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The Crown: A Novel (Joanna Stafford series) Paperback – September 4, 2012
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""The Crown" by Nancy Bilyeau is an amazing first novel, filled with excitement, intrigue, espionage, and set against the background of one of the bloodiest periods of British history; the schism between Church and State. It's an action-packed tale of one nun's dangerous quest to discover the secrets of an ancient relic that dates back to the time of Christ."--Katherine Neville, author of "The Eight"
"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 story-telling. . . . 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"
"This fast-paced debut delivers Tudor intrigue and mystical thrills in one satisfying package--and leaves room for a sequel."--"Kirkus"
"Strong character development, realistic historical detail, and an atmosphere of pervasive tension coupled to a fast-paced plot make it compulsively readable."--"Booklist"
."..will appeal to fans of Dan Brown and Philippa Gregory."--"Library Journal"
"The events of the period come to life in Nancy Bilyeau's dazzling and heart-wrenching novel. "The Crown" is evocative, provocative, and full of intriguing characters--a gorgeously written novel that has mystery and history, pathos and depth. This is a stunning debut about a woman whose spirit shines through and deeply moves the reader." - International Bestseller, M.J. Rose
"Captivating thriller..."--"All You" magazine
"Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal."--"O, The Oprah Magazine
"A must read...Part" The Da Vinci Code", part "The Other Boleyn Girl", it will keep you guessing until the very end!"--"Woman's Day", Book Pick of the Month
"An amazing first novel, filled with excitement, intrigue, espionage, and set against the background of one of the bloodiest periods of British history; the schism between Church and State. It's an action-packed tale of one nun's dangerous quest to discover the secrets of an ancient relic that dates back to centuries."--Katherine Neville, author of "The Eight"
About the Author
Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown and The Chalice, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently the executive editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Visit her website at NancyBilyeau.com.
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The Crown is told from the unusual viewpoint of a nun, Joanna Stafford, who has court connections, but is trying save both her father and her convent from destruction. Her enemies re powerful, her friends not.
Despite the potential for melodrama, Bilyeau steers clear of cliché and writes beautifully of Joanna's struggles. This is a wonderful book, and although there is a certain amount of religious talk, it is not preaching but a way of understanding the characters.
The author provides a lengthy bibloiography, evidently she did a tremendous amount of research. Well worth, I highly recommend this book.
The characters surrounding Joanna are nuanced and cleverly portrayed and it was fairly easy to keep them all straight, which is usually hard in historical fiction with so many Marys, Elizabeths, and Janes in most novels. Bilyeau's writing is straightforward, but hits on all the emotions. One scene in particular portrays a historical person that I admire in a light I don't necessarily agree with, but it is written with such skill and razor sharp observation that it was impossible for me to criticize it.
Nancy Bilyeau is an exciting voice in historical fiction and I look forward to reading how the rest of Joanna's story plays out. Don't miss this one!
Joanna Stafford, the protagonist, is a Catholic in the early days of the English Reformation so while I read this book knowing that (view spoiler), the story is no less compelling for knowing how it ends. I found Bilyeau's choice to show the Catholic perspective in this time and place a refreshing change from most historical fiction that treats Henry's reforms as a fait accompli - she really gets across that the dissolution of the monasteries and the conversion of the English people wasn't inevitable and resistance was frequent and varied.
I was on tenterhooks throughout, and the ultimate villain turned out to be a surprise, though Stafford meets plenty of antagonists along the way (her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner, the bishop with whom she shares a common cause but disagrees with his methods). Characters are well formed without cliches and by the end of the book Stafford has several options before her, and while I know which one she'll take (full disclosure: I read the sequel "The Chalice" first) any one of these could take her interesting places.
Recommended, will definitely be getting "The Tapestry" when it comes out!