Originally published on my previous blog – this review has been edited for spelling mistakes/clarity
The story follows Hal, a young, handsome, gifted youth who after overhearing some prophecies, believes he has been chosen by God to be King. Soon events unfold that lead to this becoming true. But he is haunted by the facts of his family’s bloody past and once, he rises to power, he will do anything to make them go away and to secure his throne like those before had not – even if it means cruelty of murder. This is H.M.Castor’s version of Henry VIII – destined for greatness, tormented by demons.
Wow. Just, erm, wow.
The last couple of days I have been incredibly ill, so one of my only forms of entertainment was reading and when you have a gripping novel like this, it is easy to spend 3 hours reading continuously.
I know a LOT about the Tudors from doing an A Level is the subject – it’s a period I love and enjoy revisiting it through films, literature or television. It was so refreshing to read this book, knowing exactly who and what their referring to. I think it just showed that this lady really did her researching and this book is wonderfully detailed, yet simple to understand.
One thing I, of course, do not know about Henry VIII is his personality. We can guess from the palaces and paintings that he was extravagant, ruthless and, well, fat. But H.M.Castor has cleverly shown us her Henry, a man who HAS to be these things in order to achieve what he wants desperately. She hasn’t tried to copy others or tried to be clever and complicated about his character. She simply charts how he came to power and how this affected his behaviour. I liked this simplicity and I was never perplexed by his actions and the narrative she includes.
The writing is so imaginative. At times, I could vividly imagine the narrative with the elaborate dresses and rooms, Henry himself and felt his desire for an Empire and Sons. At other times, Castor sums up the events or the thoughts at the time in a sentence rather than a paragraph as other writers do.
Hal as a protagonist was interesting and it was so engaging to see his character progression from being a boy to being a fully grown male king and of course, his turn to ruthlessness. The contrast between the man we leave at the end of the book from the beginning is quite significant so there is a definite character change in this book. Although the story is centred around Hal, we also get a flavour for his relationships with his close family, including his wives. We see Anne Boleyn as this manipulative woman; Catherine of Aragon, the woman Hal struggles over, deciding whether to put his future son or his love first; the kindness and innocence of Jane Seymour; Hal’s famous disgust to Anne of Cleves; the deceit of Katherine Howard and the perfect, careful, caring wife of Katherine Parr – the wife I am so glad lived on after reading.
In short, this book is brilliant, jam-packed with historical detail, research and true events. Castor has shown Hal well, made him a unique character in the rather large shoes of Henry VIII’s. This book has a wonderful pace and tone where, as a reader, I felt a mixture of emotions for the characters – hatred, fear, happiness – everything. The ending is by far perfect for me and I anticipate anything else by this marvellous writer.
Just read it, I bet you enjoy it.
I give this book 5 out of 5