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The Crown Rose
Fiona Avery
Pyr Books, 455 pages

The Crown Rose
Fiona Avery
Fiona Avery is a writer working in Los Angeles, California. She received her degree in Cultural Anthropology from Indiana University at Bloomington. Her television credits include work on Babylon 5, Crusade and Earth: Final Conflict. Avery has also written for comics such as Spider-Man, Tomb Raider, Rising Stars, Witchblade and X-Men. Her short story "Luring the Tiger Out of the Mountains," earned an honorable mention in The Year's Best Science Fiction.

Fiona Avery Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

The Crown Rose appears, in many ways, to be a straight historical novel about Isabelle of France and her family, yet Fiona Avery successfully manages to weave threads of mystery and fantasy into the work in a manner which intrigues the reader without asking the reader to suspend their disbelief too far.

Avery clearly has a deep understanding of the Mediaeval period as well as a love for the time. She carefully paints a Paris which is small, crowded, and intimate. The people are aware of the royalty living in their midst and accept them as their own. At the same time, while King Louis and his family wield tremendous power, they are constrained by other forces, most notably the Church and their need for ready cash, a constant irritant for Mediaeval kings. This allows Avery to introduce her villain, Pierre Mauclerc.

Unfortunately, Mauclerc is the weak link in the novel. His interactions with the royal families, from Louis, to whom he loans great sums on behalf of the Knights Templar, to Isabelle, for whom he has a practically irrational unrequited love, give him the appearance of a melodramatic villain, twirling his moustache as he plots how to tie the heroine to the railroad tracks or the saw mill. This is a pity, because otherwise, characterization is one of Avery's strong suits.

Too many fantasy novels set in the Mediaeval period portray characters, particularly female characters, as twenty-first century people somehow transported to a different time period. While this may work for novels like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, if the characters are indigenous to their period, they should espouse the mores of that period. For the most part, Avery succeeds with the characters in The Crown Rose. Her characters are generally products of the period in which they grew to maturity. If Isabelle is a little too independent, Avery manages to provide a context for that independence.

Against the background of court intrigue and warfare, Avery introduces two sets of characters with their own mysteries. The Sister of the Rose are an apparently unaging order of protectors for Queen Blanche and her royal children. Later, the equally mysterious Jean Adaret Benariel works his way into the confidences of the royal family despite being a complete enigma. It is a testament to Avery's ability as a writer that the more she reveals of the Sisters and Benariel, the deeper their mystery becomes and the more the reader wants to learn what secrets they each are hiding.

At a time when historical fantasy either means a fantasy world which minor bits of history woven into it in haphazard ways, or an historical world visited by people with modern sensibilities through fantastic means, The Crown Rose is a welcome novel which focuses on the history of the times and the people to tell a great tale with bits of fantasy woven into it in meaningful ways.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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