Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All: by M. T. Anderson, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Lisa Ann Sandell, Jennifer Donnelly, Linda Sue Park, Deborah Hopkinson
Many are vaguely familiar with Henry VIII and his six wives, each of whom met a variously cruel fate in his quest for a son. (Note: turns out he did have sons–two of them. It’s complicated.) Fatal Throne offers a retelling of that story, alternatingly told from the point of view of each queen. (Note: not from the point of view of each of Henry’s lovers–because there are even more of them.) Which inspires the book’s melodramatic subtitle, The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All. But what got me past that bit is the fact that each queen’s story is imagined by a different writer–that stood out and caught my interest.
It turns out that’s also the book’s saving grace because, had the whole book been told in the voice of Candace Fleming’s Katharine of Aragon, the book would have been insufferable. But the book improves dramatically once it surmounts the first chapter’s drudgery. From there, each section emerges with a unique voice, at times telling overlapping stories from different perspectives, an aspect I deeply enjoyed.
In all, Fatal Throne overcomes its subtitle and first chapter to become an intriguing, ever-shifting narrative full of drama, betrayal, scheming, and despair, all animated by old-fashioned human folly. You’ll variously feel the devastation of loss, the intoxication of young love, and the disbelief of witnessing a nation orbit around the whims of a monstrous-yet-charming monarch.
|Candace Fleming, Compiler
|Schwartz & Wade
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