Title: The Crimson Crown
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
Synopsis: A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed-Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.
Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana’Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells’ inner turmoil, Raisa’s best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she’s falling in love.
Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?
Check out this book’s Goodreads page!
If I were to describe this series in one sentence, I would say that it’s a compelling high-fantasy with a complex plot, unlikely heroes and a romance that will go down in history as one of the best. And I would be leaving so much out in this description. I would be leaving out the sheer brilliance of Chima’s writing. I would be leaving out how there are multiple facets to the story, including power struggles, complicated heritages, civil war, prejudice, classism, unrequited crushes. Betrayals, loyalties, sacrifices, friendship. This series has it all and more.
I went into this last installment with pretty high hopes, considering that it has great reviews on Goodreads. I was expecting an epic finale on a grand scale. Maybe some shocking deaths. Maybe an open ending. Because you might know: I like my endings dirty and rough. I don’t like clean endings. And if I’m honest about my feelings for this series’s ending, I would say that I’m not too happy. This series is epic, and it had the potential to end with a bang. There was no “bang.” There was a spark, and we were eased into the ending. And this is just personal preference, but I don’t enjoy sparks.
I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied at the turn of the last page. BUT. The very end is the only thing wrong with this book. Because up until the end, this book was freaking amazing. Our characters were put into difficult situations. I was on the edge of my seat constantly, because I didn’t know who was alive, what was going on, who was going to win. There were multiple things going on, what with Raisa having newly ascended the throne. There are power struggles and tensions with the southern kingdoms. Raisa’s marriage is in question, and her friendship with Han Alister is under scrutiny. And wizards are dying left and right, and everyone thinks it’s Han, so their romance is tenser than ever.
It was exciting. Everything hangs by a thread, and if you make one wrong move, it’ll collapse. Fast-paced, intriguing and brilliantly structured.
The characters are some of the best I’ve ever read. Anyone knows that I love Han and Raisa. Han is such an unlikely hero: an ex-criminal, a thief and murderer on the path of redemption. Raisa, a strong, powerful young woman who will do anything for her queendom. But the secondary characters shined in this book. Dancer was amazing in this. Even Micah Bayar, who I pretty much hated throughout the series got a different layer to his personality.
I also appreciate how the elders actually have a role in this series. Because what is up with all the YA books where grown-ups do nothing but cry?
And I don’t have enough words of praise for Chima’s writing. I think she’s the best author I’ve read this year, and I’ve read a lot of great authors. The sheer control she has over her language astounds me. She weaves her words with the utmost care; there isn’t a single misplaced sentence there. Everything serves a purpose. Her world-building, her dialogue, her scenes – it’s all fantastic, and I can’t wait to read more by this woman.
Overall, this series is brilliant. I think it can easily be placed among the best YA fantasies of all-time, and it can make its way into the adult fantasy genre as well. However, the very end (i.e. the last 150 pages of this book) fell a bit flat for me which forced me into giving this a lower rating than I initially intended. But go read it. Highly recommend!