ARC Review: Crystal Crowned
Author: Elise Kova
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Long live Solaris.
One bloodthirsty ruler has been overthrown by another, casting the shadow of death over the Solaris Empire. Vhalla Yarl stands upon the stage of fate, prepared to do battle one final time. Fragile alliances will be tested and new bonds will be formed as the world is reshaped. She fights as the champion of peace, but when the night is darkest will she be able to pay the price of a new dawn?
Vhalla – At the beginning, Vhalla seems so lost. Due to the fact that Victor basically siphoned her powers from her, she has to learn how to be a commoner again. Since she is surrounded by sorcerers this is particularly hard for her to do. After learning how to be a commoner again, she is probably stronger and feels more convicted than ever about what needs to be done in order to save the empire.
Aldrik – Speaking of feeling convicted, Aldrik, who is now Emperor due to Victor’s rampage, has truly taken on the role of a leader. He no longer hides behind the black of the Tower. He truly feels like the leader of an empire. He takes on all of the good qualities of the role, despite the fact that he knows he is flawed.
Jax – He is his typical, jovial, sarcastic self, and I love his character more than ever. He has vowed to be Vhalla’s personal protector as his last promise to Baldair. I love Jax’s character more than ever because we finally find out his backstory and why he is tied to the crown as well as why he is the way is, AKA, using sarcasm as defense mechanism. I always love characters that are a little broken because people are all broken in their own way, so it was nice to find out the cause behind Jax’s brokenness.
Elecia and Fritz – While we don’t spend a ton of time with these two characters in this book compared to how much time we’ve spent with them in previous books, they are present, and every page they appear on shows just how much they care for Vhalla and Aldrik. While I have amazing friends, and trust me, I do have some pretty outstanding friends, friends that will drop everything immediately to help me out, I did, on occasion, get a little jealous for not having Elecia and Fritz as friends.
Victor – Again, Victor is not someone we actually spend a lot of time with in Crystal Crowned, especially compared to how much time we spent with him in Water’s Wrath, but he is a constant presence because he is always being talked about. When we do finally see him at the end, it is driven home just how much of a psychopath he really is.
It was once again another whirlwind of emotions brought to you by Elise Kova. I was crying by the time I got about 10% of the way into the book, I mean, big huge tears streaming down my face. After having spent 4 books with these characters, I have become so emotionally attached to them. It is something Elise Kova is able to do so well through her writing. As a reader, you feel as though these characters are real people and that you know them as if they were your friends.
There were some beautiful things that have gradually been communicated throughout the series and touched upon in each book that were wrapped up in beautiful quotes in Crystal Crowned. The idea of no one being perfect was something that definitely made itself apparent through each and every book. We are able to see that all of the characters are flawed in one or another at some point in time. The idea that we should accept someone, including yourself, for who they are, flaws and all, is also emphasized. At one point Vhalla reflects on her relationship with Aldrik, and thinks to herself, “She didn’t make him out to be perfect. [She] knew Aldrik was horribly flawed. But so was she.”
Another very strong idea that is gifted to us is the idea that people are constantly changing, that this is a good thing, and that change, especially change in people, is unfinished. Aldrik expresses his feelings to Vhalla by saying, “You’ve changed. . . And I love the woman that you’ve become, deeply and completely.” He also says something about himself to Vhalla that I think shows how drastically Aldrik has grown and changed. It also shows how heartbreaking the turn of events in his life were and how they affected him. He says, “I have no more family, so I am no longer the black sheep.” Vhalla has a realization about herself, and I think this is something we all need to realize about ourselves and our lives. “Vhalla was discovering that the path to being the person she wanted to be had no endpoint.” Elise Kova leaves us with this as a reminder that we are always unfinished, we are ever-changing.
Now that I’m done mooning over the wonderful thoughts and ideas that Elise Kova communicates to her readers through her reading, let me tell you about the last third or so of the book. It is non-stop, and I mean, NON-STOP action, I could NOT put it down. I actually finished about the last half of the book in a day, but during the last third of it, there was no social media, no eating, no sleeping, no moving from the spot I was stuck to in the house, which could have been my bed or the couch. Honestly, I don’t really remember because I was so enthralled with Elise Kova’s world that she has built over these last five five books that the real world around me didn’t really matter.
Reason For Rating
There’s really not much to say here anymore. I think I covered all of it in the review. What I can say is that Elise Kova has taken me on a journey over the last year that I never could have expected when I signed up to be on her street team and got the ARC of Air Awakens in the mail. I don’t think I’ve been so excited about a book series, particularly an author in a long time.
