Rachel Higginson’s inaugural book, Crown of One Hundred Kings, of the Nine Kingdoms Trilogy is a coming of age, young adult fantasy set in a medieval-like world. After the brutal murder of the royal family, young princess Tessana Alisand is spirited away by a benevolent monk to an isolated abbey to be raised and educated among the silent order. Tessa is content with her spartan existence and days full of work and study until she nears her 17 birthday when she starts having terrifying nightmares of her past, which she had pushed to the recesses of her mind. She is know confronted with the knowledge of who she is and a pull to return home and deliver the crown of a hundred kings, which the monk had secreted away with Tessana, to sit on the head of its rightful heir. To do so she must set out on a long and dangerous journey.
Crown of One Hundred Kings has the makings of an interesting story but fell short of expectations because of characters and their interactions not being believable, even for a fantasy. The idea that a young, naïve teen would be bound and determined to trek across dangerous lands with no understanding of the threats she might face or how she would expect to be received in the kingdom that murdered her family, seems far-fetched to say the least. Also, Tessa is supposed to be this down to earth, humble girl because of her upbringing but she frequently comes across as a spoiled princess. Of course she also just happens to stumble upon a group of rebels led by a handsome “Prince” who has ties to her past. Their attraction feels forced and the development of their relationship seems canned. The characters and relationship dynamics is very disappointing since Rachel Higginson is one of my favorite authors and so well-known for her contemporary romances.
I will say that Crown of One Hundred Kings is still worth reading. Rachel’s writing flows effortlessly from page to page with a mentally captivating mix of description and action. The storyline definitely grabs you after Tessana makes it to the capital and she begins to stake her claim as heir to the throne. The ending leaves you with a perfectly balanced cliff hanger; enough suspense to make you want to read the next book and enough conclusion to wait until it comes out. As of this review there is no information on the release of book 2.