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The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

The Phantom Tree

by Nicola Cornick

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6110285,163 (4.13)7



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Another historical time-travel romance from Cornick, this time blending 16th century Elizabethan England with the present day. Intriguing and pleasant, but not remarkable. A good, relaxing read. ( )
  patriciau | Dec 27, 2018 |
I received this book as an early release. I love historical fiction, but I didn’t love this book. It was kind of hodge lodge to me and at points I got lost on where the story was going. It was a light read. I liked the time traveling part, but I think it was kind of confusing at times. ( )
  Bethgarvinloflin1 | Dec 18, 2018 |
In present day Wiltshire, England Alison Bannister sees a portrait that catches her eye. The portrait has been recently authenticated to be of Anne Boleyn, however Alison knows better. It is of her friend, Mary Seymour and the portrait contains precious clues that Mary left for Alison in order to find her son. Mary and Alison grew up together, castoffs of Wolf Hall under the care of their cousin Edward. After becoming pregnant and being forced to give up her child, Alison runs away with plans to set up a home and bring Arthur there. Though, the place Alison has found is a portal into the future and for 10 years she has not been able to find out how to return to her own time.

Exciting and engaging with strokes of magic and fantasy, Nicola Cornick's The Phantom Tree reimagines the little known life of Katherine Parr's daughter, Mary Seymour and gives her an enchanted but tragic life with a time-traveling best friend. From the time Alison sees Mary's portrait, I was hooked on the mystery surrounding her life. The point of view shifts back and forth between Alison and Mary's life in the 16th century and Alison's life in the present. I was amazed at how well Alison was able to adapt as well as intrigued by the series of clues left for her by Mary. Alison and Mary's characters are painted as opposites, Alison is wild, resourceful and cunning, Mary is careful and quiet in order to keep the secret that she sees visions of the future. Between the the women, there is a full picture of what life was like for a woman in the 16th century who did not have a male figure to provide for them. The writing easily transported me to both centuries and I could envision Wolf Hall and Middlecote as well as Alison's modern flat and the portrait of Mary. Historical fiction rolled up with fantasy, romance and time travel provides for a well-rounded, fast-paced entrancing read. I'll definitely be looking for more from this author.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. ( )
  Mishker | Aug 29, 2018 |
This book was definitely different than the norm. It is historical fiction with a twist of time travel.

There are alternating time lines with Alison Bannister in the present and Alison and Mary Seymour in the sixteenth century. Though they did not consider themselves friends, Mary needed Alison to help her escape, while Alison needs Mary to help her find her son. And upon reflection, perhaps Alison did not dislike Mary as much as she thought she did. The life of Mary Seymour has always been a mystery as she disappeared from historical records when she was only two years old. This unique twist to Tudor history allows Mary to reach across the separation of time to communicate with Alison.

I have only recently developed a mild interest in the royalty of the House of Tudor. I enjoyed Cornick’s descriptions of how life may have been in that time period. Cornick’s passion for the Tudor era is apparent in her writing. The historical portion of the book contains beautiful descriptions of the Tudor era. When caught is circumstances beyond their control, Alison and Mary are fiery and strong. The modern day Alison is nothing like the historical version of herself.

As a fantasy, Mary’s fictional “visions” naturally led to some believing she may have been a witch. As a child she could not control her supernatural abilities. Then as an adult she had to hide them, and lived in fear of being exposed. But whether in the fantasy portion of the book or the historical portion, Mary “steals the show”. The story really revolves around her.

I feel the work tried to straddle two genres – and it didn’t work. It could have been an amazing piece of historical fiction. The story of Mary trying to hide her powers and dealing with affairs of the heart written in Cornick’s beautiful style would have been phenomenal. But the fantasy aspect just did not, in my opinion, work here. I was left wondering about Alison’s adjustment to a place and time totally foreign to her. There is no attempt to explain the time travel, and that just left a glaring hole for me. In fact, the entire present day portion of the story felt too forced and flat. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Aug 20, 2018 |
The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick
Source: Netgalley
My rating: 5/5 stars

Y’all know I’m not the biggest fan of time travel books, but there is just something about the way Nicola Cornick puts it all together that just sucks me in and creates a great sense of pleasure. Here’s the skinny on The Phantom Tree:

Premise: The entirety of this book revolves around Alison Bannister trying to discover the fate of her infant son who was taken from her more than 400 years ago. Inexplicably, Alison is a time traveler who just so happens to be stuck in the 21st century. With no means (yet!) of getting back to the 16th century, Alison has dedicated her present life to tracing history in the hopes of discovering what became of her beloved son.

Characters: The Phantom Tree is filled with a wide range of characters from both the 16th and 21st centuries with the emphasis being on Alison and Mary Seymour. As children, Alison and Mary were certainly acquainted with one another, but not exactly friends. Until Alison loses her son, she has little interest in the younger Mary. It is only after her son is taken and Alison realizes Mary can help her, that Alison has the time for or an interest in Mary. While 16th century Alison isn’t easy to like, 21st Alison is a bit more palatable. On the other hand, Mary Seymour, with her royal lineage and “gifts” is likeable from start to finish. Mary’s story plays out alongside Alison’s and the two are, from beginning to end, entangled. The entanglement, in many ways drives each character, for better or worse, and informs their actions and decisions. Each character, even those beyond Alison and Mary are full-bodied, engaging figures who hold the reader’s interest. More than one character has a secret which makes them far, far more interesting.

Pacing: I must admit, The Phantom Tree is a bit of a slow starter, but once it gets going, it moves like the wind. In fairness to the author, there is a great deal of ground work and backstory which must be established before the “real” work can begin. It is critical to the overall plot and the characters to understand their history, their place in one another’s lives. Getting through all that information takes time and made the first part of the read a bit slower in its pacing. With that being said, once the personalities, the problems, and the histories are dealt with, the pacing picks up considerably and the last part of the book seems to fly by.

Surprises: Yeah, this book has a surprise or two up its sleeve 😊 From characters to plot twists, The Phantom Tree holds secrets that can only be uncovered by reading every last word and page. There are a few things and people who really did take me by surprise, and I like knowing, even after all the books I have read, an author can still surprise me.

The Bottom Line: Far and away, my favorite part of The Phantom Tree are the chapters set in the 16th century. I’m just such a huge fan of well-written historical fiction, and Nicola Cornick understands what it takes to bring the past to life for a reader. Though there isn’t much, historically speaking, related to Mary Seymour, she comes alive in this book and ties everything, past and present together. Mary provides a backdrop for Alison’s quest, an anchor in time which drives Alison’s inquiries. With every new detail related to Mary revealed, Alison comes one step closer to solving the mystery of her lost son. As I said, the two women are entangled, and it is this entanglement that provides so much enjoyment. Apart from the slow start, I found no fault with this book. In fact, once I hit the half-way mark, I couldn’t put this book down. There is something for everyone here, but The Phantom Tree will especially appeal to lovers of historical fiction. ( )
  arthistorychick | Jun 20, 2018 |
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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 for Alison ? it holds the key to a past life, the unlocking of 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?.… (more)

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