The final book in the series and thankfully, also perhaps the most engaging and intense. I hated the book and I loved it. It was beyond frustrating but with a satisfying payoff. It was a very fitting end to a good series.
The Crimson Crown takes off from where the last book ended. Raisa is Queen of the Fells and Han is her wizard bodyguard but there is always a sense of unease. For starters, Raisa has more enemies within her castle than outside it. She is second-guessed every step of the way, her decisions questioned until she finally puts her foot down and decides to clean house. Han also his share of troubles. Wizards are still being hunted and killed and all evidence seems to be pointing at him. On top of that, he has his hands full with The Wizard Council and then there’s the pesky matter of making sure he survives. He also has to contend with the Demonai who only see him as a disposable tool. There is also the looming threat of Arden marching into Fells at any time and given the vast resources at Montaignes’ disposal, nobody wants to see that happen any time soon. Everyone seems to have their own agenda, from the wizards to the Demonai, and save for a very select few, nobody is trustworthy. To make matters worse, one of Raisa’s top general betrays her and is soon allied with Arden. There was so much happening that it was impossible to put the book down.
My problem with the series has always been the pace of the books; they were so slow that I often felt like pulling my hair out. Both the previous book and this one are definitely better in that regard so I was very grateful. The thing is that the story gets so intense that as a reader you get sucked into it and can’t wait to find out if everything will end well for the characters you care about. Only it takes ages for you to get to that part. I have to confess that I finally caved and snuck a peek at some of the latter chapters (but not the end) to see how Raisa and the gang fared. I’m not proud of it but I just couldn’t resist anymore. The other thing I have a problem with is the dual narrative. Just when I get engaged in a character’s POV, it shifts to another, which I found beyond annoying. I think it’s far better to stick with a third-person narrative than a shifting first-person narrative. But the plot was very engaging and interesting and for the most part, kept me at the edge of my seat.
Almost all the characters return and there were very few (if any) additions, and Raisa and Han remain my favourite characters. I loved Raisa’s strength and her single-mindedness. She was stubborn and level-headed and made her own decisions and accepted the consequences of those decisions. She genuinely cared for her subjects to the extent that she was willing to sacrifice her own happiness for their good and protection. While she listened to others’ council, she did not trust or believe them blindly. She stayed and fought when others in her position would have fled. And she was loyal to her friends and those she cared about. She was also not riddled with insecurities and this was obvious by the kind of people she hired around her, people not afraid to speak their mind and she let them.
Han was amazing as well and I fell in love with this guy. He was one of the best love-interests I have come across in sometime. He was cunning and operated by his set of rules but he too was loyal to a fault. I liked that he was patient and resilient and took the time to time to think three steps forward so his enemies could not take him by surprise. I liked that when he wanted something, he went after it with a single-minded focus but was never annoying and did not ever step into the stalker category. It was always apparent that he genuinely loved and cared for Raisa as she did for him.
Amon was present but this time he was more in the background, I was glad there was no more pining on Raisa’s part for him and I am guessing that he got over her or will eventually.
Dancer has a come long way from when he saw him in the first book. He has since come to terms with his past, where he came from and also his magic. I liked that he too, did not let others dictate how he should live his life. He was faithful to Han and was not afraid to tell him what was on his mind when he felt that Han was being unwise. I also really liked Cat Tyburn. Of the three, she has perhaps undergone the most change from the first book. She was now a loyal member of this group and even though she agreed to protect Raisa, her first priority was always to protect Han. She was strong, fierce and spunky and maybe a little bloodthirsty as well but I had no problems with that especially considering that she always wanted to kill people I did not like.
Micah was still beyond annoying. As the series progressed, it became clear that he was not like his father and perhaps, he genuinely did care for Raisa but his actions were despicable and continued to speak against him. He was a snake and I am glad that Raisa did not make the mistake of trusting him again. I disliked from the beginning and that did not changed.
Averill and Elena were both around and I couldn’t stand either of them. Elena was downright ruthless, bloodthirsty and a double-crossing hag. Averill also changed a lot from my initial impression of him. His actions made me question if he even loved his daughter or if she was just a stepping-stone for his people to regain their glory. I had genuinely liked his character and thought he would protect Raisa and support her but he did not. He constantly pushed her towards Night Walker, someone she had absolutely no interest in. With family like these two, Raisa had no need for enemies. It was sad because when she needed people she could trust, she realised that she could not even trust her own father and grandmother.
The Bayars were probably the most despicable characters in the entire series and they remained despicable. There were times when I wished that I could kill them in the most painful imaginable but it was satisfying to see Han outsmart them time and again. Gavan was cruel and willing to sacrifice his own children to forward his own agenda while Fiona was blindly ambitious.
Turns out that not all wizards are evil, there were some interesting revelations about Adam Gryphon and Mordra DeVilliers. Abelard was still ambiguous, but definitely a lesser evil when compared to the Bayars. I was glad to see that Night Bird was finally thinking for herself and she was even more assertive this time. Willow, as always, was a sweetheart. She was one of the few people who genuinely cared for Han and treated him like a son. I was also happy to see that the Gray Wolves were back and they survived the series, thankfully Chima was not big on needless bloodshed. We saw more of Mellony and while she didn’t immediately turn into a likeable character, she did improve. Her character was better portrayed this time. She does seem to love her sister. She made mistakes but that was also perhaps because she and Raisa had never really been close and just did not know how to deal with each other.
Another very irritating character was Night Walker. I hate guys who can’t take no for an answer and Night Walker fit this category like it was made for him. He never cared about Raisa except that marrying her would elevate his status. I doubt that he even would have let Raisa live after they were married. He was only concerned with forwarding his own agenda and ambition. I cannot even understand how Averill could want this boor to marry his daughter. He was just as detestable as Micah.
The books are consistent and so are the characters. Chima is gifted when it comes to character development and this comes across by just how much you come to care about them. Even the ones on the periphery make an impression and this is rare. The characters are well conceived and grow as the story progresses. So many authors sacrifice their characters’ personality to make the story progress a certain way or because of those infamous love-triangle but Chima did none of those. So the relationships between the various characters seemed very real and organic, nothing felt forced.
The world building was also good and you really got a sense of all the different peoples that inhabited the small kingdom of Fells. She really fleshed out their customs, beliefs and prejudices.
I just don’t understand why the series is called The Seven Realms. Raisa doesn’t rule the Seven Realms and we don’t even know a lot about the other kingdoms save Fells, Arden and Tamron. We never venture towards Carthis or any of the other far-off kingdoms. I think that could have been better explained.
The Crimson Crown was an intense read and enjoyable. I highly recommend this series despite my frustration because that too, was a good thing, I was frustrated because I came to care for these characters and wanted them to be safe and survive. The story will suck you in and while you will need to be patient, the end will definitely leave you satisfied. If you love and enjoy fantasy, this series is definitely for you.