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Review: VIII by HM Castor

VIII by HM Castor
Published by Templar
Challenge: BBC
Series: Given by owner of Norfolk Children's Book Centre

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. Yes this book does go through Henry's wives and yes he does become fat but that isn't the sole focus of this book which is what I liked and the reason why I made the comparison The Tudors TV series as it is the only other thing I can think of that has also given a more broad view of Henry's life rather than the more narrow interpretations which are usually given.

Another reason why I liked this book and thought it would be engaging for teens is that it really did capture the drama of the period with all the political intrigue that would have surrounded Henry as he threw his weight around trying to get his own way in areas such as his marriages and religion, when trying to wage wars with France and at home in the way he ruled his country in the ruthless manner he did.

Definitely a book I would highly recommend both as blogger and a history teacher. A brilliant example of how Historical Fiction can be used to engage people with historical events and personalities.


Mel said…
I've always had a keen interest in the tudor period so this book has fascinated me! I like that there is some focus on his early life rather than just the last few years when he went through his wifes...I will definitely be picking this up!
..I'm a bit ashamed to admit this because I've seen this book around EVERYWHERE lately.. but I didn't realise it was a book about Henry VIII. Yeah, despite the title and everything. And I'm still not sure if that new knowledge makes me more or less interested in reading it? I really just can't let go of my aversion to historical fiction. Even though I've really enjoyed the books I've read lately.