cat becomes queen and Kitty is by her side once again, Kitty is not content. She constantly frets that Cat’s past misdeeds at Norfolk House will come to light and that she’ll get caught assisting Cat with the latter’s current intrigue. Yes, Kitty’s concerns were legitimate, but there was little more to her character than worrying and complaining. Not being able to rally behind the main character pretty much guarantees that a book isn’t going to work out for me, and Gilt was no exception.

Cat, as depicted in Gilt, is an utterly unsympathetic character. She’s shallow, selfish, and manipulative. There is nothing redeeming about her, even as she faces execution. I never got the sense that she cared a whit for anyone but herself, despite all of her assurances to Kitty otherwise. Like Kitty, Cat possesses a single facet to her character, and it’s not a flattering one.

I wish that I’d been able to overcome my problems with the characters because I loved the setting. Katherine Longshore obviously researched the Tudor era thoroughly because the descriptions of court life are exquisitely detailed. What can I say? I enjoy reading about lavish castles and frilly dresses that I’d never in a million years wear myself (that’s what books about them are for).

Overall, Gilt read more like a history textbook, with the events leading up to Cat’s downfall proceeding one after the other. The novel didn’t delve enough into the fictional side of historical fiction to really draw me into the story. I think that if Kitty and Cat had shown more dimension to their characters, this would have been a far more compelling read.

All in All:

I was disappointed with this. To me, the characters were one-note and lacked the complexity that might have made me more invested in them. Still, if you have a particular interest in this time period and its historical figures, then you might want to give Gilt a try.


  1. I'm a Tudor girl! Hehehe... this is why I skip YA historicals because "teenagers" were non existent until probably after WWII. Nothing is truly innocent and lily white in this time period which makes chaste stories like this truly fiction. If Longshore probably stuck with how court truly are in Henry's court it would make this story 100x better

    1. Yes, this book might have worked really well as an adult novel instead of a YA one. I'm still willing to give YA historical fiction another shot; I think I just haven't found the right book for me yet.

  2. I completely agree with this review. This book was a major disappointment for me, for the exact same reasons you mentioned above. I just couldn't get behind such an unlikeable main character! In case you're interested, my review of the book is here, but again, it pretty much says exactly what yours does. :-P

    1. Both girls frayed my nerves, and I was disappointed that there was little depth to their characters. I like historical fiction that makes me rethink what I already know about its subject(s), and this book was definitely not that type of read.


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