Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All

He was King Henry VIII, a charismatic and extravagant ruler obsessed with both his power as king and with siring a male heir.
They were his queens--six ill-fated women, each bound for divorce, or beheading, or death.
Watch spellbound as each of Henry's wives attempts to survive their unpredictable king and his power-hungry court. See the sword flash as fiery Anne Boleyn is beheaded for adultery. Follow Jane Seymour as she rises from bullied court maiden to beloved queen, only to die after giving birth. Feel Catherine Howard's terror as old lovers resurface and whisper vicious rumors to Henry's influential advisors. Experience the heartache of mothers as they lose son after son, heir after heir.
Told in stirring first-person accounts, Fatal Throne is at once provocative and heartbreaking, an epic tale that is also an intimate look at the royalty of the most perilous times in English history.

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade | Genre: Historical Fiction | Source: Publisher | Rating: 2 Cups

Challenges Read For: Historical Fiction Challenge -
I’m always up for any type of Tudor book be it fiction or nonfiction, so when Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All was offered for review, I jumped at the chance.
This one’s a bit different from the standard Henry VIII fiction I’ve read. First, it’s a young adult book geared for ages 12 and up (I didn’t realize when I accepted this book for review that it was a YA book). Second, it’s divided into six sections (one section for each wife), each broken down, almost diary-like, with a short section revealing Henry VIII’s thoughts on each of his wives.
Before I get into my review, I do want to say that this reads a bit older than your standard YA 12 and up book. This takes you inside Henry VIII’s court so there is blood, death, beheadings, and sex. If you’ve read The King’s Rose by Alisa M. Libby, this book is on the same level.
Getting into my review, I just wasn’t impressed with this one. While having seven writers gave this book a unique perspective, it also made it feel disjointed, take for example Fleming portraying Katherine of Aragon as the silent type yet Sandell had her railing at Henry, which was truer to history.
I didn’t feel as though any of the authors captured the essence of these six queens or of Henry VIII. At times, the history was very askew and let’s not forget that somehow the editor and authors failed to notice that the last entry from Catherine Parr is dated 1846-1847, so did she time travel all the way from the 1500s? Also, why was this subtitled as ‘The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All’ when, in fact, very little of their lives were revealed.
Fleming reduced Katherine of Aragon to this whiny, woe-is-me type when, in fact, she was the daughter of a warrior queen. Katherine was a very strong woman who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself and I feel like this book slighted her strong-willed character. Out of all of Henry’s wives, she, I feel was the strongest. She did a lot of things that Henry couldn’t. And she was also his longest marriage, so there was no way her story could be told in 50 pages. Also, the whole Nun of Kent debacle was just plain weird.  
While I found Anne’s story to be the best in the book, I wasn’t too impressed with how Hemphill turned Anne into a regretful loon. Yes, she was a bit manic when she was arrested and during her imprisonment but I don’t believe she was ever regretful of her actions, especially regarding her treatment of Mary. Also, I found it odd that the author made no mention of Thomas Wyatt while talking of those arrested along with Anne for adultery. Out of all the men arrested, he was the one who had a previous relationship with Anne and likely had an affair with her during her marriage to Henry.
Sandell’s Jane wasn’t too bad. There’s a lot of backstory in Jane’s story, it made it a bit boring, but I’ve always found Jane to have been a bit of a bore. And the fact that time timeline in the story was a bit shuffled about was a bit irksome.
I was surprised that Jennifer Donnelly’s take on Anne of Cleves was rather a letdown. I’ve always enjoyed Donnelly’s writing in the past so I’m not sure what happened with this one. It did have a nice gothic vibe to it with ghosts coming to Anne during her last days telling her she had unfinished business. Sadly, when it came time to reveal Anne’s unfinished business, it was a major disappointment and so far out of the realm of believability that all I could do was roll my eyes and try not to chuck the book in the bin. I also didn’t care for the way Anne and Henry’s relationship was portrayed. Henry was actually kind to Anne and she lived rather well as the King’s honorary sister so the fact that the author was bent to portraying Henry as a tyrant just didn’t work for me.
Park did rather a decent job telling Catherine Howard’s story. It’s your basic retelling of her life. She captured the naivety and stupidity that Catherine had. She also captured the way that Catherine was a pawn for the Howard family.
I thought Hopkinson did a brilliant job with the story of Henry’s last queen although I felt like she hid Catherine Parr’s manipulative side under a rug. In the end, I felt like she did a nice job capturing her reign as queen and some of her actions. Still it was nothing to write home about.
I didn’t care for Anderson’s interpretation of Henry at all. It doesn’t fit with Henry. It started off bad with him having an affair when Katherine was in labor and just went downhill from there. I cringed the entire time I was reading Henry’s POV. People tend to forget two major things when I comes to Henry VIII. The first being, he was a bit of a prude—there’s only two confirmed mistresses he had—and he often reprimanded courtiers for bawdy jokes. The second being, he was a second son raised for life in the church rather than life as a king so when they have Henry prat on about how he was raised from birth to rule, it just falls flat.
To cap this one off, there’s a snippet from Elizabeth at the end. I hate when authors only include Elizabeth and gloss over the fact Henry had two other legitimate children who inherited the throne.
Overall, this one wasn’t my cuppa tea. Perhaps if I was a Tudor newbie I would have enjoyed this more than I did but, for me, I couldn’t mesh the characters in this book to their real-life counterparts. Considering the forward in this book states that the authors went to great pains ‘trying to decipher their souls’ and read through diaries, papers, proclamations, writs, depositions, etc.,  I was expecting so much more.

M. T. Anderson – Henry VIII
Candace Fleming – Katharine of Aragon
Stephanie Hemphill – Anne Boleyn
Lisa Ann Sandell – Jane Seymour
Jennifer Donnelly – Anna of Cleves
Linda Sue Park – Catherine Howard
Deborah Hopkinson – Kateryn Parr

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