HM Castor

VIII is the story of Hal: a young, handsome, gifted warrior, who believes he has been chosen to lead his people. But he is plagued by the ghosts of his family's violent past and, once he rises to power, he turns to murder and rapacious cruelty. He is Henry VIII. The Tudors have always captured the popular imagination, but in VIII, Henry is presented fresh for a new generation. H M Castor does for Henry what Hilary Mantel did for Thomas Cromwell - VIII is Wolf Hall for the teen and crossover market. The contemporary, original writing style will have broad appeal and VIII brings the tension of a psychological thriller and the eeriness of a ghost story to historical fiction.

"Before the six wives, before his grotesque life ran out of control, Henry was a lean, handsome, fresh-faced young man. Kind, athletic and principled... what turned him into a monster, is the inspiration for historian and writer Harriet Castor's excellent young adult novel VIII... vivid and accessible for teenagers. Adults will enjoy it too, though. The conversations between characters are engrossing and the support characters well drawn." Martin Chilton, The Telegraph
Anna Marie, from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet

I thought that VIII was a really good book because it had a good storyline. I thought that the characters were well written. The character of Hal was interesting; he showed timidity at first, but as he got older his personality changed and he developed a stronger personality. I particularly enjoyed the beginning of the book when the young Hal thought that he was being kidnapped because it made you feel that you were part of the book as well. I would recommend this book to everyone and I think that anyone would enjoy it as it was an exciting read.. 

Beverley, from Wren Academy Barnet

I really enjoyed VIII because it was interesting and tense. It showed what life was like for Hal or Henry and how being the second son affected the relationship between him and his father and him and his brother (Arthur). Part 2 was my favourite part of the book. I don’t know how to explain or why it was the best bit but I couldn’t put the book down. This book really shows how much stress and sorrow Henry had to put up with before he became king, what made him horrid and cruel and remembered by people all over England.

Binitha, from Wren Academy Barnet

VIII is the story of Hal. He is a gifted, young warrior, who believes he is chosen to lead his people. But he is soon plagued by the ghosts of his family’s past, and once his power rises, he turns to murder and cruelty. He is Henry VIII.


This book shows you the transformation, from the handsome warrior to the cruel ruler. He believed he was God’s chosen. Henry was born after the civil war; his father won the crown on the battle of Bosworth. The opening shows the mother and son moving into the tower of London for safety.


Henry’s mother died when he was 12, and his brother died when he was 15. This book shows you all the things that he had to go through. He learned to keep a low profile. There are two halves to the story: childhood, and king.


This book was quite interesting, but also quite boring at times. I would recommend this book to people who love history fiction. I think I didn’t enjoy this book as much, because I’m not really a lover of history fiction, but people would definitely enjoy this book.

Bryan, from Wren Academy Barnet

VIII is a book about Henry VIII.The style this book is written in has more of a modern twist which is then backed up by showing a less historical but more personal side to Henry.


I did enjoy this book because I liked the way it’s written and I enjoy reading books about historical context but in a modern style.


I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy history and probably not so much to those who enjoy the full-packed action books as this book may disappoint - as although it has some thriller bits it’s not packed with it. Rating:****

Caleb, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book is about a royal family in trouble and they need to escape to a much safer hiding place. They move under the cover of darkness to another palace as they know roughly when the people are going to arrive and attack. The narrator is a young boy who has no idea of what is happening and he is in bed asleep when they start to move. He is wrapped in his bed clothes and is being taken to a carriage to be taken to a safer place. He does not know this.


I recommend this book to people who like good reads and like an adventure book.

Delphi, from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet

I really enjoyed this book. Maybe 'enjoyed' would be the wrong word. Towards the end it became almost painful to read as you can feel Henry coming closer and closer to his doom. If you compare this to other biographies of Henry VIII they all seem to be simply fact or portraying him as an inhuman, ruthless fat King who we cannot understand. I think all the time that this is wrong; he was a Human like everyone else.


This book seems somehow to understand Henry and his motives, not portraying him as an unfeeling villain, who we both laugh at and at the same time feel scared of, though his time is long gone. I think this is a truly great book for being both factually correct and giving us a true insight into the mind of Henry Tudor.

