Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All is a Tudor-era YA historical fiction novel. This book was already on my radar, so when I saw it on the new release shelf at my town library, I was very excited. I prefer the 19th century when choosing historical fiction; I don’t spend very much time reading fiction from this era, but I was looking forward to trying something new.
This is an anthology, with a different author telling the story of one of Henry’s six wives. I think this helps to give each of the six women a unique voice, and her personality really comes through this way. Here are the authos who contributed:
M.T. Anderson – Henry VIII
Candace Fleming – Katharine of Aragon
Stephanie Hemphill – Anne Boleyn
Lisa Ann Sandell – Jane Seymour
Jennifer Donnelly – Anna of Cleves
Linda Sue Park – Catherine Howard
Deborah Hopkinson – Kateryn Parr
There is a note that explains that since three wives has essentially the same name, each was assigned a different spelling to help differentiate them and minimize confusion.
To rehash the plot would be to reveal spoilers, even though much of what happens is historical record. I’m not familiar enough with the era to tell you whether or not liberties have been taken with the plot. Needless to say, there does seem to be a common theme as time progresses; each subsequent wife finds her task daunting. Will she be able to give Henry the son he so desperately craves? Will she meet the same fate as some of her predecessors?
Each wife’s story unfolds from a first person perspective, as if the woman is speaking directly to the reader. I think this device helps create sympathy, and it’s clear to see that these women have all been maligned by the whims of a mercurial monarch and those serving his agenda.
Speaking of which, I especially enjoyed the sections from Henry’s perspective. He tries so hard to appear sympathetic, but it’s so insidiously manipulative; nothing is his fault, he’s the victim, and he’s the one who was wronged in each scenario. It’s such classic narcissism, but there are occasional flickers of remorse, and I can’t help but wonder if they’re genuine.
I would absolutely recommend Fatal Throne. This is a wonderful introduction to the reign of Henry VIII, from the perspective of the women in his life. I would have a hard time determining which story was my favorite; I liked them all, and each wife’s experience was quite different from that of the others. I am familiar with several of the authors who contributed to this book, but I plan to check out everybody else’s catalogue in the future.