Maid of the King's Court

368p. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763688066.
Gr 9 Up—The fate of the noble Camperdowne family rests on the marriage prospects of the baron's spunky but dutiful daughter Elizabeth. After a canceled betrothal, Elizabeth is sent to live with distant relatives in the hopes of furthering her prospects. At the age of 15, she becomes a maid of honor at the court of Henry VIII, along with her cousin and rival, Katherine Howard. Instead of securing an advantageous marriage, Elizabeth befriends Ned Barsby, a courtier of low standing. As it becomes increasingly clear that the king is displeased with his current wife, Elizabeth's father asks her to aim to become Henry's mistress. But Katherine beats her to the game and becomes not only the king's mistress but also his next wife and queen. After two years, word spreads that Katherine is having an affair, and she is arrested and later beheaded. The dialogue-heavy prose and the courtly intrigues make this historical novel a riveting page-turner. Worsley, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces and a British television personality, uses the perspective of a fictitious cousin to explore the motives of the ill-fated Katherine Howard. Although some historical details are altered—the character of Francis Manham, Katherine's lover, is a blend of at least three different individuals, for example—much of the novel comes from documented events, such as the scene in which Queen Anne of Cleves's staff must inform her "exactly how babies were made."
VERDICT Dense but accessible, this title will enhance larger collections where historical fiction is in demand.

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