Between the ages of about sixteen and nineteen, I read almost exclusively Tudor historical fiction. I have always been fascinated by that time period – the customs, the costumes, and, above all, the people. When I saw the opportunity to revisit that period, and from the point of view of a figure I knew relatively little about, I jumped on it. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is the first in Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series (the second of which – Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession – is due out May 16 and what I am currently reading).
(From Goodreads) A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage – and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must
wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.
Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.
As much as I’d read about Tudor history prior to this book (including several other books by Alison Weir), I was always most fascinated by Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth I. Most of what I knew about Katherine of Aragon was in relation to Anne and Henry’s marriage. So I was really intrigued to learn more about Katherine, and I really enjoyed that aspect of this book. Alison Weir is a historian as well as an author, so I feel like her characters are very honest portrayals of historical figures. And she made me absolutely fall in love with Katherine. I have never seen a portrayal of her that felt so utterly human. She is a strong, influential woman who ultimately sacrifices a lot of her power out of love for someone who no longer loves her. Reading about her life was enlightening, interesting, and a bit heartbreaking.
I thought the story itself was really well-organized. Everything made sense, and even though the novel spans about fifty years, the pacing doesn’t suffer. Weir knows when to gloss over periods of time and when to focus on others. We get to know each of the characters involved fairly well (though Anne Boleyn is seen mostly from a distance – don’t worry, she gets her own book), and it brings out the emotional side of history, which I loved. My favorite part of the book was the portrayal of the early years of Katherine and Henry’s marriage, because I don’t know that I’ve ever really seen them painted as happy. And if I’m being totally honest, the last part of the book made me pretty impatient to move on to reading about Anne Boleyn, because I wanted more of the crazy and scandal, and the jilted Queen Katherine could be a bit frustratingly lenient with her husband’s antics. There were so many times when I couldn’t help but imagine what a modern woman would have done – and it was a bit more explosive than locking herself in a bedroom for a few weeks. But, from what I do know about the Tudors, this book read as a very honest portrayal of what Katherine’s life was like, and made me much more interested in her than I ever have been.
Weir’s writing was just as great as I remembered it being (something I have to admit I was a bit worried about, since it’s about ten years and an English MA since I’ve read one of her books). Being familiar with Tudor history, I was fully aware of what was going to happen in the latter part of this book, but my interest in it never waned. I kept turning the pages, kept reading because I wanted to feel it all from Katherine’s point of view. And I truly enjoyed every minute of it. Weir has a way of making the 16th century feel authentic, but still completely relatable. The dialogue is period-appropriate, but never feels difficult to understand. And everything a modern reader may be unfamiliar with was adequately explained when necessary. Overall, this was a fantastic novel I had a lot of fun reading and gave me insight into a historical figure I hadn’t previously studied in depth.
★★★★★ – I loved Katherine of Aragon and finally getting back into Weir’s brilliant writing. I am currently reading the second book in this series – Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession – which will be released next week, and it is just as amazing. If you have any interest in Tudor history, I highly recommend this series, and I will be eagerly awaiting the next novel (as far as I know, Weir plans to write one for each of Henry VIII’s six wives).
Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is available in paperback now! Get your copy on Amazon! And keep an eye out for my review of Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession, which I should have up sometime next week!
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Katherine of Aragon as one of your two free books!
This book was generously provided to me by Random House/Ballantine Books. All thoughts and opinions in this review are my own.