The Crown Rose by Fiona Avery is part historical fiction, part fantasy. The novel follows the imagined life of Isabelle of France, sister to King Louis IX. Since the death of their father, the royal line has been protected, even advanced by the Order of the Rose, three sisters who seem to have mystical powers. As a child, Isabelle is almost attacked by a rabid dog when a mysterious man comes to her rescue. Even though Isabelle sees one of the sisters speaking to this man, the woman denies it. This man obviously had ties to the strange Order and becomes a symbol to her of perfection.
As a member of the royal family, Isabelle is expected to marry Conrad of Germany. Although a friendship forms, Isabelle cannot help but compare him to the mysterious man. Besides, she feels a strong pull towards the church. When Conrad returns home, Isabelle finds her true calling. She wants to found convent to help poor woman living on the streets.
Then the mysterious Jean Adaret Benariel enters her life at a time when war seems a real possibility in France. Jean becomes fast friends with both Isabelle and her brothers Louis and Robert. Like her childhood savior, this man also has ties to the Order of the Rose and the princess is determined to discover who he really is.
The press release I received about The Crown Rose mentioned that Ms Avery did extensive research on medieval France and that knowledge helped create a strong feeling of time and place. History is woven together with fiction, creating characters that are keenly realistic. The battle scenes are very convincing, giving the reader a sense of being on the battlefield during close combat. The only drawback I found to Ms Averyís style was the occasional use of French words. From the context, the setting was always apparently French and the foreign words were somewhat annoying in an otherwise beautifully written novel.
The Crown Rose is a wonderfully written novel. The story, while largely historical, would also appeal to fantasy readers. There is mysticism, war and romance all with a strong female lead. I canít recommend this novel enough!
The Crown Rose
Pyr Publishing provided me with a free review copy of The Crown Rose