Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Crown, by Nancy Bilyeau

Despite the fact that she comes from nobility, Joanna has chosen a religious life.  But under the rule of Henry VIII, Catholic nuns border are under suspicion as rebels.  When Joanna leaves the priory to support a family member, she is captured and imprisoned in the Tower, and learns that her father is being tortured.  The only way he will be released is if Joanna returns to the priory and finds an important religious relic.  Will she succeed?

This was one of those books that required a lot of set-up.  It took time to establish the setting and the scene, as it were.  For me, that made the initial parts of the book a little slow.  And that was purposeful and necessary.  We needed to appreciate the slow, peaceful way of life that the Dominican priory is used to, even in such unsettled times.  I am really glad I stuck with the book, however, because it made for a much richer story in the long run.

The story blends an incredible point in English history with a thrilling mystery.  It is quite clear that the book is well researched, rivaling the best of the historical fiction focusing on the Tudor family.  I liked that the Tudors serve as a backdrop, giving us a better picture of while life was life for everyone else during Henry VIII's reign.  The characters were richly developed, and once you got about 100 pages in, the story really picked up.  Momentum continued to gather until the book rocketed to a shocking pinnacle.

Given the subject matter, there is a strong emphasis on Catholicism in the book.  Those who either are Catholic or are well versed in Church history will appreciate some of those finer elements of the book.  Those strongly opposed to Catholic beliefs, conversely, may struggle with the book.  I personally found it to be a well written, engaging piece of historical fiction.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the tour of the sequel book here.

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