Having read so much about Henry VIII, it was a real treat to find a book which manages to give a new perspective to the story. Telling the tale from Henry’s point of view with an engaging and strong voice works very well, and starting with Henry as a young boy enables us to see some previously neglected parts of his life.
I found the relationships between Henry and his mother, father and ill-fated older brother, Arthur, a fascinating insight into the make-up of this young monarch, and throughout the book the author attempts quite successfully to provide some dimension to Henry’s character. She also tries to offer potential reasons as to why and how the sweet and likeable young Hal changes into the notorious monarch. It is disturbing to observe the character development, as superstition, unfulfilled ambition and an overdeveloped ego conspire to mould Henry into the dangerous tyrant we are so familiar with.
I also enjoyed the fact that the story stays focused very much on Henry, and although each of his six wives are observed, their parts are merely periphery to the central character.
Overall I loved the book – the early part more than the latter, because this was the area that was fresh to me – but for young readers this is an excellent introduction to the life of one of our most infamous rulers with a fresh angle, a vivid depiction of the times and a real attempt to look beyond the obvious.