In THE PHANTOM TREE, Nicola Cornick crafts a lovely yet
chilling story about Mary Seymour, daughter of England's
Queen Katherine Parr and traitor Thomas Seymour.
Katherine Parr was the sixth and final wife of the
corpulent and dissipated Henry VIII. Six months after
Henry's death, she married Thomas Seymour, then she
shortly died thereafter. Thomas was the brother of Jane
Seymour, the third wife of Henry (keeping it all in the
family, ya know). I love the rich history that peoples
this book; the Tudor period is my favorite English era as
a self-proclaimed Anglophile.
The cool thing is that it's not a time slip novel, but
it feels sort of like it is. Alison Bannister is a young
woman who was fostered with Mary Seymour at Seymour
estates. Alison is shown as a time traveler who comes
forward from Tudor times to live in the twenty first
century. She accidentally traveled to current time when
trying to flee her circumstances in Wiltshire. Alison is
rather feckless (as is Mary), yet I find myself rooting
for each of them even as they lie and scheme repeatedly,
getting themselves and others further and further into
hot water. Even though I don't find Alison to be a sympathetic
character, I'm still utterly sucked into her life and
escapades. Alison stumbles across a portrait of Mary
Seymour, and must decipher the clues hidden in the
painting to tell her what happened to the son who was
wrenched from her at birth. Mary promised Alison that she
would track her son down and let Alison know what happened
to him, and now Alison must try to follow those enigmatic
clues four centuries later. Assisting her is an ex-
boyfriend, whom she must resist, despite her attraction, if
she is to find her son.
THE PHANTOM TREE is seriously Gothic, y'all. There
were many times when I was almost reluctant to turn the
page because I was anxious about what would happen yet,
even though I was desperate to keep going in the story.
The looming sense of gloom and danger is skillfully drawn.
We've got alternating point of views between Alison in the
present day and Mary in the 16th century, which is another
device to keep the reader waiting on tenterhooks. There
are many twists and turns as the story spins out. The
interweaving of secrets keeps this a page turner.
Cornick's THE PHANTOM TREE is a compelling mix of history,
romance, Gothic suspense, and a little fantasy.
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.
Bestselling author of House of Shadows Nicola
Cornick offers a provocative alternate history of rivals,
secrets and danger, set in a time when a woman’s destiny was
determined by the politics of men and luck of birth. A
spellbinding tale for fans of Kate Morton, Philippa Gregory
and Barbara Erskine.