Monday, 6 May 2013

The Boleyn King - Laura Andersen

Laura Andersen brings us the first book in an enthralling trilogy set in the dramatic, turbulent, world-altering years of Tudor England. What if Anne did not miscarry her son in January 1536, but instead gave birth to a healthy royal boy? Perfect for fans of Philipa Gregory and Allison Weir.

Henry IX, known as William, is a 17-year-old king struggling at the restraints of the regency and anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics plotting at home, Will 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 Anne Boleyn. Against an undercurrent of secret documents, conflicting intelligence operations, and private murder, William fights a foreign war and domestic rebellion with equal resolve. But when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession menaces a new generation of Tudors. Battlefields and council chambers, trials and executions, the blindness of first love and the betrayal of true friendship...How far will William go to get what he wants? Who will pay the price for a king's revenge? And what twists of fate will set Elizabeth on the path to her destiny as England's queen?

If you asked me, I would say that I wasn't such a big Tudor buff but I seem to have read a lot of Tudor books in the last few months. Go figure.

The Boleyn King is an alternative history take on what would have happened if the boy Anne Boleyn had would have lived. The story begins with his birth (and the simultaneous birth of the daughter of one of Anne's favorite ladies-in-waiting) and then quickly skips ahead to when our two newborns turn seventeen. 

The book centers around four main characters: William, the boy king, who is used to getting his way but is much gentler than his impetuous father, Elizabeth, his older and wiser sister, who is doing her best to avoid an unhappy marriage and get over her affections for the already married Robert Dudley, Dominic, the son of disgraced nobleman who was raised with William and has become his best friend and most trusted advisor, and Minuette, the daughter of Anne's favorite lady-in-waiting that has been raised as a third sibling, a favorite with the other three. Each character is very distinct and lovable in their own way. Minuette, who could have easily veered into the "too good to be true" field is actually quite sweet and relatable, caught between being regarded as a sister by royalty but not actually having any title. 

When the novel begins, it is William's last year in minority and the four (who are kind of a child sleuth group, now that I think about it) find out about a plot to put William's legitimacy into disrepute. And so, while also trying to navigate the workings of running a country, they are in search of a mysterious paper that claims William is not Henry's child. 

I had a feeling going into this that I would like it but I did not think I would get as drawn in as I did. The writing is light for a historical fiction novel, not so light as to be frivolous but not so heavy as to get bogged down. The characters are easy to root for and the political intrigue is there but on a smaller level than the personal trials. Even the love triangle (that doesn't really rear its head until the very end of the book) isn't annoying like they are in young adult fiction sometimes but understandable and slightly troubling because you honestly like each of the men and so does Minuette as they have been raised as siblings.

This is the first book in a trilogy and it definitely has me hooked. It answered some questions but there are more things I need to know which the first novel in a trilogy should do. I'm excited to read more in this series and can't wait for the next novel. 

The Boleyn King comes out May 14th (next week!) from Ballentine Books.

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