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.
When novitiate 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 flee 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 - and must finally determine who to trust and how far she is willing to go to protect a way of life that she passionately loves.
©2012 Nancy Bilyeau (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Nancy Bilyeau’s polished, inventive debut has all the ingredients of the best historical fiction: a broad cast of characters, well-imagined settings, and vivid storytelling…In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values, while Stafford’s desperate search for a lost religious relic will satisfy even the most ardent mystery fans.” (Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches)
I thought this book was a bit slow at the start but was just a great read once it got going. I have read all of the Matthew Shardlake books that take place during the dissolution of the monestaries in England under Henry VIII, and this is just as good. The history is accurate and the characters interesting. Good plot. I have downloaded the second book, The Chalice.
expecting some history and intelligence... instead I got a long drawn out hunt -- by one spunky novice (completely modern in her thoughts, comments and actions --despite her protests) and two friars -- for a relic of unsurpassed powers -- exactly how or why not convincing.
stop with the telling me how everyone feels, and the over dramatization. Needs more authentic history.
sure -- the breathless writing wasn't her fault.
This book is wonderful! It brings to life reall carichtors which most authors don't deall with (including lady Margaret Bulmer.) No thread is unexplained at the end. I was impressed by the ending, because Joanna actually learned how to be independed, how to be there for someone. So much so that she was willing to go to the unknown. This is a very open ending. But I have a guess as to the last chapter. I learned manyy new things from this book. I must admit that it includs many well-known carichtors (much more than it should, I suppose) but that made the book all the more interesting for me. Almost every well known carichtor is briliantly portrayed. So, if you love to read about the Tudors and are willing for a change, go for this one!
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