Emilia, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Intense, gripping, and stupendously well written. VIII is one of those books that leaves you thinking. The famous story of the in-famous ruler of England, a story we all thought we knew, is told from the fascinating perspective of Henry VIII. The historical detail in the novel is just immense and HM Castor’s writing is incredible. I would recommend this fascinating book to anyone, regardless of their age or interest in history. A must read.

Jack, from Wren Academy Barnet

H.M Castor has created a masterpiece with words. She has wound them around the subject of history and also creates a sort of magic within this tale. Henry VIII is represented a lot differently to the general idea of him nowadays. He is usually perceived as a mean horrible villain of a king but in this book you look further into him and you see that there are things behind his cheating, his beheading, and terror over England.

This book takes you through his life from the very beginning; it tells you from birth to death. It explores his whole family and his views - such as that he wanted to take over the whole of France and rule it like he ruled England. My rating 4 stars out of 5.

Jessica, from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet

I was a bit sceptical about reading this book. Henry VIII is a very popular history subject and I just thought, what can somebody possibly write that we don’t already know?

Harriet Castor has really thought about how she wanted to portray Henry (Hal). At the beginning you feel sorry for him having an abusive, seemingly not very nice father, and then you discover the true nature of Henry himself. She gradually introduces you to the horrifying parts of Hal's personality; in his striving to become like Henry V, he ends up more and more like his father, conceited, uptight and selfish, discarding people like toys he had become bored of. This is one of the best books I have read, it really introduces you to how life actually was in the Tudor times and how royalty fare. I loved the bits with the boy appearing in the corners; it added a dark and intriguing aspect to the book. I would definitely recommend this to others and would gladly re-read it.

Johnny, from St James Catholic High School

I thought that Vlll was a stunning, detailed recreation of the life of Henry the Vlll that really does takes your breath away. Author H.M Caster could not have written a better masterpiece. It’s such a creative storyline that must take a mastermind to invent. Every emotion, every moment is recorded beautifully in this amazing book. A must-be classic. The word I could best describe this book is 'fascinating'.


A genuinely fabulous piece of writing. 9/10

Jordan, from University College School London

VIII is a historical novel based on Henry VIII and his life before & after his big brother Arthur had died. In his early life Henry, known by most people as Hal, was put in the Tower of London in order to be protected from the riots. This scared him because his uncles were murdered in the tower previously as boys.


Hal was very sporty and strong & tall for his age. He was better than his brother Arthur at all things, when they occasionally met; however he didn’t see much of his older brother. After his brother died he became king and married his brother’s wife Catherine of Aragón. However he was not a good husband.


I have really enjoyed this book as I love reading about the Tudor era and this part in the era.

Kirijana, from Copthall School, Barnet

When I finished reading VIII I was really surprised and shocked.  I didn’t know much about Henry VIII but after reading this book I found out lots of interesting facts about him. This story is about a man called Henry who was a kind and young prince and turns into a horrible and cruel [man] who enjoys chopping off people’s heads. The author is writing this story to show people how a royal [person] had to fight for survival and she is also showing how many obstacles you need to face before becoming King. I would give this book a 9 out of 10 and I think anyone can read this book.

Lior, from De Shalit Aleph School

VIII is a historical novel written by H.M. Castor. The novel describes the life of Hal, beginning from his childhood up to his death. The plot begins with the prophecy of a citizen who predicts that the king will die and the Duke of York will succeed him. Hal thinks that he has been chosen to rule England because of the prophecy. The plot develops slowly but it carried me away because it is full of dramatic events and exciting episodes about Hal’s private and social life. I felt surprised to see that Hal’s childhood was hard. He was often beaten by his cruel father. I enjoyed reading about young Hal, and I was greatly disappointed when a strong, generous and talented man turned into a cruel ruler and a crazy man. The book fascinated me because it gave me a true picture of England of the 15th-16th century. It also gave me an idea of royalty. Reading the book has enriched my vocabulary because the language is perfect.


The suspense in the book made me tense and I tried to read faster to see how the plot develops.


