VIII by H. M. Castor
Do we really need another book about Henry VIII? If it’s as well-drawn as this one, I say YES. I recently watched the wonderfully melodramatic (maybe trashy in the best possible way) Showtime series called The Tudors, so naturally I was in the mood for more stories about the young, headstrong Henry Tudor. Castor used the first person perspective to take readers into the mind and heart of this infamous ruler, starting when he was just a young boy called Hal. As a historian herself, the author’s purpose was to explore “why he did what he did…He’s an extraordinary boy: hugely talented, with astonishing warrior skills, and he’s said to be the model of virtue.” So as a result of her research, the author explores a hypothetical journey into the mind of the young king,showing readers how she believes he became a king willing to imprison, betray and even behead his wives for not bearing him sons.
The first person narrative makes it easy for readers to slip into the mindset of the young Henry at the beginning of the book. Readers see that even though he was the “spare” son since he had an older brother who was supposed to become king, Henry always believed that he was destined to be king whose glory would live throughout the ages. This and his twisted family history go a long way in explaining the psychology of the king who went from a terrified and insecure child to a despot, obsessed with the idea of leaving his own son to rule Britain when he died.
I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed this book. It felt very realistic, with authentic descriptions of jousts, clothing, court life and more. I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, and readers interested in European history told from an insider’s perspective.