Set against a Tudor backdrop, The Crown is a surprisingly enjoyable and thrilling historical mystery that explores the religious upheaval during Henry VIII's reign, and the people who were affected by it. At first glance, I wondered how a story about an aristocratic nun could be interesting, especially set in such a juicy period, but The Crown amazed me with its intriguing twists, unexpected plot, and unique hero.
The Crown follows the story of Joanna Stafford, a young nun from an aristocratic family, who learns that her favorite cousin is to be burned at the stake. Joanna defies her vows and sets out to help her cousin. That's when she is imprisoned in the Tower of London and meets the dangerous Bishop Gardiner, who has his own designs on Joanna's future. In exchange for her freedom, he sends Joanna to Dartford Priory to search for Athelstan's crown, a powerful relic that might grant eternal life -and, hopefully, end the Reformation.
Incredibly well-written and intricately researched, the Crown is an amazing piece of historical fiction that stands out from the rest of the genre. Joanna is a unique and fascinating protagonist, somewhat torn between her faith and her duty to her family, and most importantly -incredibly intelligent and cunning. The period is just as well constructed, with plenty of detail and a vivid depiction of life in a convent during a time of serious religious unrest.
The Crown offers plenty great Church lore, and an engaging mystery that's reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code, complete with just a whiff of the supernatural. Probably the only small issue I had with this book was that the action is somewhat uneven. At times things really slowed down, so much that it felt laborious to keep going, but I soldiered through and was rewarded with a worthwhile mystery.
Not for romance lovers, The Crown is an incredibly engaging historical mystery for fans of conspiracies, intelligent female protagonists, and Church lore. And it looks like it may be only the first of a series of novels about Joanna Stafford -so more to look forward to.