The Phantom Tree
by Nicola Cornick
Release date: August 21st, 2018
“A fantastically plotted, intriguing, mysterious and well told time travel novel with evolving, strong, yet relatable characters…. “
This is my first time reading Nicola Cornick’s work and I have to say I have become a fan. Being a student of history and archaeology, I was drawn in by The Phantom Tree. A fantastically plotted, intriguing, mysterious and well told time travel novel with evolving, strong, yet relatable characters, it keeps you turning pages until the end.
Set in present-day London, bouncing back to mid 16th Century Wiltshire England, the author introduces us two girls Alison Banestre and Mary Seymour, both cousins, forced to live with relatives at Wolf Hall for different reasons. The two girls, forced to share a room, tolerate each other. The two girls could not be more different in personalities, an older Alison is wiser, bolder, rebellious and exudes a cold indifferent attitude. Mary is sensitive, introverted, naïve and prone to visions and hearing voices. Although cold and indifferent towards her, Mary decides to cover for Alison when she slips out for a romantic interlude with her lover. Alison’s’ interludes with her rich and well established distant cousin Edward, result in Alison becoming pregnant. After giving birth, Alison has her son Arthur taken away and is discarded by her lover, forcing her to return to Wolf Hall. Upon her return Mary notices Alison has changed, the girls still not quite friends seem to bond over their loneliness and despair. Alison discovers a time portal at an Inn in Wiltshire and hatches a plan to go into the future to establish herself then return for her son. Upon returning to her time Alison tries unsuccessfully to find where and with whom her son has been placed but to no avail.
Not long after in one of Mary’s visions, she foresees the death of one of Wolf Hall’s servants and when it occurs she is painted as a witch. In order to protect the girls, Alison arranges for her and Mary to be shipped to live with another cousin at Middlecote House but en route Alison arranges to secretly escape and go to the future. Right before leaving Mary in the carriage she makes Mary promise to find a way to let her know what happened to her son. When Alison attempts to return she finds the time slip is gone and she is stuck in the future.
While Mary endures her life at Middlecote with her cousins, one being an opportunistic and vile male cousin bent on finding fame and fortune by whatever means possible, Alison forges her way in modern day London. Alison goes into care, graduates college has an unsuccessful relationship yet manages to carve out a life for herself, independent with a good job and home. Alison is determined one day to get back to Wiltshire to retrieve her son but has no information to go on. While passing a Wiltshire gallery Allison is shocked to notice a portrait of Mary Seymour mislabeled as Anne Boleyn on display in the front window. While Alison is shocked she stares at the portrait realizing it is rife with clues as to what happened to Arthur. Her ex, Adam a successful archaeologist and TV Historian is connected to the show and when Alison corrects him of his error he reluctantly helps her as she begins to unravel the clues that will tell her what happened to Arthur and Mary.
A bittersweet emotional roller-coaster, I would highly recommend The Phantom Tree to anyone looking for a fantastic time travel novel that balances mystery, romance and drama. Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series might be interested in giving this a try.