My rating is 5/5 stars because the book captured me and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Maya, from De Shalit Aleph School

VIII is a story about Hal, a young gifted, powerful boy, later Henry VIII, who grew up in the dark, merciless world of the royal family. The hard violent past affected Henry and he became no more an innocent boy but a powerful and cruel king. The book draws the reader into Henry's life and shows the world a ruler through his own eyes.


The whole book is written in an absolutely gripping way in my opinion. At first I thought that I didn’t like this kind of book, but I was wrong. I loved the way the writer started from the very beginning when Henry was a little boy; I think it helps understand his character. The first pages were really complicated and I was so curious to know what's next, therefore I couldn't put the book down! Then, the story became dark and mysterious and unexpected things started to happen. Questions were raised and were solved as Henry became older, questions about himself, his family, his fortune and his future. There is a part in the book when Henry VIII is already a king, which is quite boring. It's full of war details and strategies but we shouldn't judge a book by a few pages, should we?


I recommend everybody read it ! Enjoy!

Michael, from University College School London

I was given the book VIII by my teacher and was immediately interested in knowing more about it. The book took me about four days to complete.

The blurb at the back intrigued me even further, the last sentence “when he rises to power he turns to murder and rapacious cruelty is very powerful” is short and emphatic and makes you want to know more.

The story starts with the young Henry VIII, referred to has Hal, who strongly believes that he will be a great king. He cannot understand why his father, Henry VII, is not invading France as it rightfully belongs to England. Henry VII is close to Hal's older brother, Arthur, even though Hal is clearly superior. When Arthur dies Hal is next in line to become King and he promises himself he will rule over France as well. However things do not go to plan... I will leave it to you to find out


H.M Castor wrote this book in an interesting way, through the eyes of Hal and gives a different description of Henry. The common way of thinking of him is of an unfit vicious monster, but this shows what he was like before and it is interesting how the author shows the transition of his emotions from good and care-free to cruel and monstrous. If I had any criticisms it would be that you never really feel the character grow up; I was always thinking of him as a child whilst reading it.

The language used is rather simple but the whole plot is quite grown up and perhaps a bit violent. I would recommend this book for eight and up; I have just made my seventy-eight-year old grandma read it on her kindle and she loved it!

All considered I would rate this book 9/10. Enjoy!

Misao, from Wren Academy Barnet

VIII by H.M. Castor is a great book that is so thrilling and scary in a good way that it kept me hooked and gripped all the way from the very start to the end. One of the things I like about this book is that it suggests and explains why Henry VIII became the way he was – so cruel, demanding, arrogant and horrifying that we wonder what made him like that. For example, in the book there is an episode which suggests why he believed that he was chosen by God to be a king. And, in the book, this initial belief leads him to be the kind of person he was. There are, of course, other episodes that reveal a bit about the reasons why he decided to do the things that he did, but I’m leaving you to find those out yourself when you read the book!


Another thing that fascinates me is Henry’s six wives. Without these people, this book wouldn’t have been this breath-taking. For example, Anne Boleyn, whom Henry so deeply fell in love with that he divorced his previous wife, was portrayed as a really seductive woman. Everything they said and did to Henry showed their personality really well and I liked it a lot.


Finally, I loved the ending – incredible! I would really recommend this book to anyone who has studied the Tudor times and also does not mind reading a long story!

Nick, from Wren Academy Barnet

VIII is... told from the point of view of young prince Henry who becomes Henry the Eighth.  

The story opens as Henry is escaping to the tower of London with his parents over fears of the ‘pretender’ a character who claims to have a right to the throne. Suspense is created by the fact that the pretender never actually appears but that he is a constant threat to the monarchy throughout Henry’s childhood. As Henry grows up we see how he grows from just an innocent little boy to the evil tyrant he is infamously remembered as. 

VIII gives us an insight into the life of medieval and Tudor monarchs, the constant fear of invasion and the lack of trust, even for their own family. Characters such as Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VII are shown in a completely new light to how history books portray them, as is Henry VIII himself. 

