All of the books I have reviewed lately have had an overarching political or gritty real-world centered message, so it was a nice break to dive into a fantasy novel. The Frozen Crown is the perfect exemplar of its genre, featuring a vividly built world of magic and royal intrigue, romance, and characters that are so flawed you can’t help but root for them. Naturally, it ends with a nail-biting cliff hanger, as so many fantasies do, with a trail of (presumably) dead bodies, and separated love interests.
I find fantasies hard to give 5-star ratings to, but this was an exception to the rule, due to it’s originality and fast moving plot. The witches of Greta Kelly’s world can practice only one type of magic a piece, for example some can discern truths from lies, some can heal…and only one can see and commune with the dead, Princess Askia of Seravesh. An additional layer of intrigue is added to the story when it is revealed that how witches are seen varies from empire to empire, and person to person, making it difficult for Princess Askia to know who she can trust. Some support and revere the witches, while others would like to wipe them out, viewing them as unnatural abominations to religious beliefs. Enter the villain of the story, who much to the dismay of the religious sect seeking to destroy witches, has found a way to create more witches. These witches are beholden to him, as part of his quest for world domination. Naturally, as part of that quest, he would like to gain control of Askia and her powers, since commanding an army of the dead would make him unstoppable. And just as naturally, Askia is not amenable to this desire, leading her to run into the arms of the rival empire, in an attempt to save herself, and her kingdom. This sets up several love arcs, putting Askia’s somewhat frozen heart on display, as she makes clear that she will do what she must to save her people, even if it means ignoring her own desires and making a politically advantageous marriage instead. The plot moves quickly as she maneuvers her way through a foreign court, attempting to win allies to her cause, and to hone her magic into a weapon that she can use to save Seravesh.
The action in The Frozen Crown is almost non-stop, making it hard to put down once you get started. There is sword fighting, battles of wit, and magical sparring, interspersed with a few searing kisses and emotionally charged exchanges, making it a truly riveting read. At the end, Askia is left in true peril, with her prospects for survival looking bleak…leaving me to wait with baited breath for the conclusion to this duology.