Friday, February 17, 2012

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Crown
Author: Nancy Bilyeau

Genre: Fiction (Tudor / Reformation / 16th century / Nuns / Religious Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Touchstone Publishing (1/10/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked immensely/basically loved.
Did I finish?: I did -- zoomed through this one without stop!
One-sentence summary:
Reading Challenges: E-books, Historical Fiction, NetGalley

Do I like the cover?: I love it. Even though it sort of has a The DaVinci Code-ish feel to it, I find it striking and unusual for a Tudor-set hist fic.

I'm reminded of...: Mary Doria Russell

First line: When a burning is announced, the taverns off Smithfeld order extra barrels of ale, but when the person to be executed is a woman and one of noble birth, the ale comes by the cartload.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this one is worth getting. History, action, unique take on a popularly novelized time, and great storytelling.

Why did I get this book?: The cover, plus I love novels with nuns.

Review: I dare you to read the first sentence and not want to keep going. From that oomph of a beginning, Bilyeau's fantastically fun and engrossing historical novel takes what is an overdone era (for me) -- the Tudors -- and provides a fun angle: the story of a noblewoman-turned-nun who finds herself an enemy of the state when Henry VIII declares himself head of the Church. At the novel's open, she's left her convent -- without permission -- to attend the public execution of her beloved cousin, and finds herself embroiled in both a battle for her faith and a fight for a legendary relic. While this has shades of Dan Brown, I didn't find this plot twist to be tiresome or over-the-top: it was the right mix of mystery and thriller.

Bilyeau's writing is the winner for me: her characters were fantastic and the pacing wonderful. In particular, I found her articulation of Joanna's faith understandable, even if one isn't a devout Catholic. Despite the religious theme to the plot, this novel isn't inspirational. (I think more Mary Doria Russell than Rumor Godden.)

Even if you're suffering Tudor fatigue like me, give this novel a try -- I loved the focus on the religious community and Henry and his sexual shenanigans aren't a part of the story the way much of the Tudor fic is. The novel's heroine, Joanna Stafford, was wonderful -- human, real, authentic to the era and herself, and quite compelling. She's made the list of fictional character I'd like to have as a real life bestie.

A wonderfully fun debut -- treat yourself and pick this one up, especially if you're a historical fiction fan. I understand there's a second Joanna Stafford novel coming, for which I am deeply grateful. Joanna is a heroine I want to spend more time with and I'm wicked excited for Bilyeau's next novel.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Crown to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only. Ends 3/9. Be sure to return on Feb 27 for my interview with the author and another chance to enter!

See more reviews by checking out the other blogs on the tour. Learn more about Nancy Bilyeau at her website, and follow her on Twitter. Follow the tour on Twitter with the #TheCrownVirtualBookTour hashtag!


  1. Sounds like another good one about the Tudors....

  2. Replies
    1. It had everything: good plot, good characters, good writing -- I kind of want to reread it already!

    2. Can't comment..sighs-

      Anyway, Ana read this one for me. Will post a review on Monday :)

  3. Love to read about the Tudors.

  4. I am reading this one in the upcoming week, so I skimmed your review. I am glad to hear that you loved it so much, and with all the good things I have been haring about it, I will be excited to get started and see what I think as well!

  5. I so want to read this! It sounds like a different take on the Tudors and there's not usually many nuns on the books. Thanks for the review!

  6. I really loved this one too :) Can't wait for the next one!

  7. Thanks for this review. I had originally passed on this book because I haven't had the greatest luck with novels about nuns and have OD'd on everything Tudor, but I like how this one sounds so different.

  8. Another great review, Audra. I also enjoyed this one very much and can't wait for more!

  9. Wow! That first sentence is amazing. I love the idea of Tudor history that isn't going along the norm. I am definitely going to have to check out this one. :)

  10. I've REALLY got to get my hands on this one. As a Catholic, I would love to hear this differeny POV.