The Barbed Crown by William Dietrich

William Dietrich has blessed us with another book in his series about fictional character Nathan Gage. Since the initial book in the series, I have loved Dietrich’s books. His latest book, The Barbed Crown: An Ethan Gage Adventure, is set almost entirely in Europe (a first for the series).

Here is a brief description of the book’s plot from the publisher:

In this latest adventure by New York Times bestselling author William Dietrich, Ethan Gage is out to foil Napoleon’s coronation as emperor, play double agent between France and England, and turn the tide of war—while attempting to save his own life and his marriage.

Gage fought beside Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt and was his agent in Italy, America, and Greece. But this relationship, which at the best of times was uneasy, has gone sour, and now Ethan wants to make Napoleon pay for kidnapping his son, Harry, and nearly killing his wife, Astiza.

Smuggled into France with a beautiful royalist agent, Gage is determined to thwart Bonaparte’s ambitions to take Europe. Surprises abound as a conspiracy collapses, Astiza reappears at Gage’s side, and agents on all fronts try to recruit Ethan to their cause. Desperate, he devises a mad plan to sabotage Napoleon’s coronation by replacing the power-hungry emperor’s crown of golden laurel with a religious relic—the Crown of Thorns purportedly worn by Christ at his crucifixion. It is a scheme that requires a daring theft, perfect timing, and trust among the plotters; when it goes awry, Gage is soon on the run to England.

There Ethan joins a circle of brilliant renegades, including Robert Fulton, designer of the first submarine; rocket artillery pioneer Sir William Congreve; and smuggler Tom Johnstone. As two empires face off at sea, Gage is plunged into the decisive and lethal Battle of Trafalgar, trapped on board a French ship as Nelson’s Victory bears down on him.

As with the other books in the series, this one is fraught with many plot turns and deceitful characters. No matter how many times Gage gets burned by a beautiful woman, he seems to never learn to be cautious around them. This book is no exception to that rule.

Although it is hard to believe that one man could be an eyewitness to so many historical events (i.e. Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile) or meet so many historical characters (i.e. Napoleon, British spy Harry Smith, and Admiral Nelson to name a few), Dietrich makes it all believable. Gage’s adventures seem to blend into one great story after another.

Dietrich also creates such an engaging, buffoonish, clever character in Gage that you cannot help but like him. For a character that is so not trusted by the British or French, Gage finds himself working for both sides – his only loyalty is to his family and his country.

The Barbed Crown is another example of William Dietrich’s excellent skill in writing a great story.


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