'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 3 February 2012

Review: VIII

Handsome, charming, talented and athletic, Hal is a young man who believes he has been chosen for greatness, even though his father insists he is simply a ‘spare’ son, valuable only if something happens to his older brother.

But Hal is right, for he goes on to greatness after his brother dies unexpectedly. Yet the shining promise of Hal’s youth is tainted as he ages and becomes one of history’s infamously cruel leaders. This is the story of Hal, better known as Henry VII.

Written by an author with passionate interest in Tudor history, VII is a fascinating account of the life of Henry VII, tracing Henry’s life from his early childhood through to his death. The details of Henry’s life – his family history, childhood experiences, marriages, health issues, fixations and the everyday life challenges of the time – offer some insight into how a young man with so much potential became a ruler with such a cruel disregard for the lives of others.

The story has a supernatural element, with Henry aware of visions and ghosts from an early age. In a story that is very strongly based in fact, from the details of possessions and hobbies to conversations based on written accounts from the time, this supernatural theme is and interesting technique on the part of the author and it conveys the superstitions of the times to readers very effectively.

With the target audience of tweens and teens in mind, the important moments of Henry’s life are accounted for but precise details are rarely given for the more gruesome or disturbing events. With the story written in first person, the focus is more on Henry’s decision making process, his emotions or lack of them and with Henry’s state of mind rather than details of executions, battlefields or his physical relationship with his wives.

I’ve always enjoyed books about English history and found this to be a fascinating and well-written account of an intriguing historical figure. In the author’s notes at the end of the book, H M Castor mentions that the next project will be an account of Henry’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, and I will certainly be on the lookout for this book to be published as I'm interested to see how the author deals with these infamous siblings.

Title: VIII
Author: H M Castor
Publisher: Puffin, $17.95 RRP
Publication Date: 8 November 2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143567288
For ages: 12+
Type: Young adult fiction