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VIII - the review

Another Tudor novel! Woohoo! And this time, there's demons involved...

VIII is a young adult novel that tells the story of Henry VIII's life from his childhood to his death. However, what makes this story different from the rest is that Henry is haunted by the vision of a deathly thin boy with pools of black for eyes, who quivers, cries and begs for comfort. Henry begins to see this boy as an omen - one who warns of still born children, who warns him of witchcraft and who, ultimately, claims him to death.

I thought the premise of the book was really interesting. I liked that for much of the book, Henry was "Hal". This made you as the reader forget what you already knew of Henry VIII, and see him as a "new" character. I also liked the supernatural element as an inventive way of explaining many of Henry's famously documented actions that remain, in the most part, unexplained.

The author, H M Castor, is a historian, and as such there are great descriptions of jousting and sword-fight tournaments, in-depth political positionings and squeamish accounts of Henry's leg wound. There is also, I noticed, a lot of attentioned paid to cloth, which is actually a bit strange!

VIII is an unchallenging read that I very much enjoyed, but I couldn't help but feel Henry's visions were just not enough to really set this novel apart fom others in the genre. I liked that Henry was the main focus of the book, not his wives, and Castor's interpretation of him from an over-loved child to a heartless King was well concieved. BUT, it followed a path we all know, at a pace that left little room for anticipation. It was a little off-kilter to say the least. 80% of the book surrounds the marraige periods of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn (undoubtedly the most prolific wives, it's true) but then 4 more marraiges are crammed into 20% - and it feels a bit rushed. For instance, Henry is married and divorced from Anne of Cleves, and already married again to Katherine Howard, in all of 4 pages!

All in all, VIII is well worth a read for fans of the Tudor court genre - if only for an insight into Henry's childhood, which was very much the best part of the book for me. Considering this was another 99p bargain on Kindle, it was much more than I expected it to be and definitely worth the price paid!

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