Title: We, King Henry VIII: Part One
Author: S. Joy P.
Publisher: Self-Published via Amazon
Pages/Word Count: 188 Pages
At a Glance: With a unique plot and lush prose, We, King Henry VIII takes readers on a supernatural trip to the 16th century.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Henry VIII of England seeks his way home – into the arms of his long-lost lover
On the 27th of January, 1547 AD, at eleven o’clock at night, Henry VIII is mere three hours from his death. On his deathbed, he only pines to behold his true love for one more time. To catch but a glimpse of Adhamh’s face – that he desires above all things. For his whole life fearful of God, he would now give his mind, body, and soul to the Devil if the Dark Lord promised him but one moment with his lost lover. Only his heart Henry could not give, for Adhamh has it in his keeping. It has always been so, from the day they met. And there the story of their star-crossed love truly begins.
In the hot August of the year 1521 AD, England lazily revels in its still young King Henry VIII, the most accomplished and the handsomest monarch of the Christendom. For whole the world, Henry plays the King who lacks nothing, and who fears nobody save God. Deep inside, he is a man tormented by dark secrets shrouding his marriage, tortured by fears for the fate of his dynasty. His summer morning is not filled with idle delight; it brims with barely concealed terrors – until the moment when God sends him a sign: a wolf trapped in the royal chapel. From the first heartbeat of the unexpected encounter, the beast exudes an aura of unalloyed loyalty vested in Henry alone. Overcome with the sight of the wolf’s unconditional surrender into his hands, Henry believes him to be a messenger of God and spares his life.
But… a human heart beats in the wolf’s chest. Adhamh the Seventh, the only son of the House of Svar, the Margrave at Zuria Labarra is the second most powerful man after the King of Cerbeden – and a werewolf cast out of his world as a punishment for a fateful failure. The High Immortal who so sentenced him to die as the Devil’s Own knew nothing about an uncanny resemblance between the King of England and the King of Cerbeden. Neither does Adhamh. In Henry, he sees his own beloved liege lord, whom he could never harm. The moment of his surrender gives birth to a new unbreakable bond and triggers a chain of inescapable events. The affection that arises between them faces constant dangers, both seen and unseen. Constraints placed on them by social norms and Henry’s religious beliefs can be overcome, but what if Adhamh is yanked back into his own world one day? This ever-present peril cannot be provided for. Nor is it the darkest threat lurking close.
Review: S. Joy P.’s We, King Henry VIII is a book that came at me out of nowhere and proceeded, quite frankly, to impress me from beginning to end.
What I know of King Henry VIII would fit on the head of a pin: A.) I know it wasn’t necessarily fortuitous to be his wife, and B.) I know he spent much of his reign balking at the strict edicts of the Roman Catholic Church. That’s the extent of it, so with regards to this book’s “controversial” label, I must say I don’t know enough about the subject at hand to find it particularly scandalous, but I will say the author has managed to take a monarch who, inarguably, has not been portrayed throughout history as a benign ruler, and made him the sympathetic hero of this novel, and, to a certain extent, also portrays Henry Tudor as the victim of sorts in the story—a pawn of his duty to crown and country, to his God, to the women he’d married in hopes of producing a male heir to the throne, as well as to his love for Sir Adhamh Svar.
One of the things I found most appealing about this novel is the author’s writing style, which is at times poetic and at the same time feels utterly organic to the 16th century; not in that the narrative and dialogue are filled with thous and forsooths and yea verilys, which would make it tedious to some of us contemporary readers, but that the author’s use of opulent language and lush dialogue along with a descriptive prose supports and enhances the historical setting, which effectively sweeps us into the court of Henry VIII. I not only appreciated the author’s attention to detail but also salute the inspiration that struck which sent the story headlong into the realm of speculative fiction and gave it its supernatural twist.
We, King Henry VIII is a deathbed confessional, told in large part through flashbacks, of Henry, the man in the prime of his life and in the midst of his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon when he is visited upon by a wolf. Whether this is an evil omen or divine blessing is unclear, most especially once it’s revealed the wolf is, in truth, a man—Adhamh—and he is not of the realm which Henry rules. Indeed, he is not even of the world in which this story takes place.
Within these flashbacks, we also see Henry as a loving father even as the bloom has withered and fallen off the rose of his marriage to Catherine, two things being made clear; the first, that Catherine did not come to their marriage bed a virgin; the second being that infidelity has left Henry in the painful throes of a sexually transmitted disease, which is when his suspicions are aroused by his wolf and the certainty the animal is something other, as he leads His Grace to a remedy for his discomfort that, quite literally, saves the king’s manhood.
As the bond between Henry and Adhamh strengthens, Adhamh’s influence over the king becomes evident as well, in the forbidden thoughts and deeds Henry’s heart leads him toward. The story takes a poignant turn amidst the court intrigue and royal politics, in which we see Henry war with his love for Adhamh and his fidelity to God. We also see his initial steps toward dissolving his marriage to Catherine, for which Adhamh becomes a trusted and useful advisor. In this first installment of the series, we are also treated to the introduction of Lady Anne Boleyn, the woman about whom Adhamh also has some strong opinions. And the woman whose fate we are, of course, all too familiar with.
Because We, King Henry VIII is book one in a series, there is no resolution to the conflict introduced in this novel. If you don’t enjoy the “to be continued” that happens in episodic storytelling, consider this a small inconvenience to the overall grandeur of the story being told. This book left me with a “just when I thought I’d read it all…” sense of satisfaction that I’d come across something a bit unique in the gay fiction genre: one part reality, one part history lesson, one part fantasy, and one-hundred percent intriguing.
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