In The Barbed Crown by William Dietrich, we follow his erstwhile protagonist and adventurer Ethan Gage as he tries to find peace after the death of his beloved wife, and escape the clutches of the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. His anger and despair drive him to try and become the catalyst in the destruction of the new regime. Having fought beside the man himself, in Egypt, and being a part of his agency in Italy, America and Greece, Gage now finds he is ready to turn on him, blaming him for the death of his wife as well as the kidnapping of his son.
Backed by the British, Gage is smuggled into France with Astiza where they plan to make of mockery of Napoleon during his coronation by substituting his crown with that of the Crown of Thorns, the religious relic rumored to be worn by Christ during his crucifixion. When the plan does not play out as planned, Astiza is captured and Gage is left to flee to England where he is again a part of the plot to stop Napoleon before it is too late.
The history and pageantry is interesting, and beautiful as well as fiery and dangerous. The characters are interesting, and the mix of fiction and fact is smooth, making you wonder of much of the interplay actually may have happened. Gage is an intriguing protagonist, one who could do a lot of damage to Napoleon’s crusade.
If you are a history buff you will enjoy and appreciate the intricacies of the dialogue and scenes, mixed with fact which seems to accompany the action. While I really enjoyed the character of Gage, I felt as though the action was sometimes a bit slow, bogging down my enjoyment of the story. The sabotage and danger keep you going, and the glory casts a hook that keeps reeling you in. The mystery and suspense is a great web, creating a line of deceit, and surprises that keep the entertainment of the times just a bit of kilter.
Dietrich has given us another look into European history with the exploits of his character Gage with his thirst for knowledge and his determination to make things right.