I received a free copy of this book, thanks to Graydon House at HarperCollins and NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinions on the book.
Browsing an antiques shop in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait—identified as the doomed Tudor queen, Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better. The subject is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr, who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 and presumed dead after going missing as a child. And Alison knows this because she, too, lived at Wolf Hall and knew Mary…more than four hundred years ago.
The painting of Mary is more than just a beautiful object for Alison—it holds the key to her past life, the unlocking of the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance and how Alison can get back to her own time. To when she and Mary were childhood enemies yet shared a pact that now, finally, must be fulfilled, no matter the cost.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Tags: Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance
This was a good one. A well-spun mixed genre fiction with rich characters. The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick is a beautifully crafted story of the gossamer-like connection between humans, strong yet fragile. It is about one woman’s relentless search for her missing child. And another’s simple wish for a life without the stain of witchcraft, something that means persecution and certain death in the 15th century.
At first, I disliked Alison Banestre, the mother who was stuck in present times trying to find her way back. I understand that real-life people are flawed and you can’t always have cookie-cutter perfect characters so, I gave the book a chance to redeem itself. And redeem itself it did! As you read through The Phantom Tree, you witness the blooming of the characters as they grow. Told in alternating POVs of Alison and Mary, taking place in two different times AND one in first person POV while the other in third person, Nicola Cornick is one heck of a talented writer. The transitions between all these were so seamless I didn’t even notice the POV had changed from first to third until almost halfway in!
Even though the reader has access to facts in the present day, Cornick has withheld just enough that you won’t know everything that happened in the past UNTIL she wants you to. Slowly but satisfyingly, you watch the events in both timelines unfold until they come full circle, albeit with some bittersweet consequences.
Surprisingly, I found myself rooting for Mary and her love interest. On further reflection, I see why. Because Mary was a more likeable person and you instinctively want to protect her and wish for her a happily ever after. Alison, on the other hand, can look after herself in her own selfish fashion. Mary’s telepathic connection with someone she’s never met was sweet and enjoyable to read. (It reminded me of another story where the protagonist was a disabled girl who could speak telepathically with a boy in another country. I forgot what it was called. If anyone has read it please let me know, I loved that book and wish to read it again since I’ve forgotten enough to enjoy re-reading it.)
The story started out slow but a third into it I found myself devouring each chapter, wanting to know what happened to Mary Seymour and whether Alison finally found her long-lost son.
The Phantom Tree is a moving story of promises and deception, friendship and enmity, and love that transcends time.
Parental Guidance: 15+
Violence – Mild
Sex – Some sex scenes―one slightly explicit.
Religion – Some mention of churches and the cross. No preaching.
Profanity – Some
Should You Get This Book?:
Get it if:
- You enjoy mixed genre fiction
- You like reading about flawed and dynamic characters
- You’re looking for something a little deep and profound
Don’t get it if:
- You want a through and through fast-paced novel
- You want a feel-good story to lift your spirits
Note: This was a review I wrote up some months ago, hence, the previous review format.