In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn
into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.
Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.
After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.
Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.
Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.
Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.
I was very impressed with Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel, The Crown, and I absolutely loved the follow-up, The Chalice. So I could not wait to get my hands on the final book in the Joanna Stafford trilogy, The Tapestry. It's hard to review books that are part of a series without giving away spoilers from the previous books, so forgive me if my plot recap is a bit vague and I focus more on my overall impressions.
The Tapestry differs from the previous books in several ways. There's not much of a mystery or mission in this book as there was in the others. Joanna is still in danger from an unknown enemy, but that danger stems from things she did in the past rather than what she's doing now. She's just trying to live her life, and though she is drawn back into Henry VIII's court once again, this time it's for a fairly benign and above-board purpose: creating a custom tapestry for the king and helping him inventory the extensive collection of tapestries he already has. So I figured that, since Joanna was now living at court again alongside her good friend Catherine Howard, she was going to somehow be embroiled in the Catherine Howard scandal and that I would get an inside view of this tragic queen's downfall at the hands of a gifted writer. But Joanna's journey ends up taking her far from the English court, and we learn about Catherine's alleged extracurricular activities and the fallout from them secondhand. That was a bit disappointing for me.
However, Joanna's journey through the Hapsburg empire to find her former fiance, Edmund, who she believes to be in great danger, did provide a welcome examination of what was going on across the Channel during Henry VIII's reign. And the fact that her traveling companion is her other former flame, constable Geoffrey Scovill, made for some wonderful emotional turmoil. I found the descriptions of political and religious divisions in Germany to be fascinating. Joanna travels through a land decimated by drought and famine, full of wary and unwelcoming people, where entire towns close their gates to outsiders and even the nobles are resorting to highway robbery to make ends meet. Her experiences and observations were eye-opening and served as a great contrast to the ignorant decadence of the English court. And Joanna's friendship with painter Hans Holbein was a pleasant addition to the story, as were the discussions of men who were challenging the commonly held assumptions of the church and scientific community, men like Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Copernicus.
The story is fast-paced and had me on the edge of my seat quite a bit as Joanna finds herself in one precarious situation after another. I blew through the pages to see how it would all shake out, but I have to say I felt like a major thread was left hanging: the prophecy that Joanna was supposed to be at the center of. It is an underlying theme of the first two books, but it fades away around the middle of this book and never makes a reappearance. And after such a build-up to find Edmund, I felt like their reunion was rather anti-climactic, and her decisions made at the end felt rushed. I wish I had been inside her head more at the end as she grappled with her conflicting emotions about faith, love, and marriage and the direction she wanted her life to take.
So overall, I have mixed feelings about this final installment in Joanna Stafford's series. It's an exciting read, and the historical detail is amazing, as always, and I was very pleased with Joanna's personal transformation and the final choices she made for her future, so the ending was extremely satisfying for me. But I couldn't help but feel like the overall story arc had some holes in it and a couple of underdeveloped plot points. But judging by the other early reviews, I am literally alone in my opinion on this, so don't take my word for it. This is a great series featuring a wonderfully unique protagonist in an environment that never lacks for drama and intrigue, and I recommend it to all lovers of Tudor fiction and historical mysteries.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
The Tapestry is on a blog tour!
To enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry,
please complete the giveaway form below.
Giveaway starts on March 16th at 12:01am EST and ends at 11:59pm EST on April 3rd.
Giveaway is open to residents in North American and the UK.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 4th and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Please email Amy @ firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.