Title: Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All
Author(s): M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, Lisa Ann Sandell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres of all time; I’ve used it as a lens through which to observe and learn about real events and put them in a real-life and modern context. The Tudor period of English history has fascinated me from the time I was a child, when I was learning who Elizabeth I was in school. So when I found out about this extraordinary book, authored by seven different people, I was excited. Too often is the eye of history fixed on the King himself, but not his six wives, all strong, charismatic in their own rights. I really liked the format of this book, because the deeper you got, you were awarded with a different perspective, from both Henry and his queen. It gave me new knowledge on a period in history I thought I knew like the back of my hand. Easily one of the best books of 2018 for me.
We all know the story of Henry VIII and his unfortunate wives—or, so we think. These six women are all completely different, with hopes, dreams, and desires, all united by the desire of one man, one of the most powerful in the world: King Henry VIII. Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Kateryn Parr are each given a chapter, narrated from the first person, telling of each ascent and subsequent death at the hands of their king and husband. This book gives you a front row seat to each of Henry’s queens, the way that they were lifted to the seat of the most powerful woman in England, and the way that they died, most by his hand, however indirectly. Each chapter was narrated by a different author, and it was broken up by Henry’s voice in several pages in between. As a result, this book was really informative and fulfilling, despite the fact that it was fiction. Even with the creative liberties, it was deeply immersive, and I found myself completely captivated.
This book was highly unusual, unlike any other book I’ve ever read. I’m a huge sucker for books with multiple points of view, and this delivered, seven times over. The pacing was breakneck, even when the narrative moved between Henry and all of his queens, different but all coming short of his high expectations. Honestly, there wasn’t a character that I didn’t love, even Henry. I really enjoyed the way that each of his wives got her turn in the limelight, explaining her ascent to the throne and eventual downfall; Anne of Cleves and Kateryn Parr were the only two of the six who outlived the wily old king. I also loved the amount of meticulous research that went into the book, and the sheer teamwork of the authors because of it. It was also really refreshing for the narrative to be focused on Henry the whole time. And that ending—it was absolutely perfect! I liked it a lot. It was really nice that the book contained references and a timeline at the back, it really helped make sense of all of the events that happened in the book. Honestly, I wish this book had been around when I was first learning about Henry and his line, and the wives that were sentenced to death when they didn’t provide him with a male heir. One of the best books of the year for me, and I only wish that there was more! The bottom line: A book about Henry VIII and his wives, Fatal Throne gives you a front row seat to the king’s reign, and each’s wife’s downfall—most to death by beheading, but others managed to escape with their lives. One of the best historical fiction books I’ve read recently!