Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

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If I hadn’t been lucky enough to win my copy of Nancy Bilyeau’s The Crown in a book giveaway I would have bought myself a copy so I dropped what I was doing and began reading straight away.

The intrigue and danger of Tudor England provides a perfect setting for a historical novel and this one doesn’t disappoint. There was no other time in English history when it was more dangerous to be a nun or a monk and there must be a thousand stories waiting to be told, each one different but all equally as terrifying.

In a time when new religious rules were being made and broken everyday and the religious houses of England were in peril. When Joanna Stafford breaks out of Dartford Priory to attend the burning of her cousin for treason against the king, her headstrong act plunges her into a dangerous adventure. As an unwilling agent to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, her quest takes her far and wide across the English countryside.

There are a few Americanisms (a very few) that perhaps an English editor could have helped with but, on the whole, I found the setting and the characters convincing, the historical detail accurate and the narrative gripping. It is what you might term a ‘page turner.’

Other reviewers have likened it to Dan Brown but I found it far better. This book doesn’t need sensationalism to be a success and the twists and turns of the plot are much more credible. It is not graphic enough to make the reader wince but that doesn’t mean you won’t share Joanna’s torment and understand her pain.

Nancy Bilyeau helps her reader experience the English reformation through the eyes of those who suffered the most; the inmates of the falling religious houses that had survived unscathed for centuries until Henry VIII’s greedy eye fell upon their riches.