Judged by Andree • Find her on Goodreads
This year, I was assigned a pair of books where the major events defining the story are essentially out of the main character’s control, and their circumstances are defined by someone else’s decision.
Which, as an aside, is generally not one of my favourite plot tropes, but both books deal with it well.
In The Perilous Gard, Kate Sutton is essentially exiled to a castle in the middle of nowhere because of a letter her flighty younger sister writes to the queen. The book is set in the 1500s in Tudor England (not generally my favourite time period for historical), and when I say the castle Kate is sent to is isolated, I mean it’s really isolated. As part of her (undeserved) punishment, Kate is confined to the castle and nearby village, there are essentially two people she can really talk to, and secrets abound.
The President’s Daughter is roughly contemporary and (unsurprisingly) tells the story of the President’s daughter. Meg Powers’ mother decides to run for President, and basically turns Meg’s life upside down in the process. After the announcement, everything Meg does is scrutinized; she has to go to campaign events where she has to play the perfect daughter. Then, when her mother is elected, Meg has to go to a new high school while getting used to secret service protection. Plus, she’s left with the sneaking suspicion that people only want to be friends with her because she’s the President’s daughter.
The President’s Daughter is a well-written book. The characterization is really excellent, and I think it does quite a good job of showing multiple points of view on an issue. Meg’s fights with her mother are realistic, and the dynamics between the first family are generally delightful. I particularly enjoy how the first couple’s marriage is depicted. I also really enjoyed Meg’s banter with her best friend Beth, and her snark with (and at) her mother’s staffers, especially Preston. Preston is a young staffer who ends up working for her father and is definitely my favourite part of this book. The book also goes into Meg’s experiences at her new school, which strike me as being very realistic.
The President’s Daughter is readable, and fun. Meg is a funny narrator, and a realistic, but non-cookie-cutter, high school student (the detail that she deliberately gets A minuses, unless she screws up and gets an A plus was one of my favourites – because that would be exactly what you’d do if you wanted to fly under the radar a little). I think this book really shines in the depiction of Meg, and her frustrations with her mother (though parenthetically parts of that annoyed me a little, because while I think the book does a good job of portraying both points of view, I kept wanting to point out that one of the two of them is an adult, and the other is a sixteen year old girl, so perhaps the same level of maturity should not be expected. I did think that her parents expected a bit much of Meg, given that none of what happened to her was her choice). I enjoyed reading The President’s Daughter right from the start.
Full disclosure: I did not enjoy The Perilous Gard when I started reading it. I was pretty much immediately irritated by the extreme injustice that the main character experiences, all because she isn’t as traditionally likeable and friendly as her younger sister. I also wasn’t sure about the time period (as I said, Tudor is not one of my favourites); I thought the book dragged a bit during the trip to the castle, and then not long afterwards, people get fairy-napped (not super into kidnappings as a rule). The other thing is, there really aren’t too many characters to develop in this book. There is Kate herself, but she’s surrounded by people who won’t talk to her and are keeping secrets, and Christopher, the reclusive younger brother of her guardian (who has gone travelling).
Christopher is stoic and guilt-ridden to the extent that he won’t listen to logic, because he thinks he is responsible for his niece’s death. I admit, I was mildly interested in Christopher. He and Kate argue well.
So basically, the point when I was starting to enjoy the book was the point at which everyone gets fairy-napped.
I certainly thought so.
I also genuinely wasn’t sure why Beth had chosen this book to be a battle book, if I’m honest. (Sorry Beth!)
Except then a funny thing happened; this book reminded me of just how much I love fairy stories.
I love fairy stories. I don’t think I’ve read one in years (for unknown reasons), but I read dozens as a teenager (can I blame the Irish heritage? Why not?). This one even comes complete with a harper, which is obviously delightful.
There is a moment in this book, a very distinct moment, when I fell in love with it all at once. And I won’t tell you when it was, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it is great.
And then the book just kept getting better.
Christopher and Kate have one of the more generally enjoyable dynamics that I have read in some time. He’s all broody and noble, and she’s just complete practicality. Plus, voices were already a thing for me, and they’re important here. I also really enjoyed Kate’s dynamic with the fairies and how she copes. And the ending is absolutely fantastic. You will have to read it yourselves to find out why, and you all should.
So I guess the real moral of the story is that I should just trust Beth.
Because I love this book. I love it a lot. I finished reading it, and all I wanted to do was read it again.
For me, The Perilous Gard built to something amazing, while The President’s Daughter always stayed on sort of an even keel the whole way through. I enjoy The President’s Daughter, I think it’s an interesting look at the American political system. But I don’t love it (and parts of the ending might even annoy me a little, but just a little).
So I am putting The Perilous Gard through to the next round, because while I enjoyed both books, in the end, I only love one of them.