The Barbed Crown Review
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You most likely have some kind of vague recollection of studying Napoleon’s rise and fall in some long-ago history class. But in his latest Ethan Gage spy thriller, The Barbed Crown, author William Dietrich makes that particular moment in history jump right off the page.

The Barbed Crown joins American adventurer Gage as he begins a mission to avenge his wife’s death. He’s been told that his former comrade, Napoleon, is to blame for his wife’s death and his son’s kidnapping—so he travels to Paris with a beautiful young spy to get his revenge. Once he reaches France, however, he’s reunited with his wife—who somehow survived being swept away by a hurricane and is ready to join the attack on Napoleon.

Once settled in Paris, the spies discover that their mission is far from straightforward. And when Ethan is discovered by the French and brought in for questioning, their adventure takes an intriguing twist.

Throughout this action-packed spy thriller, the wily American finds himself on mission after harrowing mission, working for whichever country poses the greatest threat to his family or offers the greatest reward. The action takes a while to build, as Ethan and his family try to keep a low profile in Paris, but the story soon takes one unexpected twist after another as they find themselves surrounded by double, triple, and quadruple agents. No one in this story is quite as he or she claims to be—and the characters’ secrets and lies are sure to keep you guessing from beginning to end. You’ll never really know which characters are trustworthy and which have their own hidden agendas—and even Ethan rarely knows which side he’s on.

Meanwhile, the historical setting makes Ethan’s adventures all the more exciting. We’ve all heard of Napoleon, but it’s unlikely that he ever came to life on the pages of your high school history text book like he does here. He’s a fascinating historical figure—and Ethan’s encounters with the self-appointed emperor (as well as with Britain’s legendary Admiral Nelson) help to ground the story a bit.

As a whole, though, the story feels more like a series of short adventures than a cohesive novel. There’s no real beginning, middle, or end to the story—just a chain of events that lead into one another. The action seems to begin in the middle of one adventure—and when you come to the last page, you’ll find that very little has been resolved.

The lack of resolution is definitely frustrating, but The Barbed Crown is still a thrilling historical spy novel. Ethan is an intriguing character, and you’ll enjoy following along on this twisting, turning adventure through history.

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