Publisher: Templar Publishing.
Release date: October 1st 2011.
Hardcover, 336 pages.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
VIII is the story of Hal: a young, handsome, gifted warrior, who believes he has been chosen to lead his people. But he is plagued by the ghosts of his family's violent past and, once he rises to power, he turns to murder and rapacious cruelty. He is Henry VIII. The Tudors have always captured the popular imagination, but in VIII, Henry is presented fresh for a new generation. H M Castor does for Henry what Hilary Mantel did for Thomas Cromwell - VIII is Wolf Hall for the teen and crossover market. The contemporary, original writing style will have broad appeal and VIII brings the tension of a psychological thriller and the eeriness of a ghost story to historical fiction.
Combining the page-turning tension of a psychological thriller with the spine-chilling shivers of a ghost story, H.M Castor’s VIII is an accomplished work of historical fiction with that most fascinating of subjects Henry VIII at its core. If you’re thinking that this is just another retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives, then think again. Castor’s VIII is a unique take on the life of the man who is perhaps best remembered as a grotesque and tyrannical figure. But, as Castor reminds us, Henry, or Hal as he was also known, wasn’t always a man driven by a fierce desire to dominate and to behead. In this book we first meet Henry as a child, and as we follow him throughout life we see how tragic family circumstances as well as the inner workings of his haunted mind shaped him both as a leader and as a man.
With its engaging and accessible prose, VIII is a compelling, fast-paced read that will keep readers both young and old hooked from start to finish. Throughout VIII Castor is mindful of her intended Young Adult audience and as such strikes a perfect balance in her writing. While VIII is meticulously researched and well rounded in every way the story is never overwhelmed by political or religious detail at any time, focusing instead on its vast cast of characters. With this focus on the characters and their importance to the changing personality of Henry I recommend a little background knowledge on The House of Tudor and the main players in how it came to be before reading this one.
One of the most interesting aspects of VIII is the focus on Henry as a child. While I’ve read lots of books both academic and fictional on Tudor history, most concentrate on Henry as a ruler or as a (not very good) husband. Here though, we meet Henry as a headstrong, but also thoughtful and considerate boy. Adored by his mother, Elizabeth of York, he adores her in return and shares her mutual dislike of his paternal Grandmother Margaret Beaufort, for whom the world battleaxe must have been invented. The other main players in Henry’s life at this time are his father Henry VII and his older brother Arthur who is heir to the throne, while Henry is nothing more than a spare and is treated as such by the King. But, when Henry begins to have ghostly visions and then a prophecy foretells great things for him, he changes from a boy who is haunted by the tales of his mothers lost brothers in the tower into a determined young man who will be King and who is as ambitious and ruthless as his father and grandmother before him.
Of course, with a Kingdom comes a wife, or six in Henry’s case, and they are discussed here too along with Henry’s mounting fears and frustrations at the failure of his first two wives Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to produce a living male heir who would be his successor as King. Ah, but we do get to witness the birth of a girl called Elizabeth, and we all know what happened next.
With major crossover appeal VIII by H.M Castor is a highly enjoyable and refreshing work of historical fiction that will be loved by readers young and old alike. Recommended.
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Thanks to those lovely people at Templar I have a beautiful hardback copy of VIII by H.M. Castor to give away!
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Competition is open to: UK Only (Publishers request).
Competition Closes: Wednesday, October 5th 2011.
COMPETITION CLOSED! WINNER ANNOUNCED SOON!