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The Barbed Crown: An Ethan Gage Adventure    by William Dietrich order for
Barbed Crown
by William Dietrich
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Barbed Crown is the sixth (following The Emerald Storm) in the lighthearted historical series starring womanizing, treasure-hunting American adventurer Ethan Gage. Previous over the top episodes have taken him to Napoleonic France, Egypt, Jerusalem, North America, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. The Barbed Crown pulls him back into Napoleon's magnetic orbit in France.

This time, Gage is out for revenge against the Emperor for the loss of his beloved wife Astiza. Leaving his small son Harry in England, he sets out for France in the company of a beautiful green-eyed Royalist spy, Comtesse Catherine Marceau. As always in a Gage thriller there are unexpected reunions, betrayals, captures and escapes, and a legendary treasure, this time the Crown of Thorns, said to date from the Crucifixion. Gage hopes to use it to sabotage Napoleon's coronation. As often happens, his plan is foiled and he finds himself in odd company as he flees.

Napoleon has tasked him with finding Albertus Magnus's 'medieval automaton'. But first he returns to England, where he's ordered to sail newly invented torpedoes into the French fleet and stop its invasion of England. In return, he'll win passage to Venice to seek out his family. Gage meets Admiral Nelson and his mistress Emma Hamilton before he sets out. Yet another betrayal leaves him sailing with the French fleet, right into the Battle of Trafalgar. He's just not very lucky!

After a series of increasingly unfortunate events, this episode ends with the consistently manipulated Gage's stealing a boat - 'The puppet had cut his strings.' Though the series is becoming somewhat of a formula (femmes fatales, spying for all sides, betrayals, captures, escapes, ancient treasures, with noteworthy historical figures thrown in for good measure) it's one that I and many other fans enjoy. I look forward to the next Ethan Gage adventure.

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