Thursday, September 25, 2014

VIII by H.M Castor

VIII by H.M Castor
  • Hardback: 399 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - first print edition   
  • Language: English 
  • ISBN-10: 144247419X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442474192

The book starts out with Henry VIII as a young boy being whisked away to the Tower of London while his father is defending his throne against an impersonator of one of the young princes that were lost in the Tower years before. It's a little awkward at first because the author writes the book in first person, and I am not used to reading large stories this way. It took a bit of getting used to. Also the book is aimed toward a younger audience, so the chapters can be extremely short. With a book this large, short chapters make for a very long read.

  • Out of all the characters that Henry encounters throughout the book, it is his relationship with his father that truly stands out to me. At first, the relationship is almost non-existent, until his brother Arthur dies. Then he is brought to his father so that he can properly be groomed to rule as King someday. Henry envisions himself as King even before then, and feels that he is being given signs that he will be a King and God will pave a way for him.  He has many different encounters with unnatural things, and some of them are quite scary even for the reader. 

  • As Henry prepares himself to sit on the throne in the event of his father's death someday, he gets ideas of how great it will be to be King of England as well as France. He anticipates being a conqueror and the people of England loving him for it. During his few conversations with his father, he is scolded for being so naive and lectured on what it is like to be a King, and the many responsibilities that he will have in doing so. I think that toward the end of his life he realizes just how much he learned from his father, even if the book doesn't say so. I thoroughly enjoyed the part that Henry VII played in this book, and think that he wasn't just seen as a money grubber, but as a detail oriented, organized, self disciplined man who had a softer side for his family, especially his wife. I like that he said what was on his mind. It was very easy for me, the reader to cling to each word he said with much respect. 

  • The book takes Henry from childhood until death. Although quite interesting in the beginning, it dragged on for a spell while he was with Katherine of Aragon. This is as it should be though, because in real life, he was married to her longest. But once he becomes involved with Anne Boleyn, and the others, the book becomes much more interesting and reads much quicker. 

  • The author has a nifty way with words, and the details that are in this story are woven together brilliantly like a beautiful tapestry. Some of the scenes are quite powerful and leave you thinking about them long after you close the book. 

  • One such scene, is a favorite of mine. I will add it here for an example. Henry is being teased by Anne when he leaves the court room during his trial to divorce Katherine of Aragon. He is angry and feels like Katherine is too loved by the people and that she makes a fool of him.  He feels that his people should love him above all others, and doesn't understand why they do not. Anne is standing in the shadows of his private room, and tells him it is because he is not 'believable' when he speaks. She gets onto the subject of him not having a male heir, and brings up that things would all be well had his son lived, that died 17 years prior. This hits a tender spot in Henry and he becomes quite agitated with her chiding.  He goes on to say this:

  • "You know, sometime I really must ask your brother about your favourite childhood hobby. I believe he will tell me it was tearing the wings off birds. Or drowning puppies."

  • This is a fine example of the author's magnificent way with words. They are packed full of a punch, and play out like a movie in the readers mind.

  • Another such example prior to this scene that I almost forgot is also quite good. Henry is questioning his then wife, Katherine of Aragon about her loyalty to him or her family. She reminds him that her loyalty has always been with him, but then he scolds her and tells her that if this was so, she would have given him a son by now. The scene plays out like this:

  • Silence. We hold one anothers gaze. I say, quietly and distinctly, "This is what you are for. Do you think I married you for love? I married you to give me an alliance with Spain, And sons." I look down at her belly. "Will this one live, do you think? For a change?" 

  • My God, her control is magnificent. Not a single muscle in her face twitches. But her eyes... She looks as if she is drowning.

  • After reading this scene, I could see it in my mind as if it were happening in front of me. A very powerful look into what it must have been like to know Katherine in person. It is just as I imagine her to be. My admiration for her still stands. She was tough as nails.

  • If you have an interest into the life of Henry VIII, then this book will definitely interest you. Just be prepared to read many short chapters, and each starting at different points in Henry's life. If you are an Anne Boleyn fan, her role in this book is quite short. For me though, that is quite refreshing. It didn't hash out the whole execution scene again, as seen in so many other books. The books stays focused on it's true subject; Henry VIII.

  • The ending comes quickly, but is very interesting. I enjoyed it very much. It left me satisfied. When I closed the book, I was smiling. I highly recommend it, with a four star rating. It's different, and unique. I hope to read more from this author in the future.

  • The above scenes are from pages: 298 and 236.