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1500s / Tudor
That winter of 1535, fourteen-year-old Katherine Carey idolises her father, hates her step-father and desperately wants to leave home and join her aunt at court. Her mother is Mary Boleyn, the aunt in question Anne Boleyn, approaching what will be the last six months of her life. The court belongs to Henry Tudor. Thanks to her step-father, Katherine finally joins her aunt and immediately discovers that court is not the happy place she expected it to be.
Secrets and plots abound. One of them concerns Katherine directly, and turns her life on its head; others centre on bringing down the Boleyn Queen. This book is directed at Young Adult readers, a fact I did not appreciate until I had finished it and read some reviews. Though Katherine did seem young in the first few pages, her perception of her aunt’s sufferings, the need to keep secrets and keep herself safe from harm all seem to belong to someone much older than fourteen. Her awareness that she has met the man she will love forever also seems far removed from the usual fourteen-year-old crushes of today. Her character is well portrayed, as is that of her aunt, but other characters are given less attention. Distinguishing one lady-in-waiting from another was difficult and Henry himself comes across as a figurehead.
The writing is smoothly executed, and the pace is adequate, though a tad slow in places. I enjoyed the book of poems conceit and have read of something similar in reference to Lady Margaret Douglas, who was some six years older than Katherine. Whether the writings match Katherine’s inner thoughts I leave to each reader to decide. In many ways she reaches adulthood in those fateful six months and certainly comes to terms with her step-father, which was rather sweet.
Katherine’s loyalty to her aunt means the ending was not an anti-climax - though of course we all know how the Boleyn Queen’s life had to end. The book is a good read for any age and I would recommend it to those who enjoy the period.
© Jen Black
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