12 November 2012

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Kitty Tylney has always lived in the shadow of her best friend, Cat.  Then Cat worms her way into the court of King Henry VIII -- and into the king's heart.  When Cat makes her best friend part of her inner circle at court, Kitty is thrust into a glittering new life of fabulous gowns, opulent parties, and dashing men vying for her attention.  But Kitty soon discovers that beneath the golden veneer lurks a world of secrets and lies, trysts and back-door deals, where the price of gossip could literally be her head.  Once you've clawed your way to the top, there's nowhere to go but down...and it's a long fall from the Queen of England's throne.
Gilt came onto my radar after I attended an author panel with the lovely founders of YA Muses.  Katherine Longshore herself wasn't there due to a family emergency, but Talia Vance read the first chapter of Gilt and I started thinking, "I've gotta go read this book."  Even though historical fiction novels are decidedly not my thing, Gilt was a fascinating and intriguing book with a great sense of time and setting, along with a well-built cast of characters that I'm sure will appeal to historical fiction junkies.  

Just based on the synopsis, one can see where the overall plot is headed before even reading the first page.  I knew going in that there was going to be a downfall, but Katherine Longshore seemingly took my definition of a "downfall" and racked it up to an extreme level.  She did this by giving me, the reader, an emotional tie to the main character, Kitty.  Kitty and Cat's relationship was expertly done, what with the way Kitty is brow-beaten into submission by Cat and how this, and Kitty's reaction, is believable because Kitty's options are clearly understood: meaning, Kitty takes constant abuse from Cat (beyond mean words, she also lies for her) because Kitty can't afford not to please Cat.  Cat's favor gave her protection.

These little motivations and understandings gave the novel a complexity and depth that I appreciated as a reader.  It made the climax so much harder to bear.  However, the entire novel was on the brink of depressing with how there's a constant cloud of mistrust hanging over the plot.  There was no reprieve, literally no one to trust.  And, paired with Katherine Longshore's visceral writing style, it greatly affected me as I read.

I had a few moments during the story where it got so depressing, I wanted to stop reading.  But I wanted to finish it.  Despite the seemingly easily predictable ending, Katherine Longshore had thrown in some plot twists that made me doubt how predictable the ending might really be.  Also, I'd grown attached to Kitty's character and wanted to know how she'd come out of it.  My attachment to Kitty's character speaks to how well Katherine Longshore has a unique talent of character building.  While I couldn't agree with Kitty's actions, I could go along with them because they made sense to me.  I wasn't left thinking, "Why is she doing this?!"

I loved the world that Katherine Longshore built.  As I understand it, it's mostly historically accurate, but even if it wasn't, I wouldn't mind.  Longshore had built a world that was layered with its heights of grandeur and lows of poverty.  She showed the cracks that are not often shown, both in the world itself and at court.  Longshore convinced me that I don't ever want to be accidentally transported back to 1500s England.

Gilt was a fantastic story with an even greater main character, a well-detailed world, and a heart pumping plot.

Finally, my lungs functioned again.  The sun angled over the haphazardly shaped hedges.  One may have been a griffin, another, a lion.  The duchess wanted to keep up with social trends, but had no interest in paying a decent gardener, so the shrubbery grew wild and bizarre.  Few people ventured outside, anyway.  The duchess cultivated a very indoor household, so I often had the outdoors to myself.  In the house, I was always surrounded by others, their noise and odors tangible.  Outside, I could breathe. (p. 31)
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 406
  • published - May 2012
  • publisher - Viking Juvenile
  • genre - historical fiction
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - The Royal Circle
    • Gilt
    • Tarnish