Books like The Perilous Gard remind me of why I love to read.Our story begins in England, summer of 1558, in an unpleasant castle where Princess Elizabeth Tudor keeps a small retinue, ever watched and harassed by her angry half sister, Queen Mary I knew right away that I was in good hands because Elizabeth Marie Pope conveys deftly that Mary bullied Elizabeth without making the older royal out to be a one dimensional monster One of Elizabeth s ladies in waiting, a stupid beauty named Alicia Sutton, writes an angry letter to Queen Mary complaining of the conditions at Hatfield Mary is infuriated by the letter, but believes Alicia too sweet and witless a creature to have composed it herself, so the royal punishment falls instead on the head of Katherine, Alicia s plain looking and plain spoken older sister.Princess Elizabeth has no choice but to send her friend Katherine to the place suggested by the Queen Sir Geoffrey Heron s desolate manor, Elvenwood Hall, sometimes called the Perilous Gard Elizabeth promises to retrieve Katherine as soon as she has the power, but that doesn t seem likely in the foreseeable future Kate soon discovers a number of things awry at the house in the spooky Elvenwood Her host, Sir Geoffrey, is the picture of chivalry to her, but won t even acknowledge his younger brother, the troubled and handsome Christopher Sir Geoffrey s little daughter is missing or dead, and everyone has a different story regarding what became of her Master John, the steward of the house, is keeping secrets from the household he serves The poor folk in the nearby village live in a constant state of servile dread, and it is not the family of the castle that frightens them And rumors swirl of a malevolent race, human like but not human, who live in a labyrinth below the ancient town well and are responsible for all manner of dark deeds in the neighborhood Pope s writing is meticulous, and this novel does not leave a single thread of its tapestry dangling Every detail becomes important by the end The world building is so thorough that you might feel a wave of homesickness for the Gard once you put the book down.The characters, particularly Kate and Christopher, are lovable and flawed and full of life view spoiler Pope creates a great deal of tension between those two, even though there s a notable lack of sensual description They don t kiss until the very last page and even then, it s implied but the dialogues between them sparkle, with the true meanings of their words concealed They are now one of my OTPs and I m only sorry I didn t meet them earlier hide spoiler Delightful read This was also rather unique It fit the Tudor 1558 Hatfield and Norfolk placements to a superb degree The combination of genre was also, IMHO, highly unusual Not completely historical fiction, not truly a novel of manners and guile, not cored in romance, crossing cultural boundaries with the other economic class And skirting the magical and characters of myth Or clan, as in a much older society form Regardless, the writing and thought patterns of our lady protagonist were complex, fully emotive of human nuance, and the physical nature of descriptions not one bit shabby either.Thank you to the GR friend who recommended this book. Gosh, I had forgotten so much since I first read this I read it a couple of years back and every time I thought of the book I had fond memories, but why exactly it had that effect was slipping from my memory Honestly I read this book because it was labeled fantasy and at the time that was all I would read and it was one of the only books in the library I hadn t read it was averysmall library The cover wasn t glittery or a standout in anyway, but I dived in regardless of the cover This book is one those hidden gems , not too many people know about it but those who do love this story.Kate is a lady in waiting for Lady Elizabeth, but because of a certain questionable letter that her sister Alicia sends to Queen Mary, she is sent away to live at the Perilous Gard There are many tales regarding this place, but Kate being the level headed girl she is doesn t put much thought to the wild tales That is of course until she gets there and sees that maybe all the fairy talk about the place might have some merit While she is there she meets Christopher Heron and she finds out fairly quickly that his carrying a huge burden on his shoulders and yup you guessed it, it all has to do with the fairies Both Kate and Christopher find themselves immersed in this world that is not as magical as everyone assumes.Of course the true standout thing from all this for me was the dynamic between Kate and Christopher I have never seen a relationship quite like theirs It s just so perfect because there isn t a single drop of over the topness in sight Kate herself is a strong character and never backs down even when it seems there is no hope She can appreciate attributes that the fairy people have, but never condones them for their behavior Something very hard for any noraml human being to do I absolutely loved the climatic scene It was done just the right way Really no complaints at all, even if at the end I wanted sigh The life of the reader huh Always feeling a little robbed but somehow always going back for.Really all that aside do pick up the book Any fans of this type of literature are guaranteed to fall in extreme like for the story of Kate and her journey. 