- Hardcover: 454 pages
- Publisher: Pyr; First Edition edition (May 5, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591023122
- ISBN-13: 978-1591023128
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,903,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Crown Rose Hardcover – May 5, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Strong religious beliefs (orthodox and alternative) propel the action of Avery's first novel, a dazzling blend of French history and the fantastic. As a child, Princess Isabelle, heir to the French throne, has an intuition that her life will be different. At age nine, in the year 1234, she's sure she's "destined to do great things" after a mysterious stranger saves her from certain death by repelling a rabid dog with one word—a word that "held the power of the world." The Knights Templar, the fate of Mary Magdalene, holy relics of the early church and the Temple of Jerusalem all figure in a lively, credible story that compares favorably to Sara Douglass's Crucible series (The Wounded Hawk, etc.), also set in medieval Europe. The plot could have been a little better developed in places and at times the dialogue sounds more contemporary L.A. than 13th-century France, but overall this is a superior historical fantasy. (May 3)
This noteworthy historical fantasy is the first novel by an author who has sharpened her skills on short fiction and comics scripting. She has sharpened her knowledge of medieval France, too, to limn a vivid portrait of the "secret history" of the thirteenth century and Princess Isabelle, daughter of Louis VIII and his remarkable queen, Blanche of Castile. Isabelle has a vocation, but the road to fulfilling it is sown with many obstacles. She finds indispensable assistance in one Jean Benariel, who recognizes and supports her vocation, appears to be of Middle Eastern origin, and may be far older than he seems. As the revelations about Jean multiply, sage readers probably won't be surprised to learn that they have been deeply drawn into yet another fantasy based on the legend of the Holy Grail. Indeed, they will likely feel it is such a good one that they just must continue reading it to the end--and look forward to coming back for a possible sequel. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Six years later Isabelle's older brother King Louis IX rules in France. Lethal rivalries are everywhere as chivalrous knights join religious orders with each competing to be the One as well as battling the fledgling state for control while secret societies seem everywhere ready to fill any power void. While her sibling is a perfect role model as a pious individual setting an example for Isabelle, by 1844 she feels her destiny is elsewhere. Isabelle begins her life's quest accompanied by the mysterious Jean Benariel. He somehow knows what she seeks, who she is to him at long last and fully supports her on her endeavor. She also recognizes her companion from his one magical utterance that not only saved her life several years ago, but set her on this hallowed mission that is dangerous as knights battle one another claiming God's will and non-believers control the Holy Land.
Three fourths historical novel and one fourth fantasy subplot come together in a fabulous thirteenth century thriller. Isabella is a terrific protagonist who holds the exhilarating story line together. Jean adds a touch of mysticism into the mix. The support cast includes many real personages of history that add to the feel of realism such as correspondence with Thomas Aquinas. THE CROWN ROSE is a fabulous fantasy historical thriller that grips readers from the moment the young Isabelle believes she knows her life's work and never slows down until the final codicil.
Ms Avery's "good" characters are charming and her premise is interesting. The novel, which is full of biblical truths, displays of saintly behavior, and excellent distinctions between pharisaical and real righteous behavior, actually feels like a Christian fantasy (well, up until the very end when the Last-Temptation-of-Christ-style heresy is revealed).
But premise and characters can't make up for all of the problems I have with The Crown Rose. The biggest is the writing style. The simple, often choppy, informal sentences give it the feel of a children's novel, though its content is definitely adult. Ms Avery constantly tells me what characters are doing, will do, or how they feel. And she often tells me these things twice. She attempts to use a formal tone and courtly dialogue, but the writing is inelegant and too modern. If I'm supposed to feel like I'm back in the middle ages, then characters can't use words and phrases such as "really," "pretty much," "outside of," "automatically," and "try and." And a 13th century French archbishop can't take a 19th century British "lie-down." There is none of that "old feel" to the language (or the story) that we get from good historical writers like Sharon Kay Penman, Philippa Gregory, Dorothy Dunnett, or -- my favorite -- Patrick O'Brien.
A good editor could have fixed these problems and also could have avoided making me wince at sentences such as these:
* "You've been salivating over my hand in marriage since the time I was born!"
* "I try and avoid him."
* The whites of his eyes showed more power than the Devil's.
* They went at each other viciously: no armor, no elite fencing; just two men determined to live, determined that he would kill the other one.
* The problem was how apparent was what he and this cousin had been up to in the house.
* The young lieutenant looked up at him, shivering with collapse.
* "Fearful hounds and other beasts that prowl on the helpless."
* It was a massive understatement, she could tell.
* "I saw her come up to you just now, as I was making my way down. She never speaks to anyone outside of the queen."
* "I'm really the only one in the family who does pretty much the same thing as you do."
The writing style was enough to make me want to put down the novel, but wait! There's more. Some of the plot was ridiculous. Could it be possible that Isabelle, an educated, well-read, and intelligent princess, doesn't understand the political history between France and England and realize the reason her family wants her to marry the King of Germany (her best friend)? Nobody bothers to explain it to her and years later she is surprised to find out that marrying him might have been advantageous.
Is it possible that a sober Prince Robert -- a military strategist -- might tell family secrets to a tavern keeper he just met? Would an English spy give a French traitor information about England's planned invasion of France while he dandled a French whore on each knee? Would Thomas Aquinas refuse to tell Princess Isabelle and the university scholars about his secret studies, yet confide them to a courtier he just met? Does a medieval princess walk about Paris without an escort, ride alone on day-long journeys, and stay for days in a tower with a mysterious man she hardly knows without her mother and brothers being concerned?
Fiona Avery writes for television and comics, and I wonder if this explains the poor handling of her villains. Instead of being subtle and intriguing, they are comical. The bad guys have small eyes, stringy hair, hang out in brothels, smoke opium, and "slither." Her main villain, nobleman Pierre Mauclerc, has an irrational desire for Princess Isabella. She hates him, but he's under the delusion that she wants him, and every man she talks to is an enemy to be dispatched. He tries multiple methods for knocking them off and I started to wonder when he'd bring out the Acme anvil and a stick of dynamite.
Lastly, I was disappointed that I didn't get to read any of the "ripping philosophical discourse" between Isabelle and her university friends (Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Thomas Aquinas). Avery often alludes to these great debates and discussions when actually including them would have given this novel some much-needed heft.
I can't recommend The Crown Rose as a YA novel because of the adult content. But, unfortunately, it will not satisfy adult readers of either fantasy or historical fiction.
P.S. Good book for teenagers with a little bit of patience. Nothing in it that a thirteen year old couldn't read, although intellectually it would be over their head.