Tudor Tales | May 1, 2013

Library Journal Reviews starred review Andersen, Laura. The Boleyn King. Ballantine. May 2013. 340p. ISBN 9780345534095. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780345534101. F

Andersen’s imaginative debut, the first in a planned trilogy, poses a simple but history-shattering question: What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a healthy son who had lived? The novel focuses on the increasingly tense atmosphere at court as that son, William, nears his 18th birthday and the end of his uncle’s regency. When William discovers that pro-Catholic forces are plotting to take the crown from him and to bestow it on his older sister, Mary, he turns to his three closest friends (including his sister Elizabeth) to help him uncover the conspirators. Romantic entanglements, battlefield drama, and Anne Boleyn’s enduring power and legacy all further complicate matters for the dashing young king and his supporters. VERDICT Once the basics of her alternate-history universe have been established, Andersen focuses on creating an exciting, action-driven plot containing strong doses of both intrigue and romance. Tudor-era historical fiction fans who are willing to accept the unusual premise will be rewarded with an original and entertaining read that’s reminiscent of the best of Philippa Gregory.—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL

Library Journal Reviews starred review Fremantle, Elizabeth. Queen’s Gambit. S. & S. Jun. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9781476703060. $26. F

Just when historical fiction fans were beginning to feel the dearth of new works, Fremantle fills the void with this outstanding debut novel that follows twice-widowed Katherine Parr as she falls in love with courtier Thomas Seymour but is compelled to marry King Henry VIII. The author manages to do something that few authors of historical fiction can: delve into the hopes, dreams, and desires of one of Henry’s wives. Although not viewed as “ill-fated” by history because she survived her tempestuous royal marriage, Parr was a woman who struggled to live for herself and to make her mark on the world. The latter she hoped to accomplish by furthering church reforms, a dream that died when she almost found herself prisoner in the tower. VERDICT This guaranteed best seller will appeal not only to your die-hard Tudor buffs but also to readers who enjoy Hilary Mantel’s novels about Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies). Be sure to include this on your summer must-read list. [See Prepub Alert, 12/2/12.]—Audrey Jones, Arlington, VA