2.5 starsRead it on Holly Black s recommendation, and I can totally see why such a book would influence her own work, especially if she had read it as a young girl, a few decades ago It has a strong heroine, an adventure, and a dash of romance I would have loved it 20 years ago too, I think.My present day self though, with a few fairy novel under my belt and not exactly enad with the writing style of 70s, found only a few things compelling The fairy lore is by far the best aspect of this novel The strangeness of them is portrayed in a distinct, unique way However, this is a 50 year old novel, and the old timey ness of it is a real drag I don t have much problem with the plot The Tudor setting of this Tam Lin interpretation makes for a nice mix of historical and fantastical But goodness, is this story boring for good 70% of it Only when I finally encountered the faries did I start being interested in what was going on Casual sexism and a problematic hero didn t help the case either No matter how you look at it, threatening a woman to beat her, for being persistent and head strong, no less, is no longer a welcome ingredient in a romance. I know I ve read this before some images and scenes stand out in memory Fortunately for me, I couldn t remember much than a set piece here or there Which means it was like reading it for the first time, only with a pleasant tang of anticipation for spice.Not that the book needed any kind of boost It s a near perfect fantasy novel of the mostly realistic sort It s historically based 1558, to be specific , but the Fair Folk are real enough to be a threat I could go on about the intricacy of the setting, but to be honest, I couldn t really care less Truth told, I love Kate so much that it didn t really matter.I m tired enough having stayed up way too late finishing the book , that I m struggling getting anything on record So I ll leave it with this I was completely charmed by both the book and the heroine They are book and woman strong, brave, and smart And that s a killer combination Elizabeth Marie Pope s The Perilous Gard taught me a lesson that what can get under one person s skin, sink into their minds and out and out haunt them is nothing but a casual read to someone else alrighty, I ve learned this lesson before But you know what they say, if it didn t stick then you didn t really learn it When I read and fell in love with Gard , I excitedly presented it to my twin whom I at least attempt to share with anything that matters to me Oh, I read that years ago She didn t even think that it might appeal to me, and she knows my interest in Tam Lin based stories grumbles Even if it didn t scream Mariel to her as it should have done Or not, as I thought it would be something she would love, only it wasn t So I don t know if any descriptions I can muster up about the atmosphere of this book will convey much I don t know what is going to get to someone else Sometimes these things are like musical taste and what sounds good to someone else doesn t to another.It really got to me I cannot stand to be under ground, in body or in mind One of the scariest moments of my life was a mandatory spelunking trip for a geology lab Reading about anything underground gets to me like not much else C.S Lewis The Silver Chair is my earliest memory of an underground read freakout It s still my favorite in the Narnia chronicles Part of me wants the freakout, but I m kinda sick anyway Reading about what Kate goes through, and feeling like I was there with her, was intense for me Kate s struggle to survive in that mindfuck of an underground faery land Well, I know this is a Tam Lin story, but I was riveted by her saving herself than her battle for Christopher from the fae queen Luckily, this is not a the boy is mine story Kate triumphs over her own fears, and what she holds to be right in a world that beats you down in innate sickness Christopher is free to make his own decisions, which was the important thing I wasn t all that invested in him as a love interest I didn t care about that I LOVED this depiction of the faery world Kate s mental energies were my hook, line and sinker.The beginning of the story is set in 1558, and Kate is shuffled back and forth to wherever she and her sister can best be used for political gain Her selfish sister ruins things for Kate in the court of Queen Mary Tudor Elizabeth makes a brief appearance herself Although this isn t that kind of historical drama, I appreciated that neither Elizabeth or Mary are favored It was always confusing to read one book where Elizabeth is the hero, and then another with Elizabeth as the bitch Taking sides now seems kinda silly to me.The setting is important to depict the ancient fae connections to the humans they need to pay tribute, and how the changing of times threatens that way of life This isn t really an historical tale, no matter what the packaging says or ahem my own book tags At least not to that specific time If anything, one could argue any time after another would be like this made smaller Beliefs can change, and change back Gard could have been set in any time and be relevant to it.The twin and I were like Heavenly Creatures without the matricide with our royal lines fixations We d love to read histories, and then the historical fiction stories, and make up our own dramas based off all of it Come to think, I should ve known my twin had whacked out tastes She had an Oliver Cromwell phase in middle school That s just crazy Don t trust her word on The Perilous Gard I never had an Oliver Cromwell phase. 8 6 19 Stayed up way too late to finish listening to the audiobook Everything I said below still applies.9 29 15 I actually read this twice this year because 1 It is one of the best historical fantasies ever written 2 I didn t review it the first time, lost the immediacy, and had to read it again to do it justice 3 Because Feelings 4 It takes me like two hours to read it Seriously Why wouldn t I spend two hours this way The Perilous Gard was written in a time before people really knew what Young Adult fiction should look like This is why it s shelved in the middle grade section even though the main characters are young adults That, and the style is simple enough that younger readers will understand it Will they really appreciate it I don t know Will it guarantee readers if it s shelved as YA instead of MG Also don t know I just know that I occasionally have trouble convincing adults to read it because of how it s classed I m really grateful for the current trend in adults reading YA fiction, but it doesn t seem to extend to MG even though there are so