“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…”
Nancy Bilyeau, THE CROWN
THE CROWN, by Nancy Bilyeau, is 402 pages. Last month, I received an advanced reader copy for review from the publisher, Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, and I’m thrilled to finally share my excitement over it.
When THE CROWN begins, young Dominican novice, Joanna Stafford, has just broken the strict rule of enclosure of her priory to attend the public burning of her beloved cousin, Lady Margaret, for treason against King Henry VIII. Determined to provide comfort and prayer to her cousin, even if just from afar, Joanna embarks on a journey that she is ill-prepared for in all aspects.
The unexpected intervention of Joanna’s father leads to their arrest, and they are sent to the Tower of London to await their fate. When the scheming Bishop of Winchester hears of Joanna’s imprisonment and station at Dartford Priory, she suddenly becomes of use to him. He threatens to torture her father to death unless she helps him find the ancient crown of Athelstan that he tells her will change the political landscape of the country and save the monasteries from Cromwell’s destruction.
Upon Joanna’s return to Dartford, she becomes a pawn in a game played by powerful, greedy men. When secrets, schemes, and murder taint the priory, Joanna is forced to confront her beliefs and make difficult choices in order to save her father and her way of life.
THE CROWN is every bit as exciting and suspenseful as the jacket copy and descriptions promised. Bilyeau kept me turning pages and second guessing my predictions late into the three nights it took me to devour it. Joanna is an incredibly endearing character. Her internal struggles to maintain obedience while satisfying her curiosity and doing what she thinks is right make for excellent tension and story development. The supporting cast of monks, novices, detectives, and politicians is every bit as fascinating as Joanna, and their personal stories and contributions to the plot provide many layers of intrigue. In addition to the masterfully drawn plot and interesting characters, the prose is compulsively readable and stylish, and will satisfy the spectrum of readers who love history, suspense, and literature.
If you enjoy books by Philippa Gregory and Ken Follett, I highly recommend THE CROWN. It is an outstanding debut by a talented writer, and I was thrilled to find out that Ms. Bilyeau is working on a sequel to the novel.
For more on the author, visit her website at http://www.nancybilyeau.com/index.html