“I started out reading The Crown on my phone, since historical fiction is often slow enough for me to read it gradually. About half way through I abandoned that plan, and finished it up in a couple of evenings instead. Enough said.
I really enjoyed the details of life in the priory combined with the mystery, which finally truly surfaced halfway through. What I liked best about it is the way I really felt the impact of Henry VIII's war on the Catholic church at the level of the people tossed around by it. I love it when historical fiction deals with the smaller people. Somehow it's more interesting to me than reading about kings and queens, it's less predictable because I don't already know how it has to end, and the details of daily life are fascinating. The characters felt so real to me, and it brought the time period alive. I love it when historical fiction doesn't turn out to be dry as dust!
Believe it or not, there's a little bit of romance, too, even though the characters are mainly nuns, novices, and friars. It was just enough not to feel out of place in the setting, and it added complexity to the struggles of the characters who really believe in their vows of chastity.
I can't wait to read more about them!”
“The good luck I've been having with historical fiction continues. I've seen The Crown praised everywhere, and there's a reason for that: it's really good. Though the novel got out to a bit of a slow start, by the end, I was really close to the main characters and captivated by the plot. Bilyeau writes beautifully, and made me interested in the sort of subject matter I wouldn't ordinarily care one whit about, which I take as a sign of her talent.
Though set almost entirely in Dartford Priory and told from the point of view of a nun, I didn't find the religious sentiments overwhelming. With historical fiction, I'm a bit more patient with the trappings of religion, just like I am less bothered by infidelity than usual. The author merely records, as much as possible, the historical facts, and generally isn't trying to preach one way or another. Certainly, there is no preaching in The Crown, even though Joanna believes strongly in her religion.
Sister Joanna may be a nun, but she's totally not the image I carry in my head of what nuns are like, an image which I know to be false but can't seem to shift anyway. Joanna is not elderly, stern, and quiet, nor is she like Maria of Sound of Music, though she does perhaps have more in common with Maria. In fact, Joanna is quite level-headed, stubborn, determined, daring, and has quite the temper. She also has a thirst for knowledge, loving to research and to read. These qualities made her easy for me to like, even if I'm not remotely religious and couldn't relate to her passion for Christ, which does exist, since she voluntarily gave her life to the Priory.
The Crown takes place during Henry VIII's reign, during his marriage to Jane Seymour and the period beyond her death. At this time, Henry VIII has begun closing down Catholic institutions, seizing the money for the crown and turning people to Protestantism. The nuns of Dartford Priory, like all the rest, is worried about the likely inevitable dissolution that faces them. Joanna Stafford, for she was of a noble family before she committed herself to Christ, becomes embroiled in a scheme to save the Catholic church.
At the opening of the novel, Joanna breaks her oath to Dartford so that she can go be with her beloved cousin Margaret as she is burned at the stake. Her father also turns out to be there, and they are both arrested along with an innocent bystander, because her father threw gunpowder into the conflagration to help speed Margaret's passing, thereby making it less painful. Taken to the Tower of London, Margaret is eventually offered freedom (and the ability to stop her father's torture) by Bishop Gardiner. In exchange, she must return to Dartford Priory, which he will force the prioress to accept, and locate for him Athelstan's crown, said to have powers, which he hopes to barter to the King in exchange for sparing the monasteries and priories.
The plot consists of the search for the crown, which involves a lot of research of legends. Though Joanna does not want to help the Bishop, who she mistrusts, she throws herself into the search, largely because she loves to know things. Added to the espionage, there's a murder mystery and some possible future romance for Joanna. Of course, she's a novice nun, but with the impending dissolution of such livings, she will have to choose what to make of herself once again, and she could likely end up either with Geoffrey, arrested with her at Margaret's death, or Brother Edmund, who will also no longer technically be a friar when the Priory is closed.
Immediately upon finishing The Crown, I'm starting The Chalice, and I'm quite excited to do so. I'm really curious to see what becomes of Joanna now that the Priory will have been closed.”
