Sunday, July 21, 2013
The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau
Published January 2012 by Touchstone
Source: I won a copy of this from Heather at Raging Bibliomania and the publisher more than a year ago
JOANNA STAFFORD, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.
While Joanna is in the Tower, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester forces her to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may possess the ability to end the Reformation.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must decide who she can trust so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life.
When I won this book from Heather in April of 2012, I had every intention of reading it as soon as it arrived. But, as so often happens, it landed on the book shelf and there it sat. When I was approached about being on a tour for Bilyeau's follow up book, The Chalice (my review on Wednesday), I decided it was time to pick this one up. I hate reading books out of order if I can avoid it.
Heather wrote an great review of the book and I highly recommend reading it if you want a more in-depth review of the plot; she loved this book. Reviewers at the Barnes & Noble website (bn.com) almost unanimously rate this book a 4 or 5 out of 5. With good reason.
The book is well-researched and Bilyeau's descriptions drop you right into 16th-century England at a time of great upheaval. After Henry VIII separated England from the Catholic church, it was a time of great danger for anyone wishing to retain their faith, particularly those who had devoted themselves to it. Bilyeau uses Joanna's search to blend the machinations of the court and the struggles of the religious communities into a mystery novel that also includes murder, lust, family relationships and even romance. It is a unique story with just the right amount of historical detail to give it authenticity without being overdone. Joanna is a young woman dealing with discoveries that lead to wide-ranging emotions. Bilyeau's characters are well-written, flawed and never just black or white.
Those of you who love all things Tudor will probably already have read this book. If not, I would definitely recommend it. For you, it will probably be much easier to keep track of who's who and how they are all related. For me, I really wished I would have taken notes. I used to take notes fanatically while I read but lately I've been all about breezing through and hoping for the best. Big mistake with this one for anyone who isn't intimately familiar with all of the players in the court of Henry VIII, although it didn't distract from my enjoyment of the story. When I finished the book, I was more than ready to learn more about Joanna Stafford and what became of her friends and family.