Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
I picked this book up because of an author’s recommendation I read many years ago… it disappointed me on every level.
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retold Fairy Tale, Romance
Rating: 2.5 stars
In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.
I picked this book up because of an author’s recommendation I read many years ago. In the back of The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison was an author interview. One of the questions was what her favorite books as a young adult were, and she answered with this list:
1.) Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days
2.) Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen of Attolia
3.) Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Flora Sengunda
4.) Edith Pattou’s East
5.) Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel
6.) Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard
7.) Tamora Pierce’s Lady Knight
8.) Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted
9.) Martine Leavitt’s Keturah and Lord Death
This list blew me away, because out of the nine she recommended, I had read and loved all except Crown Duel (which I read later and adored), Flora Segunda (which Kate has now read) and The Perilous Gard. Although this was many years ago, I remembered this book the other week when I found it again and I thought I would give it a try. The only reason I didn’t abandon it halfway through is because I was listening to it as an audiobook, which helps me get through books I don’t like because I don’t have to pay as much attention. It disappointed me on every level.
At first I was interested in the fact that Queen Elizabeth was involved, but as I read it I found out she is only in the first chapter. I was also confused at this point about who the main character actually was. The first chapter describes Alicia, Kate’s sister, just as much as Kate, the actual main character (although this book does get bonus points from Gwen & Kate’s Library for that name). The descriptions were extremely long, boring and unnecessary, and the characters were not strong, lovable, or well-developed.
The thing that irritated me the most was the twisted messages The Perilous Gard gives the reader (spoilers). First of all, in the beginning of the book Kate is described as being clumsy and hideously ugly. Later, during her journey to the land of the Fairy Folk, she is taught how to speak and walk like a lady, and is consequently seen as more attractive back in her own world. This seems like a very old fashioned and sexist idea to be put into a children’s book. Additionally, Kate spends most of the book trying to save her love interest, Christopher Heron, from the Fairy Folk. She stands confident in the face of danger and speaks up for him, but in the end it is he who saves her and himself! And later on, he pretty much orders her to marry him, after a long and drawn-out attempt by the author to convince the reader that he is going to ask Kate’s sister Alicia instead.
This book has amazing reviews but I really just can’t agree with any of them. Although I hesitate to recommend this book, if you like this style I would advice reading Robin McKinley’s books, including The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword, and Beauty, or Frances Mary Hendry’s Quest for a Maid. In addition, if you are interested in the fairy tale Tam Lin, which this book is based off of, there are other versions by Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliff, Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia McKillip, Holly Black, Jane Yolen, and many more.