Author: Alisa M. Libby
Genre: YA - Historical Fiction
Publication: 03.19.2009 by Dutton Children's Books
Summary: Appointed to the queen’s household at the age of fourteen, Catherine Howard is not long at court before she catches the eye of King Henry VIII. The king is as enchanted with Catherine as he is disappointed with his newest wife — the German princess Anne of Cleves. Less than a year from her arrival at court, Catherine becomes the fifth wife of the overwhelmingly powerful, if aging, King of England.
Caught up in a dazzling whirl of elaborate celebrations, rich gowns and royal jewels, young Catherine is dizzied by the absolute power that the king wields over his subjects. But does becoming the king’s wife make her safe above all others, or put her in more danger? Catherine must navigate the conspiracies, the silent enemies, the king’s unpredictable rages, as well as contend with the ghosts of King Henry’s former wives: the abandoned Catherine of Aragon, the tragic Jane Seymour, and her own cousin, the beheaded Anne Boleyn. The more Catherine learns about court, the more she can see the circles of danger constricting around her, the threats ever more dire..
Thoughts: I originally gave The King's Rose a three star rating, but when I was writing up this review, I realized that I liked this book a lot more. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genre's, especially reading about the Tudor court. When I first heard of The King's Rose, I wanted to read it because it was based on Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife, who wasn't really known much.
What I liked:
• The book was written with a lot of detail, but kept simple enough that it didn't become dull the way some adult historical fiction books can be. The author kept me engaged with each page and I wanted to learn more at the end of each chapter. I ended up finishing this book fairly quickly because I was so intrigued by Catherine's story.
• Catherine Howard is a character we can sympathize with. She is used by her family to gain a higher status and is married to Henry by the age of fourteen. Even though she cares for him, we know she is in love with someone else. I felt sorry for her, especially because she is so troubled with her conflicting emotions.
• Being such a young character, she is naive in her role as queen. The author does an amazing job in creating such a realistic character for us to learn about, who really only focuses on keeping Henry happy and hopefully, producing an heir. Catherine is kept unaware of the political conflict and other important matters, and I feel that this is likely the most believable situation the author could have written for her.
• The appearance of Anne Boleyn in several parts of the book was quite surprising. Catherine was Anne's cousin and her biggest fear is to end up like her. Anne's memory haunts her throughout the book and it was an interesting addition that I wasn't expecting.
• The secondary characters are all well-written and not very likable. Catherine is just being used by her family/"friends" and this is made quite obvious to the readers. Catherine, a naive fourteen year old, can't quite see this and hopes that they want what is best for her.
• The ending was obvious, but still a bit heartbreaking and emotional. It was stretched out a bit more than I thought it would be, and the entire time I was hoping Henry would change his mind. It was a bit suspenseful, but if you are aware of the history, it was not at all surprising.
What I didn't like:
• While Catherine didn't whine a lot, she did seem a little self absorbed at times. All she really thought about was her dresses and what to plan next. These were, of course, distractions from her real troubles, but they got a tiny bit annoying. Some of her decisions were also very stupid and I have no idea why she thought she would get away with them.
• This was YA historical fiction, but I still expected a lot more detail to it the way most historical fiction is written. This sort of threw me off a little, but it wasn't bad. I kind of just hoped for a little more than was provided for some of the scenes.
• The length of the books is quite short and I wanted more. More detail would have made the book longer, but some might have found this a little dull, especially teens. I wanted more though.
Overall: I think The King's Rose a great addition to YA fiction because it is a topic that has not be written about as much. I recommend this to YA readers who enjoy historical fiction and/or learning about the Tudor court. It a fascinating, quick and simple read about the lesser known fifth wife of Henry VIII and her short time as queen.
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About the author: "I grew up in Natick, Massachusetts and attended public school. I've always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid and wrote with crayons on construction paper. I had other career aspirations—trumpet player, archaeologist, unicorn—that didn't quite pan out, so I'm glad I stuck with writing.
I went to Emerson College in Boston, and majored in writing with a focus on fiction. I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to take writing classes. I wrote a lot of bitter love sonnets and short stories with no plot, gradually realizing how much I had to learn."
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