THE KING'S ROSE is a YA historical novel about the life of Catherine Howard, the fifth of Henry VIII's unhappy brides. It was written by Alisa M. Libby, a Library Thing author. I was fortunate enough to be sent an advance, uncorrected galley copy to read and review prior to its publication, which is scheduled for March of '09. And I do mean fortunate, because THE KING'S ROSE is really good! In fact, from the first page, I was drawn into the world of Catherine Howard ~ a world that is utterly foreign to our own familiar modern sensibilities, yet with strange similarities that pull at the heart.
THE KING'S ROSE was written in the first person, and the story is told by Catherine Howard as if the events of the story are happening as we read them. The pacing is good, the dialogue and descriptions of 15th Century life in England well done, but the characters were the real pull for me. I can also attest to this being an intelligent and honest novel about a young girl (she was only 15 when she was required to wed the aging and ailing king) written for a young adult audience yet also suitable for older adults with discerning taste in historical fiction.
Having read a great deal of history about the Tudor period, as well as enjoying the BBC production about Henry VIII's escapades, I knew what the sad outcome of Catherine's tale would be. Even so, I devoured the story as if it were completely new to me. And, in a way, it was: most of what I've previously read and seen about this young woman (did I mention she was only 15 when she married the 50-year old king?) have portrayed her as a silly, romantic, greedy, weak-willed though cunning whore, yet THE KING'S ROSE paints a quite different picture. Yes, Catherine is a bit silly sometimes, a bit romantic, and she does love pretty things, but she is also an astute observer, has a good idea of the peril she is in, acquiesces to her power-hungry family's commands in everything, knowing she had no choice, and still tries to be a good wife to Henry, though that last is doomed to failure in that vicious court.
I did not come across any historical anomolies such as are usual with writers of Tudor historical fiction (such as Philippa Gregory), but, even if I had, it would have had to be a huge one to ruin the charm of this novel for me. I recommend this novel wholeheartedly for young adults (I'd say from at least 14 years or even older) and adults who enjoy historical fiction.