Retro Friday: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

I’ve had my copy of The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope since 2007 and I only got to read it recently. I don’t know why I kept putting it off but I’m glad I finally picked it up. I’ve heard such good things about it and I believe I got the original recommendation for this from Sounis. I’ve been meaning to put up a Retro Friday post for a while and since this is an oldie but goodie, it seemed perfect for the meme.

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

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.

Kate is a lady’s maid to Lady Elizabeth, sister to the Queen Mary. She is exiled to a remote castle called Perilous Gard when her beautiful but clueless sister, Alicia, writes a letter that doesn’t sit well with the Queen. Poor Kate, it’s not even her fault why she ends up in Perilous Gard. But I guess that it’s a good thing because instead of being bored like she expected, she becomes tangled in the doings of the Fairy Folk in the area. I’ve read a couple of fairy novels this year but The Perilous Gard is different from anything else that I’ve read. For one thing, it’s more historical fiction than fantasy unlike other novels that have fairies in them. In that sense, I felt that the portrayal of the Fairy Folk in the novel was realistic. This is also a Tam Lin retelling and that made things more interesting. It’s funny because the ballad of Tam Lin is actually mentioned in the book. The Perilous Gard is a lovely story and is a classic for fans of fairy stories. I think this was the book that I was reading around Halloween and it was perfect because it’s a bit dark and eerie. Be sure to pick this up if you’re into fairy reads because it’s a welcome break from the more modern fairies in urban fantasy novels nowadays.

Kate Sutton is a heroine that I really liked – she’s not as pretty as her sister Alicia but she’s a lot more intelligent. She’s sarcastic, witty and I enjoyed reading the banter between her and Christopher Heron, the younger brother of the owner of the castle. I know a couple of my bookish friends are fans of the romance between these two but for some reason, I didn’t feel that Christopher Heron was swoon-worthy. I thought that there was more friendship than romance between these two. So that probably says something about the development of the love story – it’s a slow burn kind that forms after countless conversations and the characters have gotten to know each other really well. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t more into it. Maybe I would have loved it more if I read the book when I was younger. My lukewarm reaction to the romance didn’t prevent me from enjoying the book as a whole. Like I said, I recommend this for fans of fairy stories or retellings of Tam Lin.

I was pleasantly surprised by the illustrations included in the novel. As always, I love including pictures of illustrations in my reviews so here are some of them:

I’m so glad I got to publish a Retro Friday post this week! I’ve been trying to write this for the past couple of weeks but I haven’t gotten around to it. Anyway, hope you all have a great weekend and let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought of it. And if you have any other recommendations for Tam Lin retellings that I should know about.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Spines and Soles
dreaming out loud
things mean a lot

15 thoughts on “Retro Friday: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

  1. Ooh, good choice. I’ve read a handful of Tam Lin retellings and enjoyed them. This one is sort of the standout one I haven’t read yet.

    Nice to know it would make a good Halloween read!

      • Oh, there are so many out there. But my favorites are probably TITHE by Holly Black, WINTER ROSE by Patricia McKillip, and TAM LIN by Pamela Dean.

        Diana Wynne Jones’s FIRE AND HEMLOCK is a favorite of tons of people as well. I read it when I went on a sort of Diana Wynne Jones binge to see what the fuss was all about, but I still seem to be utterly without the Wynne Jones gene. Alas.

      • I’ve read both Tithe and Winter Rose before I started the blog and I can’t remember the details in both so maybe I should do a reread. I’ve seen Pamela Dean’s book in local bookstores so I’ll keep that in mind.

        I remember you mentioned that you’re not a fan of DWJ and I’m sorry that her books didn’t work out for you. It’s okay though, she still has so many fans (including me) 😛

    • As one of the people who do find the romance swoon-worthy I’m sorry it didn’t work as well for you. 😦 The fact that is a slow developing one (not to mention intellectual) is why this is my favorite Tam Lin retelling. Because it contrasts the story more than follows it. In Tam Lin the heroine and Tam have a completely physical connection and so it is through physical force that the heroine must rescue him. Where here Kate was able to do it because she knew and understood Christopher so well. And I love that it is her contrariness that snaps him out of it finally. Plus I like his proposal.

      I find the hero of The Sherwood Ring far more interesting though even if the romance there is not well developed. (You have to like any story that involves a well placed cup of poisoned wine right?)

    • Janice, so The Sherwood Ring has a more low key romance than this one? I’ve added that to my wishlist but I haven’t seen copies in local bookstores.

      Brandy, I remember you told me that there’s a really big swoon-worthy scene towards the end of the book and that’s the proposal, right? For some reason, I wasn’t into the romance so I felt kind of detached when I got to that part. I think I’m in the minority in this one because so many Goodreads friends have commented on the romance in this novel (but then most of you read this when you were younger so I think that’s a factor?) Oooh must take note of that poisoned wine scene.

      • Yes the proposal is the scene I love. I wasn’t younger when I read this. I read it after I read the The Thief because it was one of the books MWT recommends in the back. I actually think I would not have liked the romance as much when I was younger because it was slow developing and intellectual. I appreciate it more now.

      • Hmm, I wonder why the romance didn’t work out for me. Well, we can’t all like the same books, right? I’m not surprised that this one was recommended by MWT. Most of the Goodreads friends that I mentioned in my previous comment are Sounisians.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I can’t remember what I thought about the romance so I guess I liked it. The Sherwood Ring is fun but I prefer The Perilous Gard. I should reread it again around Halloween. 🙂

    • You and Brandy have been encouraging me to read this for a while and I’m glad I finally got around to it. LOL looks like you didn’t love the romance either because you don’t remember much about it?

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