Hi, all! Today we are kicking off Blogmas Day #11 with a book review.
Mean Girls meets The Tudors in Hannah Capin’s The Dead Queens Club, a clever contemporary YA retelling of Henry VIII and his wives (or, in this case, his high school girlfriends). Told from the perspective of Annie Marck (“Cleves”), a 17-year-old aspiring journalist from Cleveland who meets Henry at summer camp, The Dead Queens Club is a fun, snarky read that provides great historical detail in an accessible way for teens while giving the infamous tale of Henry VIII its own unique spin.
What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8.
Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen…twice…
Rating: 4.5 stars
Note: Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sending me a free advanced reading copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
I actually really liked this. I got a little nervous when I checked out the reviews before I started reading and realized that this is a modern retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. I had no idea what to expect but I honestly liked it almost immediately.
I have a few quips that I’m just going to go ahead and get out of the way so that I can gush about the things I loved:
• There are a lot of people to keep up with. In the first 15% or so, I kept getting confused about which ex-girlfriend was who and who was on what side and whatnot. I ended up just making a note about each character to reference if I needed to, but my brain caught up with all of the characters and their story lines after a while and I didn’t need the note anymore. However, it really is confusing in the beginning. That was honestly my biggest issue in this.
• Everyone else seems to love Cleveland but oh my god the girl has no sense of loyalty. I still liked her (somehow) but she drove me up the wall. She was one of those girls who seemed really neutral all the time but is actually spilling your secrets and probably making out with your boyfriend.
Okay, yeah, that’s it for the bad stuff. Now to the good:
• This is the most clever retelling of anything I’ve ever read. Granted, I don’t do retellings often, so I don’t have a lot to compare to, but this was honestly really cool. About half way through the book I got curious about the real Henry VIII and his wives and I looked it all up. Maybe everyone else in the universe knows about him already but I didn’t. Capin got really creative with some of the names (considering like half of his wives had the same name) and she really told their story perfectly but with a modern YA twist on it. So, not only did I get to read a great book but I also learned some new history.
• I loved all of the characters so much! Well, except for Henry, but honestly even he is extremely charismatic. I’m not much of a gusher over YA teen boy characters (but shove a manic pixie dream girl trope in my face and I’ll probably fall in love), so I was never not onto him thanks to my unclouded judgement. However, I still didn’t hate him. I mean he was a total jerk and used Cleve’s and is not a good guy but you still want to wish him luck. Does that even make sense? The girls were all so great though. I think my favorite character was actually Parker, though I did love that Cleveland was always calling out her classmates and friends for misogynistic and sexist remarks. Like I said, she has no sense of loyalty, but she will definitely stand up for you if a mean pack of adolescent boys try to come for you with bash words.
• The story was really good. I know I pretty much already said that, but even if you seperate the novel from Henry VIII and it just stands on its own as a regular YA book, it’s still really freaking good. I read it all in one sitting even though it’s long. I didn’t want to put it down for anything and I was rooting for the girls the entire time. Capin managed to capture my heart in a way that not many YA books can do. This isn’t fluffy but at the same time still very highschool-y and sappy… just not overly. I think that if I hadn’t known about it being a retelling, I would’ve still really liked it. I might not have noticed how freaking creative Hannah Capin, but I would’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.
• The writing is done so well!!! I don’t know how to rant about it other than say that Capin is just as good of a writer as she is a story teller.
Overall, I’m really glad I requested this from NetGalley. It was an awesome read and I’m going to be on the look out for more books by Capin from here on out.