Book review: Boleyn: Tudor Vampire

Boleyn: Tudor Vampire
by Cinsearae S.
Published 2010
ISBN: 1451559496
Review copy provided by the author

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This book has everything for the reader who loves horror, romance and historic fiction. It’s about Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, for whom he created a whole new church just so he could divorce his faithful first wife, Katherine of Aragon, to marry her. The author supposes that when Henry got tired of Anne and had her convicted on a slew of made-up charges, among them witchcraft, she was not beheaded like a noblewoman, but hanged like a commoner. Or, as the blurb on the back cover of this fascinating book states, “The slightest tweak in history makes all the difference in the outcome…”

One of the ways of creating a vampire is for a person to die a sudden, violent death. Another is for the dying person to deny God with his or her last breath. So when Anne curses God and denounces Him on the scaffold just moments before the trapdoor opens beneath her feet, it allows her to come back as a vampire. And what a vampire! When she rises from her unmarked grave on the grounds of the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, in the shadow of the Tower of London where she was executed, she looks like Lilly Munster; her long, black hair is streaked with white, to go with her pale skin and blood-red eyes. She finds a silver urn on her grave filled with week-old dead flowers from her lover, Thomas Wyatt, the man she would have married if Henry hadn’t fallen in lust with her. After reading the tender poem Thomas left tucked inside the urn, she decides to pay him a visit and walks all the way to his home, Allington Castle, with unnatural speed, which is only natural for someone in her condition, “for the dead travel fast”.

It doesn’t take long for Anne to make Thomas her first victim, after which, with his help, she raises the beheaded bodies of her brother George and her favorite musician, Mark Smeaton, both of whom were accused of committing adultery with her. George comes back as a zombie and Mark as a ghost; she sends Smeaton to play his ghostly violin in the halls of Whitehall Palace, the King’s resident, while she and her zombie brother visit their father at Hever Castle. After paying back Daddy Dearest, who wouldn’t defend her against the king’s false charges, by driving him mad with fear, she lays George to rest again, and then she and Smeaton proceed to haunt Whitehall Palace while Henry prepares to marry his third wife, Jane Seymour.

Anne has a good old time discovering her vampiric powers as she torments Henry by leaving daffodils, her favorite flower, all over the castle, usually spattered with blood, turning crucifixes and portraits of the king upside down, and attacking his favorites, like his chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, and Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. The only people she spares from torment are her sister Mary, who is taking care of her daughter Elizabeth (destined to become one of England’s greatest queens), and the new queen, Jane Seymour, after Mary tells her how Jane is trying to get Elizabeth restored to her place at court, along with the king’s eldest daughter Mary. But everyone else at court is fair game for Anne Boleyn, Tudor Vampire—especially her former husband, King Henry VIII.

This story is short, but intense. Horror is laden upon horror, like layers of fruit filling in a heavily iced, dark chocolate cake. The author displays a good knowledge of history and life during the Tudor period, though she does tend to lapse into anachronisms from time to time. Like when Anne discovers she is able to make drawbridges rise by mentally commanding it and comments that she was able to enter her father’s castle this way “without hassle”. There were also a couple of references to having sex as “getting your jollies”. Not very Tudorian, but quite droll. I suppose if Anne knows that she’s telling this story to a modern audience, her use of modern slang is understandable.

The author also displays a familiarity with instruments of torture that made me feel very uncomfortable, especially those intended for use on women, like the pear of anguish, the breast ripper, and the Judas Cradle. I haven’t been so grossed out since I toured the dungeon at the New York Renaissance Faire and saw the methods and instruments of torture they used back then, demonstrated on dummies. Disturbingly realistic dummies. But at least I had the satisfaction of seeing old Cromwell get his, which I didn’t get from reading any of Philippa Gregory’s Tudorian novels. Then again, this is made-up history, not the real thing, so anything goes, from raising your beheaded brother to calling up an army of zombies to lynch your worst enemy in his own backyard. I never saw Anne Boleyn so happy before in a fictionalized account of her life; as the late Vincent Price would say, “She’s so amusing.”

But all good things come to an end, as do all good books. And this one ends much too soon for me, just as Anne appears to Henry for the last time to take her bloody vengeance, only to be foiled by one whom she considered her ally from the beginning of her reign of terror. Having her reawaken in the present as a ghost was a nice touch, but was it really necessary to have a Boleyn family reunion, including the relatives who had wronged her? It would have been so much more poignant for Anne to haunt the halls of Whitehall Palace and/or Henry’s tomb for eternity. Not just Henry’s tomb, either; think how thrilling it would be for visitors to hear her spirit weeping over Queen Elizabeth’s tomb. My biggest beef with this book is the title; it should be “Anne Boleyn-Tudor Vampire”, so people will know right away exactly which Tudor is meant. (Remember “The Other Boleyn Girl”, her sister Mary, whom Henry also slept with?) I hope that the author will consider this minor change in future reprints. For now, any complaints or compliments should be directed to her website, which is: Long live the queen!