Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: The Crown, by Nancy Bilyeau

The Crown is a historical fiction that fulfilled my need for a story about England in the 1500s. The atmosphere and politics of that time fascinate me.

Joanna, a Dominican novice in 1537, escapes from Dartford Priory when she discovers her cousin and dear friend is going to be burned at the stake in London for being a traitor to King Henry VIII. Joanna is surprised to find her father there, and both she and her father end up in the Tower of London as prisoners for interfering in the execution.

Joanna is eventually release back to her convent after promising Bishop Gardiner that she will secretly search for a mysterious crown with great powers that is supposedly hidden at Dartford. Gardiner is holding Joanna's father at the Tower until she finds the crown. Joanna returns to Dartfort with two displaced monks, Brother Edmond and Brother Richard. Joanna knows the crown was worn by King Athelstan in 937 but not much else.

The Crown becomes a mystery after a murder is committed at the Priory, and an adventure as Joanna, with the help of Brother Edmund, travels the country in search of clues about Athelstan and his crown. The plot weaves expertly from one situation to the next, never confusing, but with subtle complexities and several surprising twists. My only complaint is that too much time is spent on Joanna's internment at The Tower. Nothing that happens during this part has much significance for the rest of the plot, so some of that could have been edited.

All is not what it seems at Dartford.  You would think nuns would be boring, but not these nuns! The Crown  is further complicated by the fact that Cromwell's men are threatening to shutter the priory, as they have done throughout the country. Time is running out, and it seems there is no one Joanna can trust.

I liked Joanna and Brother Edmund. Joanna is clever and brave, but confused and understandably frustrated at times. She's so naive when it comes to the real world because she has been so sheltered. I haven't mentioned Geoffrey Scovill, but he's the "perfect" male character that you wish Joanna would be interested in. There's not much romance, but you definitely WISH there were.

I was excited to find out that The Crown is the first in a series about Joanna Stafford. The next book, The Chalice, is releasing in March of 2013, and it will be at the top of my list!

Fans of historical fiction, and in particular Tudor England, will enjoy The Crown. I would recommend this to teens as well as adults.

Published by Touchstone, September 4. 2012
Copy won from The Broke and the Bookish!
448 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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  1. I didn't know there was so much intrigue in this book! It sounds really interesting, have added it to my wishlist :)

  2. Historicals are one of my favorites of the genres:) This looks like an interesting series, thanks for the review!

  3. Thank you for this review, Annette. I am so glad you enjoyed the read--and The Chalice, its sequel, is available in early March. Sister Joanna gets into even deeper trouble. :)


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