Some of you may know that I am a serious Anne Boleyn fanatic. For those of you who don’t know, Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII who was beheaded because she couldn’t give birth to a son (that’s the short version). Her popularity as a character in historical novels is so great that it became the focus of my senior thesis.
I was thrilled when author Laura Andersen announced that she was writing a book of alternate history called “The Boleyn King.” The story explores what might have happened if Anne had given birth to a prince who lived to become King Henry IX of England. One of the most interesting facts about the novel is that in the prologue, Andersen reveals that Elizabeth Tudor will still become Queen Elizabeth I. It is a great way to draw readers into the book. I ordered it off Amazon as soon as it was released this summer and brought it to the pool with me three days later.
The book opens with the birth of Prince Henry William Tudor in 1536, the same year in which the historical Anne had a miscarriage of a baby boy. Next, time leaps into 1553 when Henry IX, called William, has been king for seven years. The story centers on the young king, his older sister Princess Elizabeth and their mutual childhood friends Minuette and Dominic. William is about to reach his majority, which means he will come into his full power without the aid of his regent, his uncle George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.
However, rumors of rebellion float behind every corner. The Catholic lords of England still resent the break from the Church of Rome caused by King Henry VIII and they believe William’s half-sister Mary is the rightful ruler.
While William and his advisors attempt to navigate the European political waters, intrigue arises at court with the death of a pregnant lady-in-waiting. Minuette, the main narrator of “The Boleyn King,” becomes drawn into the drama by manipulative dukes and lords and looks to Queen Anne Boleyn as her guide.
The four young stars, as they call themselves, can stand strong together, but what will happen when they are divided by love?
While my initial over-the-moon excitement might be affecting my judgment, I was sorely disappointed in this novel. Queen Anne, who is arguably the reason many readers picked up this book, is reduced to a minor character with failing health and little influence over the government of England. This seems at odds with most historical and fictional representations of Henry VIII’s second wife.
The main character Minuette, who is completely a fictional character not inspired by a historical figure, was also frustrating. She came across as very much like a “Mary Sue” or “special snowflake” type character that charms anyone and everyone without even trying. However, it was easy to get drawn into the politics and become invested with all the characters and their stories.
This all being said, I will certainly be watching for the other two books in this trilogy to come out because I just can’t resist novels about the Boleyns.
At 327 pages, this book won’t take up too much of your time as this new semester begins and has enough drama to get you hooked like a bad TV show. If alternate history is right up your alley, take a look at all of the mystery of “The Boleyn King.”