Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

From the Back Cover:

“My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”

Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object from Alison’s past – it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.

But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…

My Thoughts:

I was drawn to this book for two reasons: one, that it features Mary Seymour, daughter of my favorite of Henry VIII's wives, and two, that it features time travel from the past to the future. From the very beginning, when Alison Bannister spotted Mary's newly discovered portrait in a gallery window (mistakenly identified as Anne Boleyn because of the initials on a box, which actually stand for Alison Banestre), I was hooked.

From there a delicious story unfolds of two poor orphaned girls of noble birth struggling to make lives of their own while being dependent upon the generosity of others--until Alison stumbles across a portal to the future. Both women are very well drawn and worthy protagonists: Mary, in the past, navigating the pitfalls of Tudor society and the ambitions of those who would use the dead queen's daughter for their own gain, and Alison in the present, desperately trying to find a way back to the past and the son she left behind yet increasingly finding herself torn between her new life and her old one. It was a joy to watch their lives unfold side by side yet separated by the centuries, and to watch Alison try to find the clues Mary left her. And, as a sucker for a good romance, it was also a joy to watch both women find love.

I was absolutely loving this book and couldn't put it down, but unfortunately I thought the resolution left a lot to be desired. While some things seemed to be too convenient, even "pat," if you will, others were too obscure. One storyline ends well, but the other was very unsatisfying. Actions that seemed very out of character led to tragedy, seemingly just for the sake of having a tragedy in the story. Also, a number of threads seemed to slip through the cracks. Hard to go into detail without spoiling anything, but foremost in my mind is why a certain character in the present day looked so much like a character in the past, yet the connection was never explored. And considering the Phantom Tree plays no role in the story, (and I had theories on what it would turn out to be and was disappointed), I don't know why it was chosen for the title.

Still, I was really loving it and felt sure this book was going to end up being a favorite until the ending left me feeling unsatisfied. And that's really the worst. But I am going to give it four stars because it was so good up until that point. And I do think it's worth a read for anyone who enjoys stories set in Tudor England, mysteries, and romance.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance digital copy received from the publisher via NetGalley, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, my review is voluntary and these are my honest and unbiased thoughts. I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. The story both history and time travel combined seems so good. Sorry the ending did not work for you.

    1. I've seen a few others voice a similar feeling, but plenty of others have loved it!


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