I actually finished this book back on Wednesday night I think but for some reason I keep not getting around to posting this thing. In a way, I think that it reaffirms my views of this book: enjoyable enough to where I’ll read the sequel, but not so great I’m running out to grab it right this second.
So what drew me to this book was the unique setting. It’s set during the reign of Henry VIII, circa Jane Seymour. Sister Joanna is a novice Dominican Nun who comes from the disgraced Stafford family, an old noble family that fell on the wrong side of the King’s wrath for their beliefs.
After a beloved cousin is burned at the stake for treason, she is arrested and taken to Tower of London. Her father is also captured and a Bishop has a deal for her: find the Crown of Athelstan that is supposedly hidden in her priory or her father will be tortured to death and since this deal was made after she was already forced to watch him on the rack, naturally, she says yes.
It’s the character of Sister Joanna and the setting of the Dartford Priory that make the book worth reading. The search for the Crown and the murder that occurs at the priory all at the same time are competent enough, and I do like how the threat of the priory being closed hangs over the book for a good part of the time, but it’s still pretty standard stuff.
Sister Joanna is a compelling character. She is clearly devout in her faith, but she’s also convincingly human; doing what she knows is wrong to save her father and yet also trying to find ways to slip out of the deal she made because she feels so dirty for it. There are some decent side characters in the cast as well, especially amongst the nuns. There is someone that is set up to be a potential love interest for her. He’s an okay character, but I could have done without it. The book also makes good use of both Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary and the sequel is set up in such a way that I suspect we’ll see more of the latter.
As I said, this book is worth a read for the setting and our protagonist. The mystery is fun, but nothing to write home about. If you don’t like or don’t normally read mysteries (I myself rarely read them) this isn’t going to convert you. I’d say if the setting doesn’t intrigue you in some way, shape, or form you could probably skip it.
Verdict: Borrow it if the setting grabs you.