VIII by HM Castor

Posted On 8 September 2012

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Just finished reading VIII by HM Castor and will start by saying I loved this book.  It’s a different take on Henry showing us a glimpse into his early years and giving us an alternative view where young Hal is tormented by ghosts and demons.  Don’t be put off by thinking this is some sort of parallel paranormal universe – it isn’t.  It just shows us a different aspect to Henry that we’ve never looked at before not to mention this was a very superstitious era so to a certain extent I think you can get away with writing a bit of ghostliness into the story.

This is a really good historical read.  Clearly the author knows this period well and has researched it extensively.  That’s not to say that the book is overloaded with rich detail about clothes and food, etc, just enough I felt.  The story and writing flow easily and the author has a compelling way with words.

The story is told by Hal and it’s great being inside his head and knowing what he’s thinking.  We start with a young Hal being taken under cover of night to the safety of the Tower with his mother, due to the threat of assassination.  The Tower is dark and foreboding and to Hal’s young eyes appears to carry things in the shadows and eyes that watch him.  I loved this part of the story.  The book was practically unputdownable at this point with hair raising moments combined with true historical fact.  We get a little bit of insight into Henry’s relationship with his mother and father – both completely different affairs.  His father is cruel and distant.  Henry is not the important son after all and not destined for greatness – at least not in anyone else’s eyes.  His mother’s approach is more loving and kind – although this approach is scorned by her husband who thinks she mollycoddles young Hal.  He has a precarious position – he’s desperate to please but at the same time, as his father succinctly warns him, he needs to stay out of the limelight.  After all it’s not unknown for one brother to kill another – either in pursuit of a crown or in order to keep it!

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t personally have any.  I really enjoyed this book.  It was thoughtful, well written, well thought out, creepy and a bit horrible – that is in terms of watching this young boisterous boy turn into something of an ogre.  The style of writing is fairly modern and I suppose some people may object to that although I wouldn’t, I also think that if you’re looking for a story that goes into great depth about Henry’s wives and their untimely ends you may also be disappointed because the latter half of Henry’s life is moved through fairly swiftly.  We probably only have a couple of paragraphs about Anne of Cleves or Kitty Howard for example.  But, again, I had no problem with this.  I’ve read plenty of historical novels that already focus strongly on those elements and this was a lovely and refreshing change that primarily looks at the early years before the tyranny.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book.  I really enjoyed it and it gave me the opportunity to have another read about a period in history that I find fascinating, intriguing and horrifying.  Henry is just such an interesting character.  You can’t help but want to know what drove him and this gives us a different perspective.  I could pick up another novel like this right away.  In fact I understand the author is now moving on to Mary and Elizabeth and frankly I can’t wait to get my hands on that!

I’m submitting this for one of my R.I.P. reads, check out Stainless Steel Droppings autumn event details here and come and join in.