Sunday, 1 April 2018

Book Review: Cruel Crown

After loving Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, it felt completely necessary to read this book. Although it is not a part of the series, it is an added extra; two short novellas, to be read alongside the main series. Generally, I’m not a fan of short stories, but I had so many unanswered questions (plus I was waiting for the second in the series to arrive) that I decided to throw away the rule book and give this book the benefit of the doubt. Split into two parts, it was an opportunity to understand a little more about the world through two very different narrators; it was a welcome contrast to Mare’s narration throughout Red Queen. The first and shortest of the two stories was narrated by Queen Coriane; allowing for the reader to understand further her engagement and eventual marriage to King Tiberias, as well as her own story; her shyness, her friendship with Sara and her brother Julian. Coriane writes her thoughts and feelings down in a Diary, constantly terrified of other people being inside of her mind, reading her thoughts and controlling her actions. Queen Song was beautifully written; definitely my favourite of the two stories but it explained so much about Court life, her feelings for Sara, Julian, Cal and Tibe, as well as her unhappiness with being Queen of Norta due to the amount of court women that openly despised her and wanted her crown.

The main reason I enjoyed Queen Song was because it read as more of a stand alone story, not simply a novella. This was due to Coriane being deceased in Red Queen, so she came across as a new character, rather than a shadow of a character. Although she is a character that is mentioned a fair amount, it was interesting to see the world from her perspective; I would never have guessed how much she despised court life, or how much Elara made her life a misery. It was also nice to understand more about the status within Blood Status; as Coriane may be Silver, but her House of Jacos is not one of those famed for riches, bravery or anything in particular. Even her power isn’t the most interesting or strong, so many of the other women at court actively make her life difficult. All in all, Coriane is both fragile and mysterious and Tibe became a vulnerable, gentle man in her presence; her love story was beautiful and so it’s a shame that their love was cut so short as they came across as really caring and supporting of one another. However, the second of the two stories, Steel Scars didn’t manage to capture my interest quite as much. It was longer and therefore more detailed, but it just didn’t flow as well; Farley is a fantastic character and she is tough, beautiful and determined to see through the revolution; that the Reds will rise against the Silvers. It was a great way to see a little more of the Scarlet Guard’s dynamic, as well as seeing more of Shade, Mare’s favourite brother.

Although the Steel Scars was longer, I felt as though it was not as well written. I understand that the Scarlet Guard is a rebel group, in the midst of becoming a fully fledged army so communication is key. However, to read the communications between members and the Command was really frustrating. Not only were the messages repetitive, they seemed to drag the rest of the text down; in all honesty I would’ve really preferred the story without them, they didn’t feel like a necessary addition to the text. That said, I liked the insight into military operations and seeing how Farley was genuinely a headstrong, confident female. One of the great things about this series is the range of strong female leads; unfortunately though, Farley didn’t come across in this novella as well as she does in the series, which was a shame as I was interested in seeing the world from her perspective. She seemed a lot more vulnerable in this novella, with her true age revealed; very different to how she appears in the series, however it was nice to see some of the conversations and/or situations between her and Mare from her perspective, some which are seen through Mare in Red Queen. She’s driven by the want for equality and it was nice to see how she deliberately undermines those above her in rank to see through to the end of an investigation. What was truly bizarre was little Farley’s personality comes across in this story; considering this is her point of view, I expected more. In the series she dominates those older, wiser and stronger, yet in this tale there weren’t many glimpses of that, although regardless she is still a strong character and I can’t wait to see what the future novels hold for her.

Overall, this novella is a great addition to the series, although I would only only recommend it if you’re willing to remember that it is a novella and not a full novel. It’s important to remember that this book is a part of a series but not a standalone novel. It’s a nice, quick read of less than 200 pages for both stories, plus it does allow for a little extra background information prior to starting Glass Sword. As I’ve said above, I preferred Queen Song not only because it was shorter and to the point, but because it showed a character that was only mentioned in the series; it gave a backstory to the majority of the events that happen in Red Queen and allowed for further understanding of the difficult relationships between Tibe, Cal, Maven, Elara, Julian and Sara as a result of Coriane’s death. I felt like Steel Scars had a lot of potential; ever since Farley was introduced into the series I wanted to know more about her and her motives. As much the text gives information, it hides a lot more. I was expecting more from the text, if I’m honest, although it wasn’t unreadable. It’s important not to compare the novella to the series; it’s an extra, not a necessity, but I would recommend reading Cruel Crown as it does provide a little more understanding for how hard it is to live as both Red and Silver. I’d rate this novella 4 stars, purely because although I felt one story was stronger than the other, both stories add to your understanding of Aveyard’s fictional world. I adored Red Queen and so this is was a nice addition to the series, even if elements of it were somewhat disappointing.

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