Review: Tarnish

Review: TarnishTarnish by Katherine Longshore
Published by Viking Juvenile on June 18, 2013
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
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three-half-stars

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.

Having been greatly impressed by Longshore’s debut novel, Gilt, I was eager to get my hands on the sequel, and thrilled when my friend April gifted me her ARC. I read it slowly over the course of weeks, snuck it in between my review commitments. While I do think Gilt held more appeal for me due to the less traveled subject matter, Longshore still brings something new to Tudor historical fiction with Tarnish.

Where Gilt‘s heroine merely accompanied the main players in the court, best friend to Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, Tarnish goes back in time to Anne Boleyn. While numerous books have been written about Anne Boleyn, Longshore sets her story apart in a couple of ways. First of all, Anne is never queen in Tarnish, which takes Anne from her arrival in England from years in France through Henry’s first real stirrings of interest in her. Longshore gives the reader a whole new perspective on Anne by only barely touching on King Henry’s role in her life.

Most powerful and wonderful for me, though, was the feminism running through the novel. Anne Boleyn is a powerful character, a girl wholly unsuited for the time in which she lives. Well-educated, she speaks her mind, impertinent, clever and intimidating. While her wit brings her to the attention of Henry and other powerful men, history tells us that her scheming will also be her downfall. Longshore depicts Anne as a strong woman trapped, with no option of freedom. Her only choice is which man to rely on for life.

Longshore delves into the history and makes use of the rumored drama of the court. She puts forth here a genuine affection between Thomas Wyatt and Anne Boleyn, one that it’s hard not to root for. Anne also has an entanglement with Henry Percy, and obviously the king, though for most of the novel he is involved with her sister. The King Henry VIII shown here differs greatly from the much older man in Gilt, still virile and alluring, though almost twice Anne’s age. Longshore lays groundwork also for the scandalous rumors that she and her brother are too close that will eventually be part of the justification for her beheading.

Though I generally avoid fiction about this period of Henry VIII’s life, because it’s been so overdone, Longshore does a good job with it and brings her own slant to the tale. Her Anne Boleyn is one that I can sympathize with, but also convincingly selfish in motivation. I will say, however, that Tarnish felt a bit long. A lot of the reflection felt repetitive, and the pace was a bit languid.

Katherine Longshore’s historical novels have an automatic entry to my wishlist. Tarnish may not have been quite as wonderful for me as Gilt, but it’s still a well done historical without doubt, and sure to delight readers of Tudor fiction. Longshore’s author’s note consists of a brief summation of her research and information on which elements of the novel drew from history, which is always a great resource for a curious reader.

Favorite Quote:

“‘You’ve never been in love.’
‘And I’m not likely to be, either,’ I say, sitting down again. I find I can no longer take my own weight. ‘It seems a criminal waste of time.'”

4 responses to “Review: Tarnish”

  1. I wasn’t blown away by Gilt, but I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while now. I absolutely love books about Anne Boleyn, although I’m not sure why.. I just find her fascinating and I’m happy to hear you were able to sympathize. She is often portrayed as some sort of evil witch, so it will be fun to read about a more likable Anne 🙂
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 209. Robin Bridges – The gathering dark.My Profile

  2. Ooh I just got Gilt and I had no idea that there was a sequel. I’m so excited to read it, though. I’m a big fan of historical fiction, and I feel like there definitely should be more YA historical fiction. Great review!
    Miranda @ Tempest Books recently posted…Book Review: Obsidian by Jennifer L. ArmentroutMy Profile

  3. Molli says:

    I think I have this one on my TBR, although I doubt I’ll really ever rush to read it. Gilt didn’t set well with me at all – I hated Catherine so vehemently. But I DID like the setting and how well the author really brought it to life for me. And I DO want to *someday* try something else of hers. So, I’m torn.

    I’m happy you found this one interesting, and that it focuses on a lesser-illuminated time in Anne’s life. That’s really fascinating!
    Molli recently posted…Review: The F-it List by Julie HalpernMy Profile

  4. Annie says:

    I’m happy you liked this! I’ve been interested in Tarnish ever since I learned it was about Anne Boleyn. I’ve always been fascinated by her and her story. I like that Katherine is very in-depth with her research and manages to get through all the information while putting her own spin on it! Very commendable!
    Annie recently posted…The Novel Report: October 27-November 2, 2013My Profile

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