This is a cross post from my book blog, The True Book Addict.
It was a perilous time during the reign of Henry the VIII of England. Women who caught his eye and who were ‘lucky’ enough to be made his wife would not feel so lucky for long. At least, in the case of a few of them. Loyal servants who served his will in one instance could next find themselves out of favor and facing execution for some failing, many times through no fault of their own. And none felt the danger more than the faithful who served at the monasteries, at the priories and abbeys throughout England at the time. These institutions were being suppressed and the nuns and monks turned out (with or without pensions, depending on the situation) to either find houses in foreign countries or to find new ways of life. For many, a life outside of an religious order was unthinkable, but they were given no choice as Henry appointed himself the head of the Church and ushered in a new era of religious reform.
It is among this strife that this excellent novel is set. Meticulously researched, The Crown is at once a historical novel that the reader will learn a lot from. I am always pleasantly surprised when I learn something new from a historical novel and in this case, I learned of King Athelstan, a king that I had never heard of. Just when you think you know pretty much everything about a particular country’s history, something like this comes along to prove you wrong. It happened to me here in a big way. I can’t wait to go off on my own and read more about him and the legends surrounding him. One of these legends is about his crown which is what the book is about. There is a desperate search for this crown and so we are also given an exciting and interesting mystery along with the excellent historical prose. I’m not kidding when I say exciting. I was literally on the edge of my seat during many parts of the book.
Add to what I’ve said above the seamless incorporation of historical figures, such as Mary Tudor, Katherine of Aragon, Anne and George Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, as well as compelling and heroic characters, and this book easily takes a place on my list of great works of historical fiction. Joanna is a heroine I have a strong liking and admiration for and I look forward to the continuation of the series in the second book, The Chalice.
About the book:
An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537…
Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred 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.
The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.
But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.
Nancy Bilyeau’s Website
Nancy Bilyeau on Twitter: @TudorScribe