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VIII by [Castor, Harriet]
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VIII Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Length: 400 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

This biographical and psychological portrayal of one of England's most notorious rulers is a meaty read for Tudor history fans and general audiences alike. Prince Hal is repeatedly reminded, especially by his father, that nothing grand is expected of him, because he is the "spare" son. This spurs him into believing that he is destined for greatness, believing in a prophecy that he is fated to rule England. When his brother, Arthur, suddenly dies, Hal clashes even more with his father; when he informs his father that he believes in compassionate and visible signs of leadership, he is mocked by the monarch. Upon his succession, Hal's obsession with regaining France and having an abundance of sons causes him to negate marriage after marriage, either through execution or dissolution. Even though Henry VIII's actions are depressingly familiar, Castor presents each event with surprisingly freshness. The author artfully depicts the descent of Hal's childhood idealism and gentle character into the better-known cruel and despotic nature of Henry VIII. Too often, historical fiction is overwrought with florid description and exposition, but Castor consistently and evenly balances description, dialogue, and action. Necessary information about England's pre-Tudor past is easily incorporated into the narrative. Characters, even secondary ones, are fully realized. A faithful depiction of dialogue is sacrificed for more modern speech, but it is never distracting or awkwardly out of place. This is a satisfying and engrossing portrayal of an incredible personality. -- Jennifer Schultz Fauquier County Public Library 'an impressive psychological thriller' Children's Buyers Guide 'This is a new look at a much studied subject, and because it is written as a historical, psychological thriller it will bring Henry VIII to life for another generation' -- Clare Poole The Bookseller "In her original and convincing account of Henry as a child, HMC makes an excellent fist of presenting a sensitive and intelligent boy who, as the spare not the heir, tries in vain to win his father Henry VII's interest and approval. This novel of turbulent times bristles with atmosphere and tension. This well-plotted atmospheric novel with its original psychological perspective from HMC (shades of JKRowling) we can no doubt expect more historical novels as stunning and engrossing as this one". Books for Keeps 'A well paced story which certainly holds the reader and shows what a horrific and brutal place was the Tudor court' Carousel 'compelling and completely absorbing ... a gripping often spookily scary insight into Henry VIII for teenage readers' TbK mag 'this is historical fiction at its best but played out from a different angle ... with a contemporary and original writing style. It's also beautifully and lavishly produced in a hardback format' Lovereading4kids 'Accessible, enjoyable and full of fascinating details, VIII is a page turner that encourages readers to eschew pre-conceptions and to look at this Tudor icon in a fresh light' -- Linda Buckley-Archer Teenage Fiction pick ,The Guardian 'I wish VIII by H M Castor had been published years ago ...the book deals with the psychology of a neglected adolescent who suddenly finds himself venerated and apparently chosen by God' -- Merle Nygate Guardian readers Books of the Year, The Guardian 'try not to miss H M Castor's VIII - told as if from the lips of Britain's much married monarch, history comes alive from first page to last' -- Nicholas Tucker The Independent 'This is a great novel, both for Tudor fans who want to try something different, and for younger readers as it nicely introduces historical fact into this already exciting story. Definitely one to try!' New Books 'the gripping first-person narration paints a vivid picture of a young man haunted by strange visions, struggling to be loved, and convinced that his fate is to be a great ruler.' The White Ravens 'Unusual, enjoyable and totally fascinating, VIII, is an entertaining look at a great man's life as he might have seen it himself.' South China Post 'thought provoking, fast paced, gripping and fascinating.' The SL 'Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to people who like Tudor history and historical fiction readers. I think this book could be for Year 9s because they might understand more of the sub-plots.' -- Little M, We Sat Down Blog 'a brilliant portrayal of a historical figure which really brings out the man behind the king.' -- Jim YA Yeah Yeah just read it; it is awesome. It can easily be read in one sitting and will inspire a desire for more volumes. VIII is an ideal read-alike for The Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin. It is filled with fighting, scheming, and intrigue. Understanding family heritage and successions will be an enjoyable challenge for readers. Only follow-up searches for more British history will satisfy curious readers VOYA

