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Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1) by Alison Weir: A Book Review

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1)
Author: Alison Weir
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2016
Pages: 602
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII's wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragon. Henry's first, devoted, and "true" queen.

     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.

     My Review: In the first of a new series about Henry VIII’s wives by Alison Weir, Alison Weir focuses on Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Katherine, a young Spanish princess, arrives in a foreign land that has a different language, customs, and scenery. She misses her homeland but is determined to make her parents proud. She marries Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s older brother. She shortly finds herself a widow and at the mercy of Henry VII, her father-in-law. For six years, she struggles with poverty and is often neglected. Eventually, Henry VIII takes the throne and decides to make Katherine his wife. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen chronicles Henry VIII’s longest marriage as well Katherine’s loves, triumphs, and her ultimate downfall.

     Ever since my early teens, I have been fascinated by the Tudor’s. I was excited when my favorite historian, Alison Weir, announced that she would write a historical novel of each of the six Tudor queens. I love Katherine of Aragon’s story because she never gave up fighting for her rights. However, this book took me forever to read, and it was not because of the length.

     Katherine of Aragon is a complex figure. However, in this novel, we never really get to see Katherine’s complexity. I didn’t think that Alison Weir fully developed Katherine of Aragon. Katherine seemed more like a cardboard cutout than an actual character. This is because Alison Weir mostly tells us what she is rather than show us. Thus, I really couldn’t get into Katherine of Aragon and it felt mostly like a rehash of her life. I could not emotionally get invested in her character. I felt as if I was mostly reading a biography about her. Therefore, I felt that Weir should have made this a biography rather than a historical fiction story.

     Overall, this was a good idea to write about the six wives of Henry VIII, however, it just was not executed well enough. The characters were not fully-developed, the writing was dry at times like a textbook, and there were some subplots that lead nowhere. The positives of this book is that Alison Weir is the most accurate historical writer that I have read about the Tudors. She makes very little changes to Katherine of Aragon’s story and mostly sticks to the facts. This will please many historical fiction fans who love their history to be mostly accurate. This is also good for those who do not really know much about Katherine of Aragon and would love to learn about Katherine’s story. Thus, while I didn’t love Alison Weir’s Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, I’m sure her writing will improve more as the series progress. I am eagerly looking forward to reading her take on Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s most notorious and fascinating queens.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Here is a video of Alison Weir talking about her latest novel, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen:

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