The Boleyn King ~ Laura Andersen

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 2013
Pages: 358
Rating: «««« ½

Book Blurb:
The Boleyn King is the first novel in an enthralling new trilogy. Reimagining history in sumptuous detail, Laura Anderssen takes readers back to the deadly intrigue, turbulent affairs, and treacherous passions of Tudor England - and answers the compelling question What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted?

Just seventeen years old, Henry IX, known as William, is a king bound by the restraints of the regency yet anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics sowing the seeds of rebellion at home, William trusts only three people: his older sister Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by William's mother, Anne Boleyn.

Against a tide of secrets, betrayal, and murder, William finds himself fighting for the very soul of his kingdom. Then, when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession looms over a new generation of Tudors. One among them will pay the price for a king's desire, as a shocking twist of fate changes England's fortunes forever. 

My thoughts:
I was honestly intrigued with the premise of the novel: Anne Boleyn’s son survives and becomes King of England?  I will admit that it took some internal persuading to pick up this novel. The idea of “what if” totally fascinates me however that being said I am a stickler for historical accuracy. In the end (obviously), I decided to take the plunge. And am I ever glad that I did.

The story revolves around a group of four teenagers in Tudor-style England; William, the son of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII; Princess Elizabeth; Dominic, a close friend of William whose role is to act as the young King’s conscious; and Genevieve (aka Minuette), an orphan who was raised alongside the Princess as a royal ward. The story itself is told from the point of view of four different characters. As I have said in the past, I am typically not a fan of this. There were definitely times during this novel where I was somewhat lost or confused as to whom was speaking, often confusing when it was William and when it was Dominic. I am very happy with Andersen’s portrayal of Princess Elizabeth, the only character who actually existed, as she is still fiercely independent and extremely intelligent.

Upon reading other reviews of this novel I have to say that I am a little surprised – only a handful touched on the evident research that Andersen must have done prior to writing this novel. There is so much more to this story than a simple, what if. As far as I can tell, there is really only one real change to history – albeit it was a MAJOR change, allowing Anne’s son to survive. Yes, this prompted other changes, Anne was not beheaded and wives 3 through 6 did not exist … but even in Andersen’s alternative world, certain parallels still exist. Jane Grey is still being thrown at the feet of a Tudor King, George Boleyn is still a shady character who is still wed to an embittered Jane Parker, and Princess Elizabeth is still infatuated with a very married Robert Dudley. Andersen clearly attempted to maintain some degree of authenticity.

That’s not to say that there are not a few things that were missing. One glaring omission in my opinion was that of Katherine Howard. Obviously in this universe, she would have never caught the eye of Henry VII let alone become wife #5, but considering that the Howard family plays a critical role in the story, I was surprised that she wasn’t a part of it, or even mentioned. I also felt that due to the love triangle (which honestly at times really irritated me) and Minuette’s personality, the story read more like a YA historical fiction. Not that I really have a problem with that, I often quite enjoy them, however I would have preferred it to be marketed as such. Just a little bit of a let down there.

With all that being said, The Boleyn King seems to have it all. There’s intrigue, romance, mystery, suspense . . . Andersen definitely does not disappoint! Even though the premise of the story is completely imaginary, Andersen seamlessly creates an amazing alternative universe that seems totally plausible … if only. I would absolutely recommend this novel to Tudor fans. 

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