Review

This biographical and psychological portrayal of one of England's most notorious rulers is a meaty read for Tudor history fans and general audiences alike. Prince Hal is repeatedly reminded, especially by his father, that nothing grand is expected of him, because he is the "spare" son. This spurs him into believing that he is destined for greatness, believing in a prophecy that he is fated to rule England. When his brother, Arthur, suddenly dies, Hal clashes even more with his father; when he informs his father that he believes in compassionate and visible signs of leadership, he is mocked by the monarch. Upon his succession, Hal's obsession with regaining France and having an abundance of sons causes him to negate marriage after marriage, either through execution or dissolution. Even though Henry VIII's actions are depressingly familiar, Castor presents each event with surprisingly freshness. The author artfully depicts the descent of Hal's childhood idealism and gentle character into the better-known cruel and despotic nature of Henry VIII. Too often, historical fiction is overwrought with florid description and exposition, but Castor consistently and evenly balances description, dialogue, and action. Necessary information about England's pre-Tudor past is easily incorporated into the narrative. Characters, even secondary ones, are fully realized. A faithful depiction of dialogue is sacrificed for more modern speech, but it is never distracting or awkwardly out of place. This is a satisfying and engrossing portrayal of an incredible personality. (Jennifer Schultz Fauquier County Public Library)

'an impressive psychological thriller' (Children’s Buyers Guide)

'This is a new look at a much studied subject, and because it is written as a historical, psychological thriller it will bring Henry VIII to life for another generation' (Clare Poole The Bookseller)

"In her original and convincing account of Henry as a child, HMC makes an excellent fist of presenting a sensitive and intelligent boy who, as the spare not the heir, tries in vain to win his father Henry VII's interest and approval. This novel of turbulent times bristles with atmosphere and tension. This well-plotted atmospheric novel with its original psychological perspective from HMC (shades of JKRowling) we can no doubt expect more historical novels as stunning and engrossing as this one". (Books for Keeps)

'A well paced story which certainly holds the reader and shows what a horrific and brutal place was the Tudor court' (Carousel)

'compelling and completely absorbing ... a gripping often spookily scary insight into Henry VIII for teenage readers' (TbK mag)

'this is historical fiction at its best but played out from a different angle ... with a contemporary and original writing style. It's also beautifully and lavishly produced in a hardback format' (Lovereading4kids)

'Accessible, enjoyable and full of fascinating details, VIII is a page turner that encourages readers to eschew pre-conceptions and to look at this Tudor icon in a fresh light' (Linda Buckley-Archer Teenage Fiction pick ,The Guardian)

'I wish VIII by H M Castor had been published years ago ...the book deals with the psychology of a neglected adolescent who suddenly finds himself venerated and apparently chosen by God' (Merle Nygate Guardian readers Books of the Year, The Guardian)

'try not to miss H M Castor's VIII - told as if from the lips of Britain's much married monarch, history comes alive from first page to last' (Nicholas Tucker The Independent)

'This is a great novel, both for Tudor fans who want to try something different, and for younger readers as it nicely introduces historical fact into this already exciting story. Definitely one to try!' (New Books)

'the gripping first-person narration paints a vivid picture of a young man haunted by strange visions, struggling to be loved, and convinced that his fate is to be a great ruler.' (The White Ravens)

'Unusual, enjoyable and totally fascinating, VIII, is an entertaining look at a great man's life as he might have seen it himself.' (South China Post)

'thought provoking, fast paced, gripping and fascinating.' (The SL)

'Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to people who like Tudor history and historical fiction readers. I think this book could be for Year 9s because they might understand more of the sub-plots.' (Little M, We Sat Down Blog)

'a brilliant portrayal of a historical figure which really brings out the man behind the king.' (Jim YA Yeah Yeah)

just read it; it is awesome. It can easily be read in one sitting and will inspire a desire for more volumes. VIII is an ideal read-alike for The Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin. It is filled with fighting, scheming, and intrigue. Understanding family heritage and successions will be an enjoyable challenge for readers. Only follow-up searches for more British history will satisfy curious readers (VOYA)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 897 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Templar Fiction (1 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007WT2RLW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #44,223 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Just to add to the Mantel debate....I much preferred VIII to Wolf Hall which left me cold as I wasn't interested enough in the main character. In contrast, I found this book compelling and exciting. I thought the young Henry seemed real and I completely sympathised with his relationship with his father and the imaginary demons in his life. Moreover, the detail in VIII: the sights, sounds, smells and textures made reading the book, the closest I've come to time travel.
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Format: Hardcover
I am far from being a teenager but I am an avid reader of historical fiction and love a book that reads well, especially one that takes a new approach to a well known subject. VIII fitted the bill for me exactly ! From the very first pages I was hooked ! H M Castor's approach carries the reader swiftly through the pages providing a story full of action and colour. I am sure this book is ideal for her intended audience of older teenagers, but actually feel that many older readers will also love it. Indeed I fully intend to introduce my U3A Reading Group to it as I feel the use of the first person approach and the paranormal aspects of the novel will provide for some interesting discussion.

