Friday, September 11, 2009

The Perilous Gard

(I've decided to cut down on my number of blogs in the hopes that I will be more faithful in maintaining only two. This is a post from a blog I had set up to try to get my kids to write reviews - pretty much a failed effort! They love to read, but they don't seem to have inherited their mom's compulsion to write about what they read...)


Finding this book was one of those happy accidents that happen from time to time in my reading adventures. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope brings together several factors that I enjoy - historical fiction, mythology and mystery, and romance. The story is set in Tudor England, in the last months of Queen Mary's reign. Katherine Sutton, a lady-in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth, is exiled by the queen to a mysterious, isolated castle where she quickly notices that something weird is going on. She is especially intrigued by the handsome and aloof brother (Christopher) of the castle's owner, and her curiosity and infatuation with him (though she would never call it that) soon lead her into a dangerous encounter with the People of the Hill (who are faithful followers of the ancient, pre-Christian religion of the British Isles). She fights to save Christopher from being used as a human sacrifice in a religious ritual, with echoes of the Ballad of Tam Lin.

I liked Kate. When she finally gets the chance to step out of the shadow of her "perfect" sister, she develops into a strong and resourceful young woman who refuses to give up in her efforts to save Christopher. But when her sister re-enters the picture, Kate nearly slips back into the shadows before Christopher saves her, in turn. I liked the way the relationship between Kate and Christopher developed; for most of their "courtship," they can't even see each other and have nothing but talk to sustain them. I actually thought I might be imagining the "romance" angle of the story at first, but no -- the story ended in a satisfying, if rather predictable, way.

My favorite relationship in the book, though, is between Kate and the Lady in the Green (the leader of the Folk). Neither of them trusts the other, and yet they learn to have a degree of respect for each other - at least Kate does, which I think makes her the bigger person.

Teen readers today may be put off by the sort of stiff and old-fashioned writing style. I was, myself, at first. But as I read further into the book, I realized the writing style reflects Kate's personality - matter-of-fact and rational. That was just one more reason to like this book.

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