Kitty Tylney and Cat Howard are best friends. Kitty thinks of herself as Cat’s shadow in a time when women were always the shadow of either their parents or their husbands. But Cat is ambitious and cunning, and Kitty follows Cat, no matter how much she disagrees with her schemes.
But when Cat seduces King Henry VIII and becomes queen of England, Kitty is thrust into a world of lies, secrets, and betrayals when she joins her best friend at the palace. At court, nothing is what it seems, and Kitty must watch her step at every turn to make sure she doesn’t end up on the wrong side.
As Cat’s previous affairs come to light and she begins to lose her title as queen, Kitty must decide whether to defend Cat till the end or to save herself, before she loses her life.
I love historical fiction. I used to read a lot of it before I came back into YA, and so when I stumbled upon this novel which is YA historical fiction, I thought I was going to love it. Unfortunately I didn’t, but let me get into that in a minute.
It took me awhile to remember which of King Henry VIII’s wives Catherine Howard were, since they all seemed to have been beheaded for treason, but once I did, I was delighted to read the story of her ascent and then downfall through the eyes of her best friend. The historical details seemed accurate and provided a lush landscape on which the story unfolded. I also appreciated the fact that we saw Cat at a young age, and the way her mannerisms and upbringing may have led to her eventual downfall. She was probably my favourite character in the story, since despite her selfishness and cruelty, there were times when she showed depth.
While the big historical figure at the center of the story was Catherine Howard, Kitty was our protagonist, and it was through her eyes that we saw this world. What fascinated me the most was the relationship between the two girls, which at times seem to stem from fear and jealousy and a desire to advance upward socially. While there were some brief romantic interludes in the book, the real story was the relationship between these two young girls. Their flawed friendship was what fascinated me the most, since Kitty never turns her back on Cat, no matter how many times Cat does it to her.
Despite all of this, the story was flawed. Despite the intriguing friendship between Kitty and Cat, there were moments when Kitty did or said things that made me want to shake her. I understand that Kitty is the quiet, shy one, the one that aids and abets the queen, but I would have appreciate a little more personality from her. Her voice failed to keep my attention at times, and there were so many moments where she could have done something or said something, but choose not to. There is a bit of growth and maturation on Kitty’s part in the very end of the book, in the last 20 pages or so, but I would have liked to see her grow and mature throughout the story, which would have made her a much more realistic character.
While I know that this is YA, and not adult historical fiction, the language at times was a bit too modern to maintain the flavour of the story and shook me out of the setting for a bit. Words like ‘sexy’ and ‘shut up’ were jarring, and seemed out of place.
Other than this, Gilt was an interesting look at Catherine Howard, the fifth queen of King Henry VIII, through the eyes of her Kitty Tylney, her best friend.
So for that: 3/5.
Thanks for reading,