The Phantom Tree - Nicola Cornick
My Review - 5 Stars
"She had been waiting for five hundred years for news of her son."
The Phantom Tree is my kind of time travel novel! Now, please don't ask me about whether the particular mechanics of time travel as displayed in this story could actually work or not. It made enough sense to me so I went with it.
What really sold me on this story is that instead of a present day character traveling back to the past, we get a character from the past traveling to our present day. With this fascinating premise, we meet Alison Bannister who has been searching for a way to return to the 1550s and save her infant son Arthur ever since she emerged through a door to the present.
The years passed but Alison has not given up on hope. When she finds an old portrait of her cousin Mary Seymour, she's one step closer to figuring out how to return home. But at the same time, the portrait draws her back into the orbit of her ex-boyfriend Adam who believes the portrait is of Anne Boleyn. She can't be fully honest with him about what she knows and she needs his help to investigate. The story spills out from there and it kept me absolutely enthralled.
We get to see what happened to both Mary and Alison in the past, along with Alison's present day life. There were several twists and turns, including one big one I did not see at all coming. There was the perfect amount of mystery and intrigue as we try to learn what happened to Mary and baby Arthur. There's also the question of whether Alison can go back or if she should go back. After all, Arthur will no longer be a baby upon her return and she'll be a complete stranger to him. Not to mention, everyone at that time believed her to be a witch.
I really enjoyed seeing Past Alison compared to Present Alison. Present Alison sees a therapist and has a hard time trusting others with information about her personal life but she must risk opening up to the people closest to her in order to have a chance at finding Arthur. The insight into Mary Seymour's life was gripping and heart-wrenching. Women did not have an easy go of things at Wolf Hall, nor anywhere, really, in the 16th century.
I've never read anything by this author before but I was impressed with her writing. Gorgeous prose and impeccable plotting, backed up by excellent research. A thoroughly enjoyable and engaging read!
“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 subject 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. And Alison knows this because she, too, was in Wolf Hall...with Mary...in 1557.
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. But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbors secrets in its shadows...
A spellbinding tale for fans of Kate Morton, Philippa Gregory and Barbara Erskine by the bestselling author of House of Shadows.
Buy The Book Here:
Disclosure: I received an advance copy from Graydon House in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.