Review: Fatal Throne by Candace Fleming et al.

Fatal Throne
by Candace FlemingM.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, Lisa Ann Sandell

Fatal Throne, a book about Henry VIII and his six wives, coordinated by Candace Fleming. Fleming and six other authors will each contribute a story from different points of view: M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, and Lisa Ann Sandell.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher:Schwartz & Wade
Publication date:  May 1st 2018
Source/Format: eARC/Netgalley
Purchase links: Amazon | Book Depository
My Rating:  ★★★★★

My Thoughts:
“Fatal Throne” chronicles the six wives of England’s King Henry VIII. Each queen had a part narrating in first person point of view.  Right after each queens’ parts are King Henry’s sort of rebuttal thoughts about each queen. Full disclosure: I didn’t know much about Henry VIII and his wives until I read this book. Paying attention in history classes is not my strong suit ever. Also, I do not read a lot of historical fiction. So bear in mind that the following opinions are coming from no history aficionado.

So, about the book. I was mildly surprised that I found it engrossing. The politics, the intrigues, the royal drama! Each of the queen’s story is like a dark fairy tale. They enter the palace with the hopes of a happy marriage only to end up in differing levels of tragedy. And what’s shocking here is these stories are actually not entirely fictional. I know so because I did a lot of looking up on Wikipedia right after finishing the book because I somehow seem to can’t get enough of these people.

The book is mainly about these six queens and the patriarchal pressures that lead them to their doomed fates.  These women have their own strength and intelligence but because they are from the times when women have little rights, they suffer greatly when they attempt to become their own person. Their scheming fathers, uncles, or brothers treat them as pawns in their political power plays. After marriage, they were mostly reduced as mere vessels of the heir to the crown. And when they couldn’t serve their purpose anymore or if they fell out of the king’s favor, they were discarded like old toys. All women were deeply flawed and/or morally gray but despite that, I have nothing but utter respect for their grace and resilience under such oppressive times.

Each point of view is written by a different author and the book benefited a lot from it because you can really feel the uniqueness in their voices. The weakest link is King Henry’s parts in-between. He seemed one-dimensional, portrayed solely from a bad light. But I think that’s intentional so that the reader could really hate on him. And the book is not about him anyways, it’s about his six queens. My favorite part would be that of Anna of Cleves for two reasons. First, because its the most fairy tale that this book can get. Anna of Cleves got the closest to a happily ever after ending among all the king’s wives —she became “free” from a combination of her cleverness and luck. Second is because I felt that her character spoke to me while she is talking to fictional young servant girl named Alice. I gained a lot of insight through their conversation.

What I really like about the book is that it does not feel academic, therefore it’s so easy to read. Sure there are dates, names and events but the thoughts and feelings of the queens are what’s front and center. The book humanized these women in history for me. It gave them voices so they can impart their queenly wisdom to us. I cannot speak for hard core readers of historical fiction but as a genre novice, “Fatal Throne” comes highly recommended.
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