Crownbreaker

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Spellslinger | Shadowblack | Charmcaster | Soulbinder | Queenslayer

Crownbreaker was written by Sebastien de Castell and first published in 2019. It is the final part of the Spellslinger series, following Kellen and Reichis in their most dangerous adventure yet. As this novel follows on from where Spellslinger (2017), Shadowblack (2017), Charmcaster (2018), Soulbinder (2018) and Queenslayer (2019) left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence in order to fully appreciate them.

Kellen has spent a year in the Daroman Court as Queen Ginevra’s Tutor of Cards, but has still found many ways to get into trouble. Even though his profession offers him a degree of protection, the Mage Lords of the Jan’Tep are still keen to see him dead. However, he is forced to return to his ancestral home after he makes a shocking discovery. His mother, Bene’maat, has been killed while on a secret mission to Berabesq.

Returning home for the funeral, Kellen is forced to confront his past and reconcile with the family members that permanently removed his magic. However, as he formally meets with both Ke’heops and Ginevra, he starts to realise that the political situation across Eldrasia is at a perilous turning point. In the capital of Berabesq, a figure has emerged who claims to be their God. This deity has begun to unify the warring factions of devouts, and it’s not long before he will have an army powerful enough to take over the other kingdoms.

As an unaligned outlaw, both Ke’heops and Ginevra believe that Kellen should be the one to infiltrate the city of Makhan Mebab and assassinate God. Kellen is understandably reluctant, especially as he knows that God is only a child and his actions will certainly put a price on his head. However, when it becomes clear that Ferius is suffering from the same affliction that killed his mother, he realises that his only chance to save her is potentially in this god’s hands…

Although my feelings towards the Spellslinger series have been mixed at best, I did feel morally obliged to actually finish reading it as I’ve gotten this far. Unfortunately, as with many of the previous books, I was left a bit on the fence as how I felt about this one. While Crownbreaker wasn’t as weak as the likes of Shadowblack and Soulbinder, it was still an underwhelming send off for Kellen and Reichis.

Despite how the blurb makes Crownbreaker sound, the story isn’t really about Kellen’s mission to assassinate a god. While the previous instalments of the Spellslinger series have been very fast-paced, this one is oddly slow to find its feet. It takes over 80 pages before the Berabesq God is first mentioned, and over 260 pages before Kellen arrives in Mekhan Mebab. While the plot does rapidly pick up steam after this point, it felt like a bit of a strange waste of a final novel to spend over half of the book moving the protagonist into position for his final adventure.

Yet, it is what bookends the God sub-plot that seems to be the true point of Crownbreaker. This book heralds the return of almost every surviving character from the previous instalments and therefore presents a unique opportunity for Kellen to interact with them for one last time. Through this, Kellen starts to see how his previous actions have subtly changed the political structure of the world. Although virtually all of Crownbreaker is spent in dialogue, the best thing about it is how the pieces all do finally slot together. In this book, Kellen finally learns what his father’s plan is and begins to understand the true purpose that the Argosi serve.

While I was disappointed about how insignificant God turned out to be (this plot point was quickly shoved into the background to make way for the climax), the final 100 pages of Crownbreaker were where things truly got interesting. The pacing of the novel suddenly shifted into gear as Kellen finally got his long-awaited duel with Ke’heops. While this was probably one of the best written fight sequences in the series, and certainly showed off the full array of Kellen’s skills, I did feel that the novel lost something once this had passed.

The final few chapters of Crownbreaker rapidly tied up every loose end of the series, explaining away some really important plot points (including why Kellen was banded with the Shadowblack in the first place) in a matter that was not entirely satisfying. While it was nice that this final book did offer such closure, it still frustrated me that virtually all of this occurred off-page and in Kellen’s absence, only to be related back to him later.

In terms of characterisation, I was also left feeling underwhelmed. While it was nice to see so many old characters return – particularly Ferius whose absence has been sorely felt in the last few books – it only really drew my attention to how little any of them have grown. For all his tricks, Kellen does not really seem to have learned much in these six books. He still just comes across as a Gary Stu – attractive to all women, incredibly self-depreciating, and able to best everyone in combat despite claiming to be weak. The closing chapter also leaves a lot of aspects of his character unresolved. Will he ever get any of his magic back? Will the Shadowblack consume him? What on Earth are the functions of all of the castradazi coins? I suppose these are all things that the reader must decide for themselves.

The only character that I thought was treated particularly well by Crownbreaker was Ke’heops. The Mage Lord got a lot of development over the course of this novel. While he is still very much the villain, it was great to finally get a glimpse into his head and understand just how complex his feelings towards his family where. As Ke’heops reveals the motivation behind everything he has done, it suddenly all makes a lot more sense and his eventual showdown with Kellen was incredibly cathartic.

So, all in all, I felt that Crownbreaker was a bit of a mixed bag. If you enjoyed the previous instalments, chances are that you will probably enjoy this too. Personally, I felt that Spellslinger showed a lot of promise but none of the following books have really lived up to this. On the whole, this isn’t really a fantasy series that I would recommend.

Crownbreaker can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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