by Laura Andersen
In this alternative spin on history, Laura Andersen asks, “What if Anne Boleyn’s second child had survived and been the son so desperately wanted by Henry VIII?” Instead of being thrown into disgrace after Anne Boleyn’s execution, the Boleyn family has been the most powerful in England for decades. As King Henry IX – called William by friends and close family – prepares to take full control of the throne on his eighteenth birthday, his uncle the regent prepares to transfer power to his nephew. But the palace teems with intrigue, for not everyone is happy to see this “Boleyn King” take control. Factions still support his Catholic sister Mary, who was officially removed from the succession by her father, the now dead king Henry VIII. William’s friends Dominic and Minuette uncover evidence of a conspiracy against him, and together with the king’s sister Elizabeth the four teenagers race to solve the mystery. But the drama of politics isn’t all that occupies the young members of the court. Each of our young protagonists has a secret love, but for one reason or another he or she must hide those feelings, lest their passions unleash shock waves capable of destroying the harmony and friendship between them.
What a fantastic idea for a novel! I’ve become a bit bored of Tudor fiction lately – there’s just been so much of it in the last few years – but Andersen’s novel takes the standard settings and characters and spins them in a new direction. I liked seeing an older Anne Boleyn, not cut down in her prime by an executioner’s sword, still enjoying politics and bossing her daughter Elizabeth around. Heck, since Elizabeth never knew her mother in real life, it was really fun to just see the two of them interacting since they were both such strong-willed, passionate women.
Henry IX seemed largely modeled on stories of Henry VIII as a youth – same temperament, physical prowess, and energy. I’m curious why the author opted to name him William – it’s not a name that I recall from the Tudor family tree, and I would have expected an Arthur (Henry VIII’s older brother) or a Thomas (Boleyn Grandfather) or even an Edward (Henry’s real son) over a William. It’s a minor nitpick, but in a time when names usually came from family members it was something that distracted me. But William/Henry IX seems to be a promising future king, with enough cleverness to survive the intrigues of his court.
Dominic and Minuette, two commoners who become elevated persons of rank because they are childhood friends to the King and his sister, were a bit flat and uninteresting to me. By the end of the first book, the King and his two friends have created an awkward love triangle, and in the process transformed the novel into a young adult romance novel that reminded me less of The Tudors and more of Twilight. Feelings that seemed blindingly obvious to the reader made these poor kids seem terribly oblivious, but I guess that’s teenagers for you.
This is to be the first book in the trilogy. It’s a fun, quick read and I’m curious to see where Andersen will go next in her alternate Tudor court.
3.5 out of 5 stars
To read more about The Boleyn King, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Afterlives of the Saints bu Colin Dickey
2011: Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King
2010: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by Dave Wroblewski
2009: Book Trailer: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
2008: News: New Harry Potter book what WHAT?