The Phantom Tree

Written by Nicola Cornick
Review by Lisa Redmond

Filled with romance, drama, mystery and intrigue, The Phantom Tree is Nicola Cornick’s follow up to the hugely popular House of Shadows, and once again the story is inspired by a real historical figure. The inspiration is Mary Seymour, daughter of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last queen, and her fourth husband Thomas Seymour. Mary disappeared from the historical record after her mother died in childbirth and her father was executed for treason. Nicola Cornick uses this mystery of Mary’s life and death to weave an exciting tale of secrets, treachery and time travel.

The modern-day protagonist, Alison, is wandering the streets of Marlborough when she sees a familiar face in a Tudor portrait. Although the shop owner is insistent that the portrait is of Anne Boleyn, Alison knows that it is Mary Seymour, and that it is a vital clue to finding out what happened to Mary and to Alison’s own son. The timeslip tale is narrated by Mary in the 16th century and Alison in the present day, and it is carefully handled as the secrets and stories twist and turn. With the help and occasional hindrance of handsome TV historian and writer Adam, Alison is determined to uncover Mary’s story. However, to do that she will eventually have to reveal her own secrets: her lost son; her chaotic childhood at Wolf Hall; and her real identity. The two narrative threads are carefully interwoven, and the story is a genuine page turner. It’s perfect for fans of Tracy Rees, Barbara Erskine, and Kate Riordan.