Castor writes with amazing insight about the development of Hal as a young energetic king to a sick aging despot. From the details of place, costume, food and sporting pastimes it is clear that she has researched his life and times with great thoroughness. All readers will gain a fresh insight into a monarch that they thought they already knew well.

The book is full of memorable scenes and dialogue. Castor has a way with the written word that captures the readers' attention and stimulates their imagination. A thought provoking book that I shall recommend to grandchildren and contemporaries alike.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never really been a huge fan of historical fiction. Although a lot of it, surprisingly, is written by real historians, it tends not to be very convincing. This however is different. Harriett is a first-class historian her sister Helen is too )and the amount of research she did for the novel really shines through. Not just along historical lines either...she consulted psychoanalysts and in particular the Jungian analyst Matthew Harwood, as well as clothing experts, martial arts gurus,experts on the Italian Wars and anything else you can think of. So the first criterion for an historical novel - that it is believable - is met in spades.
But it is, as other reviwers have said, a real page turner. You just don't want to put it down. The unique view point from which it is written, inside Henry's own head, helps it enormously and gives an immediacy which is brilliant. Breathtaking. And it really does give us an opportunity to re-assess what we think of Henry, and take a different view on him than that provided by the portraits with which we are so familiar...the ogre who thinks nothing of executing wives or friends, or the gross, obese tyrant totally self-centred, vain and dictatorial.
It is without doubt the best book I have read this year, the most exciting, the most thoughtful, and one I would recommend without resrvation to teens or adults. Do read it.
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Format: Hardcover
The copy for VIII states that it will do "for Henry what Hilary Mantel did for Thomas Cromwell - VIII is Wolf Hall for the teen and crossover market." I don't dispute that VIII most certainly introduces the life of VIII, but I have definite misgivings about the novel.

Key amongst these is the pacing of the novel. Over half of VIII tackled the early life of Henry and his marriage to Catherine, after the death of his brother. The remaining half showed the rest of his reign and the other five wives. In a novel that only just tips 300 pages, that is far too much to try and squeeze into the final half of the book. It made for a very rushed narrative, where Castor was unable to really showcase the way in which Hal changed from charming young man to absolute tyrant. When this came after such a leisurely opening, it caused me to catch my breath. It also meant that whole swathes of Henry's reign were not even touched upon - the whole monasteries malarkey wasn't even mentioned, and I believe this could and should have been added to the narrative.

The other facet of VIII that I didn't enjoy much was the ghost story/horror element. You have here one of the most famous personalities of all time; one of the most horrific tyrants; one of the most boisterous and downright larger-than-life monarchs - VIII didn't need any embellishments of this sort. It could have stood on its own two feet simply telling the crazy story of this King who beheaded two of his wives and divorced two others; destroyed the monasteries and introduced himself as the Head of the Church. Who needs ghosts when you have all of that actual material?

Lastly on the negative front, I found the style of writing a little odd - first person, but in a present tense e.g.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I had to think of how to sell this book I would describe it as being along the lines of the Tudor TV series but toned down to be more suitable for a YA audience. I enjoyed every page and thought it was a prime example of how YA historical fiction should be written.

I do get quite a bee in my bonnet when it comes to YA historical fiction. I get sent a lot of it for review because I am a history teacher and I have found of late that some of the stuff out there is just too weighty and too boring to engage youngsters especially things written about historical events pre 19th century. What I loved about VIII is that it the author seems to know the age range she is writing for (which always helps) and uses story telling in an engaging and effective manner to put across historical events in a way which would be entertaining for teens.

The first thing I liked about the book is that it gave the reader a real sense of historical period and what it would have been like for the main characters to live through the time period without overburdening the reader with lots and lots of tiny and somewhat irrelevant details which can get dull quickly.

If you ask any child to tell you something about Henry VIII they will say one of two things - he was very fat or he had lots of wives which really only scratches the surface. I loved how this book looks more broadly at Henry's life as a whole and considers in more detail his earlier life when he was this gorgeous all powerful ruler. I also liked the sections where it looked in detail at Henry's younger life before he became 1st in line to the throne and showed how he was treated by his family because of this.
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