VIII, however, is exceedingly long and less interesting chapters about Henry’s thoughts and feelings can quickly cause the reader to lose interest. Overall VIII is an enjoyable and exiting read, showing a completely new side to Henry VIII. I would recommend this book to those who like historical content and action. Rating: ****

Noah, from Wren Academy Barnet

VIII is a mythical variation of the story of the Tudor King, Henry VIII. It is a gripping novel that has made me want to look at history with a twist of imagination. Hal (Henry) is a naive but strong warrior destined to be King. As he grows up he starts to be haunted by his family’s violent and deceitful past. Once a humble Prince, he turns into a murderous and dangerous King that like his family’s past cannot be trusted. H.M Castor makes the King (once a hard character to understand) an easy one for children to follow. What a good book to read!

Orli, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Historical fiction is always a tricky genre – both for the author and the reader. The writer needs to make it interesting, and very gripping – people usually associate History as a school subject, and therefore dismiss it. To pull off historical fiction, the author needs to grip his or her reader from the first page, the first sentence, the first word. Which is exactly what H.M Castor, the writer of VIII did.


I just wanted so start by saying how incredibly well written and portrayed the main character, Hal, is. His character and personality is extremely consistent and thorough all the way through – we get to know Hal, and the use of the first person is extremely effective in the context, and in getting to know Hal, since he is quite a complicated character, with different sides to his personality. At first we see a more innocent, caring side to Hal, when he is young, but then we see his character develop and change into the fearless and strong but also troubled man he later becomes.


As for the plot itself, I would say it is pretty persistent, and never fails to excite – I think that the beginning of the book and the end of the book are much more gripping than the middle, which occasionally drags on a little, but this is the case with many books, and VIII never completely lost my attention, as I always wanted to know what was going to happen next.


I love VIII because you’re able to completely absorb yourself in the plot and the characters, and I found it so interesting, as well – Henry VIII is automatically stereotyped as a complete monster – but the writer shows us a completely different side to him, making the book a learning experience as well as a riveting read.

Oscar, from University College School London

VIII is a surprisingly chilling book centred on Henry VIII. It starts when the young Henry, who everybody calls Hal, sees a dead boy lying in his trunk only to see him disappear the next time he looks. Being the second son of the King, Hal is the Duke of York, so when he hears a ‘prophecy’ of the kind that is made in times of trouble, he is changed by the claim that ‘York will be King’ and that ‘his glory shall live down the ages’.


The book tells the story of how, convinced that it is his destiny to become the greatest King that England has ever known, Henry, after becoming King, repeatedly has visions of the same sandy-haired youth with eyes in shadow that appeared in his trunk when he was a boy. The boy appearing seems to be a sign of impending tragedy, an opinion that is only strengthened by the numerous times that tragedy occurs immediately after these sightings. Henry becomes convinced that this apparition is the Devil, come to tempt him away from his ‘divine purpose’. The divorce and beheading of his wives are his attempts to rid himself of what he believes are the tools of evil.


VIII ends as Henry, a hair’s breadth away from total insanity, passes away after discovering the terrible secret of the wraith. The book has a ground-shaking twist that is revealed at the end, making you yearn for more. VIII is a brilliant and spine-tingling book that will leave you desperately wanting more.

Tatjana, from Wren Academy Barnet

Although many liked and found H.M Castor's book gripping, I couldn't say the same. The book was unbearable to read after part three. I had been pulled in by the excitement in the beginning but afterwards I began to get bored, and thought that if I wanted to know more of the history of Henry VIII I would go and pick up any book from the library. The wording of this book was intense at first but as the story progressed I had to constantly re-read lines because I was easily confused. The story was not necessarily bad, I just had no intention of having to know any more about history even with the added tension and interesting character profiles, so this book was just definitely not for me. I assure you that many people would easily enjoy this book, as H.M Castor has a way with words. 

I believe if you have an interest in history and fiction, I suggest this book to you. I would give this book 2 out of 5 stars. 

Yumna, from Wren Academy Barnet

This novel is all about Henry VIII's life, from youth to old age. I didn't know much of Henry VIII's life: for me it was portrayed by a children's history programme; but this changed my entire  perspective! Suddenly the fat, funny man who ruled England was a troubled, serious man who I didn't understand. I don't know what bothered me most but the book was chilling and spooky. I wish I had read it sooner as it would have made me extremely popular with my teachers during the time we were learning about him as I learnt a lot about him thanks to this book. I have to admit that this novel was not what I was expecting at all!