Tarnish by Katherine Longshore.
Published: June 18, 2013.
Published by: Viking Juvenile.
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher (via Ottawa Blogger Meetup) in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anne Boleyn is the odd girl out. Newly arrived to the court of King Henry VIII, everything about her seems wrong, from her clothes to her manners to her witty but sharp tongue. So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to coach her on how to shine at court--and to convince the whole court they're lovers--she accepts. Before long, Anne's popularity has soared, and even the charismatic and irresistible king takes notice. More than popularity, Anne wants a voice--but she also wants love. What began as a game becomes high stakes as Anne finds herself forced to make an impossible choice between her heart's desire and the chance to make history.
Where to even begin this review? I have always been fascinated by Henry VIII and his wives, but most especially by Anne Boleyn. I always hope that when I read another book about her it brings me something new to love. Katherine Longshore has not only done that but has completely surpassed my expectations in doing so.
Anne Boleyn. There is so much to be said about Anne Boleyn. There are countless books written about her, both fiction and non-fiction. So why does this one stand out? Katherine Longshore has written a young Anne with the kind of perseverance that is common in many accounts of her, but also with a heart she tries to hide and a sense of insecurity she tries to swallow that is often ignored. In Tarnish, Anne is not a list of character traits, successes, and mistakes. She is a young woman caught up in the wonder of the court of King Henry VIII and all the deception, secrets, and potential it holds. She is trying to make a place for herself where nobody else will. She is trying to balance her desire for power and free-will with her blossoming yearning for love. She is ever growing and learning, for better or worse. She is unfailingly witty and excels at the games she plays, especially when it comes to playing with men's hearts. Despite being mocked and rejected at court and by her own family, her resiliency is impressive. She believes in herself as a woman and as a person, and she doesn't step down to take the easy road. She refuses to be controlled by the wills and whims of the men in her life. Anne Boleyn is so much more than what she is often classified as: a manipulative, power-hungry temptress. Katherine Longshore shows us that other side of her. Tarnish made me fall in love with both Anne and Katherine Longshore's storytelling all over again.
One of the aspects of the book I enjoyed the most, aside from Anne's character, of course, was her interactions with the men at court. Right away it is clear how intelligent she is, and it comes across constantly in her conversations (which often felt more like battles of wit) with her brother, George, and her friend at court, Thomas Wyatt. With both men she has entertaining and smart back-and-forth that can change in an instant from light and humourous to playful and flirty (with Wyatt, at least) to venomous and back again. Sometimes their conversations made me laugh out loud, sometimes they broke my heart, and sometimes they left me thinking about the historical figures I thought I understood, but I always, always wanted more. Watching Anne play the game of Tudor court life with these two men was never dull and I was thrilled to get such an in-depth and exciting look at their relationships and conversations.
I also adored the way King Henry was presented in the novel. So often we picture Henry as he was in his later years; bound to his chairs by injury, growing ever fatter and grumpier. But here we see Henry in his prime; an incredible hunter and dancer, physically fit, and confident in himself. He was a marvel in his prime and it was wonderful seeing that reflected in Anne's view of him. I was thrilled with the timeline Katherine Longshore chose to follow as it really demonstrated Anne's growing attraction to Henry and his growing interest in her at the pace she likely felt it. It was a slow build, but filled with entertaining distractions to keep the plot from lagging. There were moments of tension and setback, but moments of growth and pure elation on Anne's part to help balance the growing relationship out. I often wonder why the Henry we think we know was so interested in a woman who defied him as strongly and openly as Anne did, but Tarnish leaves me with no doubt in her charms and his infatuation. It was a beautiful exploration of Anne's many relationships; both the struggles and the triumphs.
Tarnish absolutely entranced me. I am not one to often find historical fiction boring, but I am also not often completely captivated by the words and the setting and the characters the way I was with Tarnish.
An undeniable 5 stars!