Thank goodness for Nancy Bilyeau's The Crown. (And for Becky at No More Grumpy Bookseller.)
I've been very much in the mood for a Da Vinci Code type of book lately. I still haven't read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol so I put the audiobook on hold at my library. Wouldn't you know when it was my turn, I had too many digital copies of various things checked out, and I had to let The Lost Symbol go to the next person. I was in mourning about it, but Becky came to my rescue. She recently posted a review for The Crown on her blog. As soon as I read her review, I knew I had the answer to my Da Vinci Code craving! I also watched both National Treasure movies last week. I had it bad.
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.
The Crown is a debut novel?! Nancy Bilyeau has some serious skill. This was truly a fantastic novel.
The characters had a lot to do with my enjoyment. Joanna was such a wonderful character. She evolved so much as a person through the course of The Crown. I can't wait to meet her again in The Chalice which thankfully has already been published. All of the characters in The Crown were so flawed and so passionate.
Oh, and the history in The Crown. I'm not even a fan of historical fiction really, but I'm totally singing the praises of the history in The Crown. Even though Joanna's story is fictitious, it is intertwined with real historic figures, places, and events. The amount of research that went into writing The Crown is very apparent.
If you enjoy thrillers with a lot of depth and research behind them, I recommend reading The Crown. I highly, highly recommend The Crown to anyone who loved The Da Vinci Code.
8/10: Great Read