Abigail's Reviews > The Crown

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau
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's review
Jan 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction

Joanna Stafford is a nun in England at the time of the dissolution of the monastarties. Though her vows include enclosure, she finds herself drawn to attend the execution of her cousin who was part of a Northern uprising which begins all of her adventures. She is sent to the Tower with her father and blackmailed to search for mythical crown supposedly kept at her priory. There is murder and myth around every corner and Joanna must decide what risks are worth taking for the faith she clings to and the father she loves.

This is a great Tudor mystery and I especially liked it being told from the Catholic perspective. I read a great deal of Tudor fiction, but most of it does not include much insight on what the devout Catholics, who wanted nothing to do with the politics, went through during the dissolution.

Joanna is a complex character, I alternately found her admirable and annoyingly naive (some of the English relics aren't real??? SHOCK! DISMAY!). She's intelligent, but she could act so idiotically at times. I also think, no matter how much she feels like it's her calling, she is much too a part of the world to be a nun. She ignores her vows when she finds them inconvenient, she is still too attached to the world at large but she can't seem to figure that out... However, she is determined and loyal and dedicated to the truth.

The mystery itself as well as the titular Crown Joanna is seeking can get convoluted, and a bit silly. Most of the book is very grounded in reality, the historical detail is wonderful and obviously well researched, but then we get to the bits about the mystical Crown and things start to veer toward the supernatural. I am not generally against such things, but it feels out of place in a book which is otherwise realisic.

I have also learned this is going to be a series of a sort....which I can't really get behind. This could easily have been a one-off book. If she had changed the ending a bit, it would have been a lovely, self-contained novel. The nature of this story just does not lend itself to a series in my opinion, I mean I liked the characters, but what are they going to do in book 2? Look for a mystical sceptor? Just my opinion.

If you like historical fiction of the Tudor flavor with a bit of mystery, check this out.

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