Holly Ansell rushes back to her family cabin, an old mill on the grounds of the former Ashdown estate, when she learns her brother Ben is missing. In trying to discover his whereabouts, Holly learns of the family research project Ben was undertaking. He was particularly interested in Ashdown’s connection to the “Winter Queen”, Elizabeth Stuart.
Elizabeth (born in 1596) was the daughter of James I and VI and Anne of Denmark. She married Frederick of Bohemia, who eventually lost his crown in battle. Frederick tried, in vain, to regain his throne, but it was only after Frederick’s death that Elizabeth and Frederick’s son Charles Louis accomplishes that feat. Elizabeth remained in exile at The Hague, returning to England with (in this fictional account) her loyal chevalier and eventual husband Lord Craven. The house Craven builds for his royal wife is Ashdown House.
Holly traces Ben’s research steps to connect Elizabeth, Ashdown House, and their connections to their family in the hopes of locating Ben. Instead, Holly discovers the mysterious drop pearl and crystal mirror, their association to the Winter Queen, snippets of who came in contact with the objects in the intervening years, and how those cursed items changed the fates of all who came into contact with them.
Magic, mystery, history, and lore combined into one narrative, this book stumbles a bit due to its many parallel plot threads that never quiet connect. The historical plot lines (Elizabeth’s in the 17th century and another thread in the early 19th) seem rather forced and sometimes fail to gel. Holly in the modern parallel does a decent job at pulling the threads together, but she as a character, seems hollow. She never truly grieves for her missing brother; we know she sees visions but those are never fully explained; and her romance with Mark feels more convenient than vivid.
There are many great components here. Like instruments in an orchestra, each individual piece is engaging. Playing as one, however, this symphony feels slightly off key. Instead, I would recommend Ms. Cornick’s “The Phantom Tree” over this novel. A review of that book may be found here.
Amazon link is here.