A great series is similar to the life of a plant; a seed is planted, it buds and grows, it produces flowers or fruit. It takes a lot of work to get a little seed to that final stage of a beautiful flowering plant, but the enjoyment that mature plant brings is worth the effort. Unfortunately, Black Crown never made it to that place of enjoyment for the reader.
Black Crown, the collaborative effort of Raye Wagner and Kelly St. Clair, is the 3rd and final book in the Darkest Drae series. The seeds for this tale were planted in Book 1 Darkest Drae, a captivating submersion into the fantasy realm of Verald that is ruled by ruthless leaders and terrorized by the feared and ferocious Drae, Irrik. Ryn, a teenage girl who survives the murder of her mother only to be brutalized and tortured discovers her hidden powers as Drae and Phaetyn, a being who can make plants grow. Her unlikely knight in shining armor is Irrik, who with Ryn’s help is able to break the evil king’s curse and return to his true self, Tyrrik. This was a great introductory book that germinated both a compelling storyline and interesting characters. While Ryn is young and insecure, which is reinforced through her internal monologue, it is understandable considering the vicious physical and psychological torture, almost graphic enough not to be YA, that she has endured.
However, she does not seem to mature as the series progresses. Book 2, Shadow Wings, should have been a seedling time, a period where the story’s roots develop and spread and the character undergoes a period of rapid growth. While intellectually Ryn realizes the responsibility she shoulders in defeating the Emporer Drae by finding and restoring the lost Phaetyn as means of defeating him, personally her outlook and interactions do not undergo rapid growth because of this knowledge. It is also during this time that she figures out that the unbelievably powerful, attractive, and knowledgeable Tyrrik is her mate but she is too naive, inexperienced, and insecure to act on it. Instead, we are fatigued by Ryn’s constant internal battle over the relationship being played out in her head.
Black Crown should have produced a flowering of the main characters and a ripening of the plot. Instead, Ryn and the story seemed to wither with each page. The story felt rushed and disconnected with things that just didn’t seem to fit and the ending was anticlimactic. Even that could have been overlooked if Ryn’s connection to Tyrrik had blossomed into a beautiful and mature relationship. Sadly, it was the same Ryn, with her overuse of certain catch phrases and inability to engage in a mature relationship of two equally strong partners, and a now weaker Tyrrik who seemed to appease her at every turn. While teens, with a more limited exposure to great fantasy stories and couples, may find this pleasant; for me Dark Crown was no Garden of Eden.