Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Crown (Crown #1)
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Hardcover: 402 pages
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Published date: 2012
FTC: Won copy from Peeking Between the Pages

I haven't given a book a five-star rating on GoodReads in quite a while.  How refreshing to finally do that!  I'd been hearing some awesome things about Nancy Bilyeau's Crown series.  I won my beautiful hardcover copy over at Peeking Between the Pages but hadn't gotten around to reading it yet.  But when I started hearing rave reviews about her follow up novel, The Chalice, and THEN I was asked to join the TLC Book Tour for the second novel, I jumped at the chance.  I'll be reviewing that book at the beginning of August and I'll be having a giveaway for The Crown.  Woop!

Synopsis from GoodReads:

In this debut historical thriller, an aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father’s life and preserve all she holds dear from Cromwell’s ruthless terror.

When novice nun Joanna Stafford learns her rebel cousin is condemned by King Henry VIII to be burned at the stake, she makes the decision to break the sacred rule of enclosure and run away from her Dominican Order in Dartford to stand at her cousin’s side.

Arrested for interfering with king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, Sir Richard Stafford, is sent to the Tower of London. Joanna’s father is brutally tortured by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester who leads the Catholic faction bent on saving England’s monasteries from destruction. In order to save her father, Joanna must submit to Gardiner’s will and become a pawn in the struggle between religious extremes. Gardiner forces Joanna to return to Dartford Priory with a mission: find the long hidden crown worn by Saxon King Athelstan in AD 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain. Gardiner believes the crown itself to possess a mystical power that will halt the Reformation.

Uncovering only dark betrayals and murder at Dartford, Joanna flees with Brother Edmund, a troubled young friar, and with time running out, their hunt for the crown leads them through royal castles, to Stonehenge, and finally to the tomb of the mysterious King Athelstan under Malmesbury Abbey. There Joanna learns the true secret of the crown, a secret tracing all the way back to Golgotha and the Relics of the Passion. Now, as Cromwell’s army of destruction advances, Joanna must finally determine who to trust and how far she is willing to go to protect a way of life that she passionately loves.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to review The Crown before I delved into The Chalice.  I can not believe how awesome this book is.  Who'd have thought that a novel about a Tudor era nun would be so fascinating, fast paced and even a little romantic?  Awesome job Ms Bilyeau!

I think there are a lot of people out there who are little bit over the plethora of Tudor era books - especially Henry VIII period books.  There are just a ton!  I remember being fascinated by Anne Boleyn back in high school and there were seriously about two books out on her.  So what grabbed my attention was that while Joanna Stafford's story is set during Henry VIII's reign - it's not from the viewpoint of the court but through the eyes of the religious community that went through a huge upheaval after good ol' Henry eradicated Catholicism, abbeys and monasteries.

Joanna Stafford is also a pretty awesome heroine.  From a wealthy family who's fallen from Henry VIII's grace, she is intelligent, educated, steadfast in her belief in God, and loyal to her family.  There's a lot going on in this novel: political machinations, Joanna getting thrown into the Tower of London, a search for a long lost treasure, hidden passages and even a bit of romance.  I thought I was going to be a tad skeptical of the romance angle but it is believable and not overly done.  Perfect.

I can't wait to dig into The Chalice.  If you haven't figured it out yet - it took me reading the book to notice - that the books are named after religious relics.  I wonder what book #3 will be called!

Also Reviewed By:

Peeking Between the Pages
Devourer of Books
S Krishna's Books
Let Them Read Books
The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

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