Book Review: Gilt
By Katherine Longshore
May 15, 2012
Ages 14 and up
What can I say about my love for GILT by the immensely talented Katherine Longshore? (Is this her debut? I think it is! If so, then WOW.) She has created a masterpiece at first bat. Even if you are not a fan of historical fiction, as long as you like intense character interactions, romance and betrayal, you will find plenty to love about Gilt.
The basic story is about the rise and fall of King Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard (or “Cat”), during the Tudor Dynasty in England. The “real” story within Gilt is how the downfall came to be and the lives affected among those surrounding Cat. Gilt is told from the perspective of her closest “friend”, Katherine (or “Kitty”). Yup, that’s right. In this Tudor tale, the main character is not Cat, but Kitty. And what a whole new perspective it brings to the story. Gilt is a story of friendship, love, lies and betrayal – of going from nothing to “something” in the Tudor age. If you’ve ever wanted to read an excellent drama, Gilt is right up your alley, whether you like historical fiction or not.
Sure, there’s the history (and dang does the author know her history) but more-so than that is the relationship between Kitty and Cat. This “relationship” is what moves the story forward, where most of the plot is involved, and the driving factor in Cat’s historical downfall. Their relationship is the reason for reading the book in the first place, much more-so than the history (which is still so amazingly perfect in this book)…
At the start I sincerely despised Cat. Cat gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants and by whatever means she wants. She uses Kitty and, in my opinion, she abuses their friendship. And Kitty, poor Kitty, she allows herself to be used. In spite of this, I also loved Cat. She was the spark that set the whole series of events within the book into motion. Her devious nature is simply captivating and so horribly seductive. It was a joy to see her devious plotting throughout the book.
As for the story being told in Kitty’s point of view. Bravo. She was the third person that told the historic tale in such an intimate way, that while the story was one of fiction I truly felt that it could have been. And how she remained friends with Cat, in spite of their history, is beyond me.
All I can say is that Katherine Longshore knows her history. I wonder, and would be curious enough to ask her, if her interest in the period and in this particular character is in part because of her name. Interesting thought… Not much more to say unless you really know your Tudor history, except that the tension she builds among her characters is so palpable you can practically reach out and touch it. You will certainly feel it within you as you read.
Gilt is an easy read, regardless if you like historical fiction or not. There are enough dramatics and multiple plot lines to keep the story flowing at a perfect pace, with the tension building from the very beginning. The interactions between Cat and Kitty will keep you biting your fingernails to the quick (and possibly wanting to throw the book across the room at least once or twice). Though I know what was coming in the end, the build up to that tragic moment keep me flipping through the story at an incessant pace.
Gilt was such an enjoyable historical work of fiction that I can’t wait to hold the actual physical copy of the book in my own hands, just so I can say I own a piece of literature perfection. I have never before read anything set in the Tudor period quite like this, and I think that is all due to the fact that the author creatively told the story from a bystander, through the eyes of Katherine (aka. “Kitty”). You have to set aside all needs for action, adventure and daring situations aside in order to read this one. In it’s place is seduction, secrets, lies and betrayal.
At the very least, Gilt may cause you to step back and look at the relationships in your own lives. Making you question whether or not you treat others, or you yourself are being treated, as you should. Go, read this now. If you just recently got into historical fiction with Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, you might want to continue the new trend in YA with GILT by Katherine Longshore. You’ll thank me later.