Book Review – ‘VIII’ by H.M. Castor

H.M. Castor 'VIII'
H.M. Castor ‘VIII’

H.M. Castor ‘VIII’ (Dorking: Templar Publishing, 2011) Paperback, ISBN 978-1-8487-74995

Genre/s: Historical Drama

Setting: Tower of London, Hampton Court and Richmond (London, England)

Characters: Henry VIII / Prince Arthur / Henry VII / Elizabeth of York / Katherine of Aragon / Cardinal Thomas Wolsey / Anne Boleyn / Jane Seymour / Mary I / Archbishop Thomas Cranmer / Thomas More / Elizabeth I / Katherine Parr / Katherine Howard / Edward VI / Anne of Cleves / Thomas Cromwell

Storyline: From Henry VIII’s childhood until his death in 1547. The novel covers Henry’s imagined childhood in some detail, looking at the death of his mother and brother, his accession to the throne, his quest to beget a son to succeed him and the relationships with his wives. There is also a spectre in the background haunting him.

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

Point of View: King Henry VIII of England.

Strengths: This novel is particularly strong on the time before Henry VIII became King, particularly up until the death of his brother, Arthur. I did think that I might quite enjoy it, until Henry’s accession to the throne. It was an interesting idea to look at his childhood, as not many fiction writers explore that bit of his life, but it would have been better doing it as a series, so the end wasn’t so abrupt.

Weaknesses: After Henry VIII’s accession to the throne, the story felt a little rushed and uneven in places. I think that the spectre idea was clever, but it needed more clarification and exploration throughout the novel – at times it felt like it was just thrown in with no real explanation and for no good reason. I didn’t feel like the portrayal of Prince Arthur was particularly well done, as it seemed to go exactly against the grain of the historical record on his personality and attributes.

Overall Rating: 14/20

Recommend? Maybe, definitely more for teens than adults.

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