many great books in that category the Sammy Keyes mysteries, the Alcatraz series, Greenglass HouseI could go on, but this is a review about a book and not a referendum on the YA issue The Perilous Gard begins with some really marvelous characterization Kate Sutton, awkward and smart her sister Alicia, beautiful and dimwitted the Princess Elizabeth later Queen Elizabeth , exiled to an unpleasant royal palace by her jealous sister Queen Mary Alicia has written a letter to the Queen protesting how Elizabeth doesn t deserve what she s done to her, how she s good and smart and wonderful, etc., etc This naturally makes Queen Mary decide to release Elizabeth and shower her with giftsno, sorry, that would be some other universe Queen Mary, with extraordinary logic, decides that Alicia couldn t possibly have written the letter and blames it all on Kate, sending her to live in Derbyshire with Sir Geoffrey Heron at his home called Elvenwood Hall, otherwise known as the Perilous Gard There are rumors of mysterious fairy folk who live in the wood surrounding the Gard, but of course no one believes them.The initial setup makes the characters seem stereotypical, but Kate and Alicia really do love each other, and Kate s being awkward doesn t make her feel bad about herself Kate is clever and sensible, and she neither believes nor disbelieves the legends instead, she realizes that it s very likely there were people who worshiped heathen gods in the past and why shouldn t they still be around But everything at Elvenwood Hall seems conspiring to keep her isolated, from Sir Geoffrey s steward Master John, who s definitely hiding something, to Geoffrey s brother Christopher, who blames himself for the death of Geoffrey s young daughter Cecily As Kate learns , she s eventually drawn into a conspiracy that leads her into an encounter with the heathen people and their Queen that changes her life.I love Kate I love how sensible she is and how her interactions with Christopher, even though she feels she never says the right thing, are all ones that are unflinching in her refusal to go along with his self flagellation Christopher, for his part, is a strange mix of sentimental and sensible He cares very much about an abandoned manor that he would love to restore, and it s what brings them together after their initial misunderstandings They re neither of them titled, and the simplicity of their dream is refreshing.What I love , though, is the society of Those Under the Hill and their Queen Pope used many elements from old pagan worship at least, as it was understood by those who came after, not as modern pagans worship to create a group of people who could easily be mistaken for elves, whose magic is a combination of herb lore and hypnotism, and even though there s no actual magic in this book, I can t help but classify it as fantasy Add to this the story of Tam Lin, one of my favorites, and I m hooked.The strongest theme running through this book is the question of free will Kate, given the opportunity to ease her time under the mountain, chooses not to accept because she can t bear the thought of having her mind taken away from her She s also willing to injure herself to keep the Queen from taking away her memories of Christopher And, at the end, there s a truly remarkable passage, when the Queen offers Kate the means to win her heart s desire Take it, said the Lady I tell you again it will do him no harm Do you doubt that I am telling the truth No, said Kate Do you think you can win him without it No, said Kate Do you want your sister to have him No, said Kate What are you afraid of That the Young Lord will look down and catch you at it I am not afraid that he will catch me, said Kate What else then Who is to know Well, said Kate, almost apologetically, I would The complicated relationship between Kate and the Queen, central to the story, is what gives the book depth The Queen might as well be an elf queen, as careless and proud and cruel as she is, and even as Kate hates what she does, she can t help feeling admiration for some of what she is The Queen, for her part, develops a similar admiration for Kate, who she feels is powerful and noble in a way most of her kind are not Whether the Queen s assessment of humanity is true is irrelevant what matters is that Kate s choices prompt the Queen, in the end, to give her the respect due a queen of her own kind.Great characters, a wonderful plot, and deceptively simple prose made this book a Newbery Honor winner It remains one of my favorite books and one that I recommend to readers of all ages. In , 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 Review originally published at Vintage Novels.Elizabeth Marie Pope is an author of vintage YA historical fantasy whose books I ve been waiting to try out for quite a long time My opportunity came a few short months back when I finally tracked her books down on Open Library which is an amazing source for vintage and otherwise hard to find books I read The Sherwood Ring just before Christmas, and found it every bit as adorable as I d ever heard it was, though I had a couple of philosophical cautions but my interest was whetted in Pope s other book, The Perilous Gard, when a friend told me it was by far her favourite of the two.At first, I was a little unsure about this From the book s description, I half expected it to be a typical pro pagan narrative about the niceness and feminist smarts of pre Christian Celtic culture 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.Well Yikes Was I wrong I obviously didn t read the description quite carefully enough whose customs include human sacrifice And so And soKatherine Sutton is clumsy, tart, cleverand accustomed to getting the blame for the crazy schemes thought up by her impulsive sister Alicia So she isn t really surprised when an ill advised letter to Queen Mary complaining about living conditions at Hatfield Manor with Princess Elizabeth results in her own exile to a castle in the craggy forests of Derbyshire