Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All

Written by Candace Fleming Deborah Hopkinson Jennifer Donnelly Linda Sue Park Lisa Ann Sandell M.T. Anderson Stephanie Hemphill
Review by Meg Wiviott

Henry VIII is King of England and desperate for a male heir. The extent to which he goes to attain his goal—severing ties with the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the heads of advisors who stand in his way, and wives who do not reproduce as required—is infamous.

Fatal Throne presents vignettes from each of Henry’s wives, written by six accomplished YA authors: The long suffering Katherine of Aragon (Candace Fleming), married to Henry for twenty-four years before his head is turned by the vibrant and passionate Anne Boleyn (Stephanie Hemphill), perhaps the most famous of all the wives—given her end; loyal, demure Jane Seymour (Lisa Ann Sandell) who gave Henry his heart’s desire and then promptly died; Anna of Cleves (Jennifer Donnelly), wise enough to survive a brief marriage; teenaged Catherine Howard (Linda Sue Park), unfortunately nowhere near wise and beheaded for adultery after less than two years of wedded bliss; and Kateryn Parr (Deborah Hopkinson), who is clever enough to persevere. Each queen presents her story—her passions, fears, and the machinations of Henry and his advisors to be rid of her. In between each of the queens’ stories are short contemplations from Henry (M.T. Anderson).

Though the story of Henry VIII and his wives is not new, the heartbreaking stories these queens tell are—additionally giving historical perspective to the #MeToo movement. Anderson’s take on Henry feels genuine. His narcissism and need to lay blame at anyone’s feet—even God—rather than his own is eerily relevant. It is a delightful book for readers ages 12 and up, including adults and anyone smitten with the Tudors.