Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: Anne & Henry

Dawn Ius
Contemporary Young Adult/Retelling
304 pages
Simon Pulse
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved.

Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life.

Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him.

Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both?

Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry beautifully reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.

Anne & Henry is an ambitious novel, one that modernizes and condenses the truly epic relationship between King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, plucking them from the annals of history and placing them in a more relatable high school environment. Unfortunately, the scope of Anne and Henry’s relationship is simply too big to fit in a contemporary YA setting, the explosive nature of their rise and fall something that gets lost in this retelling, and we’re left instead with plenty of drama minus the hard-hitting impact of the original infamous couple.

In this updated take, Anne plays the part of victim more than world-altering seductress and social climber, allowing things to happen to her rather than being a catalyst for change the way the woman herself was. Instead of fighting for Henry, claws out and masterful scheming in full effect as she attempts to usurp Catherine and win Henry’s affections, she simply waits, mildly baiting him here and there but ultimately remaining a passive player in Henry's casting aside of Catherine. The real Anne Boleyn changed the face of history in her quest to win Henry and become queen, and the force of her personality must have been something to behold in order to achieve–for better or worse–all that she did, but that fight and fire is sadly missing from the young woman splashed across the pages of this novel.

Henry, though, is more believable in his role than Anne, as fickle and impulsive as his historical counterpart, easily dismissing Catherine in favor of Anne and then turning on her just as quickly. He’s easily swayed by those around him, granting them his ear whenever they ask for it and allowing their words to settle in and take root; public opinion edging out personal preference time and again. Though he’s in a relative position of power–granted, one far less impressive than a royal throne–it’s all an illusion, and he remains a puppet bound to the strings wielded by those lined up beside and behind him.

Anne & Henry is undoubtedly well-written, Ms. Ius’s style one that flows well and keeps the pages turning with plenty of speed, and her creativity with the final parting line's nod to the real Anne’s fate beautifully executed. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are simply a couple too immense, too full to bursting with power, personality and tragedy to be reduced to high school angst, the brutality and Machiavellian conniving missing from their relationship and the petty jealousies of Henry’s peers.

Rating: 3/5

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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.


  1. Anne & Henry are such larger-than-life facets of history, that I would have a hard time seeing them in any other light. The writng sounds well done, just a hard version to re-imagine.
    Thanks for the lovely and thoughtful review, Jenny.

  2. AH yes it's complicated to adapt a story like that in high school so I can understand the struggle about some things too. But in a whole it's an intriguing idea.

  3. Wow, yeah... I can only imagine how hard it must have been to try and fit Henry & Anne's story into a high school setting, and very sad that the part that suffered the most was Anne and her agency and power as a character...

  4. I had a hard time with this story and ended up DNF it. I'm glad you got through it...I was wondering if it got any better. I think you are right though....that Anne and Henry are larger than life and maybe don't fit in a high school setting. Great review, Jenny!

  5. I don't know about this one, Jenny. I'm told it will turn me into a raging b-I-t-c-h. So I've pretty much made a sign of the cross and ran as far away as possible. Lol. You've got more patience than me!

  6. I disliked all the characters in this book, Jenny. I wanted to like at least one of them, but that didn't happen. I feel like the real life historical characters were much more compelling anyways. I did really like the writing though and I think Ius is talented! I'm hoping she comes up with something much better suited to my tastes in the future.
    Lovely review!

  7. Glad the writing was good even if the characters had faults. I have seen a lot of reviews for this one and as much as I would love to read it because I'm fascinated by these two, I don't know if I will be able to love this one.
    So glad you did like it though Jenny!!

  8. I agree that this book was ambitious, but boy did Henry embody Henry VIII. He just left a bad taste in my mouth and I felt it hard to sympathize with him.

  9. Oh darn! I was hoping you would like this one, Jenny, because modernizing Henry and Anne sounds so fun. It's a shame that the scheming is taken out of the story because that is what was so fascinating about this real life couple. Going to take a pass on this one.

  10. I've heard really mixed things on this one. It's such a major topic to condense into a standalone contemporary (YA, no less!). Great review!

  11. I agree with your review, Jenny! So many things fell flat for me in this story because it all just seemed like a petty high school drama, whereas in the real history, it was much more epic than what is depicted in this YA retelling. Wonderfully written review, Jenny :)

  12. What a clever idea for a story! Too bad it didn't knock your socks off (or head off) ;-)

  13. I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this, but I'm too intrigued to see how the author handled it to not read it. I'm so curious about the ending now.

  14. Gosh, I have to admit girl that some of the characters sound kind like they would annoy me so I'm glad that wasn't the case with you. I want to give this a try because I'm a sucker for drama and romance but now...I just don't know because of all the mixed reviews, you know?