The Light in the Labyrinth: The Last Days of Anne Boleyn by Wendy J. Dunn


If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while you’ll know that I’m often hesitant to review novels about Anne Boleyn because I have spent the last few years researching her and her family and, therefore, have quite strong views on how she is portrayed. It is difficult to read and enjoy a novel if the author’s ‘Anne’ is far removed from the Anne in my head, or if they have strayed too far from history, and I end up just putting the book down and moving on. Thankfully [deep sigh of relief], Wendy Dunn’s book was not only well researched but her Anne was real and I didn’t find her at all jarring.

Dunn’s book is a Young Adult novel which tells the story of Anne Boleyn’s downfall through the eyes of her teenage niece, Katherine Carey, or Kate as she is known in the book. The novel works on two levels – adult and young adult – and I never felt like I was reading a teen read. Although it is a historical novel with a 16th century heroine, its themes will resonate with a teen audience – identity, self-discovery, family issues/step-parents, love, betrayal and loss – and any lover of historical fiction will enjoy revisiting Anne’s fall from a different perspective.

Dunn was inspired by the famous 19th century painting “Anne Boleyn in the Tower” by Edouard Cibot. It depicts two women – one in the background weeping and the other in the foreground with her head on the other woman’s lap. This woman in the foreground is not weeping but her face shows grief and despair. Dunn was struck by the thought that it was Anne in the background and that the younger looking woman in the foreground was one of her attendants, and so the idea of her being Katherine Carey came to Dunn. Some historians believe that Katherine may have attended Anne in the Tower, so Dunn ran with the idea and I’m glad she did.

Kate is a wonderful character who matures at a fast rate through the novel. The novel opens in 1535 and Kate is struggling with family life. She has little respect for her mother, believing her to have re-married beneath her, and has built up this idyllic picture in her head of her dead father William Carey, an ideal that her step-father cannot hope to live up to. What Kate doesn’t realise at this point is that this picture and everything she believes is going to be completely shattered when she is sent to court to serve her aunt, Queen Anne Boleyn. There, she will find out who she really is, find new respect and love for her mother and step-father, realise the depth of their love for her, encounter romantic love for the first time, and see just how fickle love can be. The events of 1536 are moving however they are written, but seeing them through Kate’s innocent eyes lends extra power to the story. When we hear a story so many times we can become quite blasé about it, even we know it really happened, so a different perspective can help to remind us of the true horror.

I will be passing this novel on to my 14 year-old daughter and will be heartily recommending it to friends, family and anyone who loves a good historical novel. It is the perfect first historical fiction read for the teen in your life, but make sure you read it too!

Book Details

IN THE WINTER OF 1535, fourteen-year-old Kate Carey wants to escape her family home. She thinks her life will be so much better with Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and the aunt she idolises. Little does Kate know that by going to attend Anne Boleyn she will discover love and a secret that will shake the very foundations of her identity. An attendant to Anne Boleyn, Kate is also swept up in events that see her witness her aunt’s darkest days. By the time winter ends, Kate will be changed forever.

Paperback: 338 pages
Publisher: Poesy Quill; 2nd edición (16 January 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098072192X
ISBN-13: 978-0980721928
ASIN US: B07MVTVHJZ (This is my affiliate link for and I may receive a small payment if you buy the book through this link).

Available as an ebook and paperback from, Amazon UK or your usual bookstore.

Originally posted on November 3, 2014.

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