Review of “Jane the Quene” (The Seymour Saga #1) by Janet Wertman

Wertman, Janet. Jane the Quene. [Place of publication not identified: Janet Wertman, 2016. 

Paperback | $11.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0997133813 | 272 pages | Historical Fiction

4.5 stars

I recently picked up the Jane the Quene to further indulge my inner Tudor fangirl/nerd, which is something I don’t do often enough, especially given how much is out there about them in both historical fiction and non-fiction. I also liked that it was one of the few books I’ve seen that focused on Jane Seymour as a central character, with the promise of delving more into her family in the decades following in the next couple books, a prospect that intrigues me, given how often they are relegated to the roles of supporting players.

While a lot of the elements are things we’ve seen before, it’s not really a fault of Wertman herself, given that she is working with the same sources as many other authors of Tudor fiction. I do like that, in addition to providing intrigue from the perspective of someone like Cromwell, who had major influence at the time, it also showed more of how Jane and her family comported themselves once Henry’s attention became obvious, and later when he married her. While I did get the sense of the Seymour brothers being scheming through my knowledge of the way things played out during Henry and Jane’s son, Edward’s, brief reign,

However, the best part is Jane’s more well-rounded character. I liked that Wertman’s narrative provided some element of a schemer to Jane too. Far too often, given that we don’t get Jane’s perspective, she is painted in a study of contrasts to Henry’s other wives, such as being the docile replacement to Anne Boleyn, or being the only one to bear him a living son, whereas the other wives, if they’re not vilified, at least have more nuance in how they’re remembered, at least from my perspective. So I very much appreciated the development of her character into someone who wasn’t this perfect martyr, thus making her easy to sympathize with.

I would recommend this to other Tudor enthusiasts, especially those like myself who are looking for more books about Jane Seymour.

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Review of “Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All” by M.T. Anderson,Jennifer Donnelly, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, and Lisa Ann Sandell

Anderson, M.T., et. al. Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All. New York: Schwartz and Wade Books, 2018. 

Hardcover | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1524716196 | 396 pages | YA Historical Fiction

5 stars

Fatal Throne is a book that excited my adolescent heart, since, years ago, I was fascinated with the Tudor period thanks to books set in the period by the likes of Carolyn Meyer and Kathryn Lasky, and eventually Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory, among others. But while some of these authors had devoted books to telling each of Henry VIII’s wives stories on their own, I had yet to find a work of historical fiction that tackled them simultaneously, with subsequent wives looking back on previous ones, and allowing the reader to do so as well, through reading them in sequence. Also, there had never been a book that I had read that attempted to bring out Henry’s voice in all of this. So while this book is neither earth-shattering nor controversial, I do feel this is a wonderful new addition to the breadth of Tudor fiction in existence.

Despite being written by seven authors and allowing each to craft a unique voice for their character, it still feels like a cohesive story, with the overlapping characters across POVs feeling consistent. I think my favorite parts, to my surprise, were from Henry’s perspective. While some of his thoughts are still incredibly reprehensible in a modern context, from the context of the times, I think Anderson captured a great balance between someone who is determined to see to the political preservation of his dynasty and is also motivated by matters of the heart as well, especially as it demonstrates how much Jane Seymour remained his favorite wife, even a decade after her passing and three wives on, which is historically documented.

I also like how each of the female authors worked to make each queen sympathetic and not confine them within the stereotypes applied to them by historians. While Hemphill’s Anne is spiteful and jealous, in these last days of her life, she shows a remarkable sense of repentance. Sandell’s Jane, too, despite being Henry’s favoritism of her, is dogged by a sense of guilt that she played even a small role in Anne’s downfall, which added some depth to her otherwise sweet nature. Hokinson masterfully crafts the way Kateryn must decide to “act like Jane” to evade the fate of Henry’s previous wives, being cast aside or executed.

Each of them felt real, and the book as a whole became much more than a story about the wives of Henry VIII, but about the gender politics of the time, with Henry’s endless quest for a male heir, and if possible spares, to secure his line, and his lack of belief in a womna’s capability to rule. Thus, it is fitting that, following Henry’s final declaration that his son Edward would be the great monarch he had foreseen, instead follows a brief passage depicting his daughter Elizabeth I in one of her greatest moments of glory as Queen of England.

I think this would be a great book for both history buffs and those new to historical fiction alike. It accomplishes the often-difficult feat of being well-researched and accurate in terms of its subject matter, while also being approachable and engaging.