Elise’s characters are so well-developed. They are real people to me. Her world building is outstanding. Since she does these things so well, her books are not only enjoyable, but they also challenge you to think about who you are as well as the people around you. She is not afraid to take on hard or controversial topics in her books, to the point where they don’t really feel like your stereotypical young adult fantasy novel. I guess I had plenty to say. Sorry for going off on a bit of a tangent, but Crystal Crowned definitely gets an “A” from me! If you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favor and pick up the Air Awakens series.
Check It Out!!
The Author, Where to Get It, and an Exclusive Excerpt
Elise Kova has always had a profound love of fantastical worlds. Somehow, she managed to focus on the real world long enough to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration before crawling back under her favorite writing blanket to conceptualize her next magic system. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she s not writing can be found playing video games, watching anime, or talking with readers on social media. She is the author of the Air Awakens Series as well as the upcoming Loom Saga (Keymaster, 2017).
Where To Get It
With just the one weapon and a leather jerkin, she struck a course northward. Given all the reports she’d been receiving, it seemed like the most logical location for her Emperor. A red sunrise streaked across the sky, mirroring the crimson land before her.
The casualties had been heavy, heavier than she expected given the number of soldiers who had been in the Western force surrounding the city. But the hulking corpses of giant winged beasts offered a chilling explanation. Teeth longer than her body jutted out from their massive jowls. They had almost canine-like heads but with thick leathery skin pulled taut against oddly shaped muscles. Some had two arms, some had four, one even had six. They had the wings of a wyvern and scorpion-like tails. It was a creature that the Gods had never intended to exist, and the now-dormant crystals embedded in their bodies glinted like dull obsidian in the sunlight, slowly cracking into dust.
A handful of men and women were surrounded, forced to their knees. Soldiers waited around them, sorcerers and Commons alike, ready to execute the traitors who had ridden in to kill them all on the backs of monsters. The lean figure of a man was mounted before the lot—an Emperor casting judgment on those who fought against his throne.
“. . . forsake the false king.” Vhalla could hear Aldrik’s words as she approached. “Those who give information will be rewarded with their lives.”
No one spoke.
“You protect a coward,” Vhalla called out, announcing her presence. Aldrik turned in surprise as she rode up next to him. “You stand with a man whose power comes not through his own merit—as he would have you believe—but through theft.”
“What would you know?” one of the kneeling sorcerers demanded, curiosity drawing the words from him.
“I know all too well,” Vhalla replied quietly, “because I was the one whose powers he stole.”
Now she had their attention.
“Victor could not open the caverns on his own; he wasn’t strong enough to manage the crystals. I know because he needed me to help him do it. When he had what he wanted, he stole my magic to make him immune from the taint.”
“Lies!” one sneered. “The taint only affects those of weak will, Commons, and lesser sorcerers.”
Desperation carved the way for stupidity in the hearts of men.
“You can’t possibly believe that. Is that what Victor has told you? That you are the strong ones and immune?” She shook her head with a bitter sorrowful laugh. “He has written you off as expendable with his lies.”
“Are you really the Windwalker?” a timid voice asked from among them.
“I was.” Vhalla spoke only to the man who had asked. “I was the Windwalker until he stole my powers. Now I am a Commons. It was my magic that unleashed this monster upon the world—”
“Vhalla . . .” Aldrik had a cautionary note.
“—but because of that, no one will fight harder than me to do what is necessary to right that wrong.” The words hurt. They hurt like the wind still hurt on her cheeks, plain and un-magical. But it was finally the right kind of hurt. The hurt of a confession that needed to be said. “This is but a night. The sun will rise again, and I stand with the dawn.”
She looked to the Emperor. His eyes were a chameleon over the past few weeks, constantly changing to match the woman she was becoming.
“Who will stand with the sun?” He tore his eyes away from her to make his final demand.
The man who had asked his timid question stood slowly. “A false king sits on a false throne.”
“You disgrace sorcerers,” another loyalist spat. “You’ll follow a liar and a Commons.”
“Strength channels its own magic,” the man said in reply, looking directly at Vhalla.
“Who else will stand with us?” Vhalla demanded.
Two more stood.
“Why take pity on them?” a Western soldier finally spoke. “They fight against your Empire. Put them to death.”
“Because a wise woman taught me that no soul is beyond saving,” Aldrik replied easily.
Vhalla’s chest tightened, instantly thinking of Larel.
“Those who stand with us, live; those who do not, die. Make your choice. Dawn comes and it will wait for no man.” Aldrik turned back to Victor’s sorcerers.
Two more stood, five in total. That was all who were spared. Vhalla bore a silent witness to the other sorcerers who died for Victor’s ideal. Men and women who had become so tainted with his lies that they valued his dogma more than their lives.
Vhalla counted every man and woman put to death. Twenty-three in total. She shifted in her saddle and felt the sword pulling heavy on her shoulder. The next time she saw Victor she would stab him herself, Vhalla resolved, twenty-three times.
Make sure to pick up the whole Air Awakens series!! It’s outstanding!!