Upon her arrival, Kate is mystified by the inhabitants suspicious behaviour, the mysterious Holy Well in the valley behind the castle, the old legends of elves and fairies surrounding the castle itselfand the peculiar behaviour of Christopher Heron, the younger brother of the castle s lord, who lives in a leper s hut eking out an agonising penance for the disappearance of a child for whom he was responsible When Kate figures out what happened to little Cecily, Christopher comes up with a wild plan to recover her from the half legendary People of the Hill and Kate, almost against her will, is also swept into the strange land under the Hill.I was astonished to find how many elements The Perilous Gard shared with my own new release, The Bells of Paradise to the extent that I m glad I didn t read the former until after the latter s publication Both stories include elements of the old tale of Tam Lin The Perilous Gard is an intriguing retelling of the story Both stories are set during the reign of Queen Mary, and the accession of Elizabeth I strikes a note of resolution near the end And both stories take place in the wild woods of Derbyshire.Unlike Bells, however, The Perilous Gard demythologises Tam Lin and the fairies somewhat Kate, a very rational, sensible heroine, discounts out of hand the idea of anything being particularly magical about the People of the Hill The ending gives no than a hint that they might be anything but very different, very strange human pagans Now, normally I don t like it when modernists suck all the magic out of old legends Tales like King Arthur and the Trojan War lose all their stature when they re retold in strictly mundane terms The Perilous Gard, however, avoids this trap in two ways One of those ways is by telling a story of real emotional import, a story with a great sense of beauty and nobility The other way is how Pope gives us a wonderful counter myth to the ugly, bloody pagan myth of the People of the Hill a very clear, unambiguous Christian message I was so stunned with this I almost couldn t believe my eyes when I first encountered it How can you tell what I meant to do How can I How can anyone I think the damned souls in hell must spend half their time wondering what it was that they really meant to do If you think the damned in hell spend their time doing that, then you can t know very much about the damned in hell, Kate retorted furiously I am utterly at squares with this childish dealing Why in the name of heaven don t you go down to the village and make a proper confession to the priest and let him tell you what penance you ought to be laying on yourself You aren t one of the damned in hell We re all of us under the Mercy As I ve often told people, you can include just about any Christian theme in a story so long as it fits organically into the context of the people you re writing about All the same, I was staggered by how unapologetic, and yet how fitting, this theme was In this story, the pagans were bad though not without their own cultural beauty and grace , and the Christians were good And the Christian myth was pitted against the pagan myth and came away triumphant, in a way that fitted very well into the story and yet at the same time was delightfully uncompromising.I was stunned.Add to this a tale that wrenches your heart, an often witty and hilarious romance and if it s a little predictably mid century in flavour, well, it s still very cute , and a gorgeous writing style that fleshes out the setting beautifully, and you have one of the best works of girls YA I ve ever been privileged to read My only complaint, really, would be that the world building for the Under the Hill segments was a little underdone in some regards But apart from that, I loved this book, was utterly gripped, and deeply satisfied. The Perilous Gard was a reread for me somewhat at random, in fact It s just by my elbow in my new desk shelf set up, and I was procrastinating on my assignment, and I found myself reading it And I have no idea why I rated it so poorly before The writing is great you can envision every scene, whether it be the sumptuous bedroom Kate awakes in or a grassy hollow in the wood, the overhanging threat of stone and stone and stone or the brightness of a Faerie gathering It makes every scene come alive, and the characters too slightly silly, trusting Alicia sensible, awkward Kate torn and guilty Christopher.The love story works perfectly for me, as well not surprising, perhaps, considering the way they needle each other The way Kate refuses to put up with Christopher s dramatic manpain while still sympathising and understanding and trying to help him The way that they fall in love, talking about practicalities of draining fenland and building a farm The way that they keep each other sane and whole, and find each other in the end.And there s subtlety in most of the characterisation, too the Faerie Folk are strange, and think differently, but there s moments where their emotions seem close to human, where Kate comes close to understanding them, and they her The only really unambiguously bad one is Master John, who organises things so he can profit from the Faerie people and their Holy Well They act according to their nature, while he is cowardly and motivated by greed.It s also lovely the way it s woven in with real history I don t know if Alicia and Kate were real people however far from reality this book goes with the fantasy elements , but the story is close enough that it might be, with them waiting on Princess Elizabeth during Queen Mary s reign, and exiled for interfering The clash between pagan and Christian is one that many books have touched on, and this one does so with a fairly light hand and is isolated from the difficulties of Catholicism and Protestantism that went on at the time, though I think Kate is clearly a Protestant , but it works.The accompanying illustrations are also, for the most part, charming, with just the right amount of life and movement.Originally posted here.