My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was pretty excited to find a YA book from the POV of Catherine Howard. Given that she was 15 when she married Henry VIII, she actually lends herself well to YA, and it was refreshing to read about the thoughts of a teenage girl on being a pawn in her family’s power games, and being married to a man old enough to be her father, rather than from the treatment I usually see of her in historical fiction. I think Libby did an excellent job capturing both this aspect of it, as well as the uncertainty of a teenager, and the insecurities of a teenage girl trying to keep herself from being overshadowed by two of Henry’s more well-known queens, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.
I felt like the main conflicts of the book – Catherine’s mission to hide the indiscretions of her past, as well as her passion for her cousin, Thomas Culpeper – lacked urgency for a lot of the book, mainly because they didn’t really come to the forefront until about halfway through the book. The first half of the book was mostly watching things happen to Catherine, and while I think this was really powerful, given the position of women during this time, and Catherine’s lack of choice in her family’s plans, I felt like the second half of the book was much more compelling, and I really wish more focus had been put on this. Toward the end, things started happening really fast, without much development, and I think I probably would have preferred if the book had mostly covered those events.
Overall, I think Libby did a good job creating in Catherine a character that was realistic and easy to sympathize with. Even though this book is set almost 500 years ago, I think that the character is one that transcends these centuries and is still relevant.