Joanna is a novice, preparing to become a nun, at Dartford Priory. It is the 16th century, during the time of King Henry VIII, when monasteries are being “dissolved”. When Joanne “escapes” Dartford to go see her cousin being executed, she is arrested, along with her father, and taken to the Tower. There, she is given a “deal” by a high ranking bishop to find a crown at Dartford, in exchange for them not torturing and killing her father. (None of that is a spoiler; it's in the description of the book.) Back at Dartford, the heat is on, as soon after Joanna returns, someone is murdered...
It was good. I like historical fiction, but I think historical mysteries don't appeal to me quite as much. I did enjoy it, but not quite as much as I'd hoped.”
“When Joanna Stafford hears that her cousin is to be burned at the stake for protesting King Henry VIII's position with regards to the Catholic church, she abandons her position with the Dartford Priory to be at her side. Joanna is a devoted novice on her way to becoming a nun but the call of a family member in distress is more than she can bear. The seriousness of Margaret's crime means that no one in the family is likely to be present at her death but she and Joanna shared a special bond. Joanna is mistaken, though. There is someone else in the family there to give support to Margaret: Joanna's own father. The two are soon arrested and imprisoned at the Tower of London for interfering with Margaret's punishment, leaving Joanna in a desperate position. She is offered the chance of release and a return to Dartford only if she will agree to serve as eyes inside the priory for the Bishop of Winchester, a man whose motives and reliability are questionable. The Bishop wants something, something rumored to be hidden within the walls of the Dartford Priory, and if Joanna can find this item she may be able to free her father. If she fails, it could mean the end of the Priory as well as her father's life.
THE CROWN is a truly captivating literary thriller and puzzle set during the English Reformation and based in very real history. Joanna is completely fictional, but Bilyeau moves her around this history with a mastery that's admirable for a debut author.
It is clear in reading THE CROWN that Bilyeau has paid very close attention to historic detail and it's this detail - paired with an undeniably appealing heroine and a great plot - that makes the book a stand out both in terms of historical fiction and in terms of thrillers.
This is the kind of book that sends me immediately searching Wikipedia and other online history links to find out just how much of the story is based in fact and I discovered that in this case it's surprisingly quite a lot! While Joanna is fiction, the Staffords are very real - my grandmother was a big Tudor history buff but I know surprisingly little about this particular family even though my grandfather shared their family name (you'd have to trace back pretty far to find a connection, I'm sure). Athelstan is real though his crown is still rumor :) and many of the characters in the book are actual historical figures in Henry VIII's court. Even Dartford Priory and its history is real, though not necessarily the part about the crown. Bilyeau discusses some of these things in the Q&A in the paperback edition of the book and on her blog.
While THE CROWN is the first in the trilogy, and the introduction to Joanna, I should point out that you do not have to have read the book before diving into the follow up THE CHALICE, but reading the two books back to back has been particularly enjoyable for me and I definitely recommend it.”
“About nun. has sequel”Imfrozen wrote this review Saturday, June 8, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“For a first novel, this book is pretty good. At the same time, there are some problems.
Good elements include interesting characters, surprise twists, good murder mystery, interesting search for the crown and what it stands for, some interesting historical background, especially related to the closing of religious facilities during the time.
The big negative for me was that I just couldn't accept that this young novice would have been able to do all this searching for the crown. From other things I have read, the nuns were very confined, especially the novices, and had very little free time to be doing all these things that Joanna Stafford is able to do. That kind of ruined the rest of the story for me. I just had to suspend too much reality to accept what she was doing.
“historical fiction/mystery set in England during Henry the VIII rule and when he is married to Jane Semour and is supressing all the religious houses througout the kingdom. This book is actually the first in a series. I read the 2nd book, The Chalice, first. I actually like that book better as a stand alone book. This book just helped fill in some character background etc. The ending kind of bugged though...
“Great read. Nice to see something about the reformation from the other point of view. Looking forward to her next one.”samantha r wrote this review Wednesday, February 6, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Tudor politics! Bilyeau delves into some of the effects of the Tudor marriages on the lesser royalty and the hundreds of religious in monasteries & nunneries at the time of the Dissolution.”Kirsty C wrote this review Sunday, December 23, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No