Book Blog -- VIII by H.M. Castor

Katherine Longshore 3 Tuesday, November 08, 2011
So have you all figured out how obsessed I am with Henry VIII yet?  Not so much that I have pictures of him all over the room, but crazy enough that when I find some new bit of information about him, I will stop at nothing to get to it and devour it.

This is how I felt when I heard about VIII by H.M. Castor.  I first read about it in a blog post on writing historical fiction for teens in a contemporary voice.  I think I may have heard the heavenly choir while reading because it so closely matched how I feel about what I do.  Castor explained how she wanted to write a novel that was historically accurate but entirely relatable to a modern audience.  And I fell in love with her concept of Henry as a metaphorical fallen angel -- from golden boy to tyrant.

Because, you see, Henry VIII is almost always portrayed as the fat, angry man he became much later in life.  Until Jonathan Rhys Meyers came on the scene, no one could imagine Henry as young, and certainly not sexy.

Well, Castor is an historian by education.  She knows the sixteenth century back to front, and has turned that knowledge into an engaging and believable backdrop to the events that shaped Henry’s life and character. 

But it is Henry himself who jumps off the page and shows himself as the boy who became king.  Every child is affected by parents and upbringing, and in Castor’s book we see a boy belittled by his father and sheltered by his mother.  A boy who faces the possibility of death by coup at an early age.  A boy who is held back from his natural physical desire to perform, to play and to participate.  A boy, who when all of the adults who have restrained him his entire life are gone, feels that he is destined – divinely fated – to succeed, to rule and to win.  Failure is literally not an option for Henry VIII.

I loved Castor’s Henry, and the psychological transformation from hurt boy to megalomaniacal tyrant.  I loved the subplot of ghost story.  And I love the cover, intimidating and engaging, like Henry himself.

VIII is not yet available in the United States (remember how I said I would stop at nothing to obtain something new to feed my obsession?).  But with a little ingenuity, copies can be found.  I am supremely hopeful that the new interest in historical fiction for teens will bring it here, so more people can enjoy it.  In the meantime, I will continue to visit Castor’s website – and the History Girls group blog to which she belongs – to feed my fascination.


Katherine, your passion is infectious! Thanks to you, I've watched a couple of episodes of the Tudors, looked up details about the times and queens (on Wikipedia, granted, which isn't the most respectable of sources) are fueling a new fascination.

And I predict this will be catching.

Hooray! Glad to be fueling a new fascination, Beth. And I hope you're right!

I couldn't stand it.. Had to buy it from It wasn't too bad, only 6 bucks for shipping. I'm like you, I love, LOVE YA historical with a contemp voice. It's what I write, so thanks for this heads-up!

Post a Comment

Grid_spot theme adapted by Lia Keyes. Powered by Blogger.


discover what the Muses get up to when they're not Musing

an ever-growing resource for writers

Popular Musings

Your Responses

Fellow Musers