The Iron Crown
Author: L.L. MacRae
Fenn’s first and only memory is finding himself in the middle of a forest, face to face with a dragon spirit mocking him, all knowledge gone apart from his own name.
Lost and confused, his only hope for answers is Calidra – a woman living on the edge of the world with her partner. Forced to return home when her father dies, Calidra has put off facing her estranged mother for seven years, and she begrudgingly helps Fenn, forging papers for him so he can avoid the Queen’s Inquisitors.
But her mother is the least of her worries when they discover an ancient enemy is rising again. It should be impossible with the Iron Crown in power – and Fenn is terrified he might unwittingly be playing a part in the war’s resurgence.
Surrounded by vengeful spirits and powerful magic, Fenn’s desperate attempt to find his way home might well alter the fate of Tassar, and every power in it.
Rating: Wonderful, enchanting world-building; A good Escapist read.
In my opinion, the world-building of The Iron Crown is what it makes it sing. The characters are okay; they have distinct personalities, motivations, and feelings. They’re enjoyable and sometimes quite interesting. But, right from the beginning, the world-building had me in love. Fenn’s encounter with Hassen, the Dragon Spirit of Salt Ash Forest, was everything I needed to pull me in. This dragon spirit with the vines of his domain trailing from his horns, appearing and vanishing into mist, with his irrepressible personality was perfect.
Needless to say, I like dragons. And these were very neat dragons, each of them tied to a domain and fueled with power by the life of their domain, with personalities to match. It’s beautiful, visually evocative, and perfect. And they bond to people, who become their priests or priestesses, with the power to channel their fire. And the world is full of them, some more powerful than others.
And I think it’s not too much of a spoiler to say: this isn’t the last we are ever getting of Hassen. And he’s not by any means the only dragon spirit involved in the book. There are some really interesting relationships between some other people and the dragon spirits who they serve – or serve them – or are their friends.
I think this book is great for readers who love well-developed, beautiful worlds, especially with dragons, and want a good escapism read. It seems to be very low on thought/thought-provoking depth. An example of one sort is Jisyel’s disability (I know this has been mentioned by other reviewers). It does not feel to me like any real thought was put into how not being able to feel would affect life. L.L. MacRae is pretty consistent with the effects she has realized (in my opinion), but it seems that only a few of the most obvious effects were given any consideration. As I read, I found myself wondering several questions without trying. How would it affect the process of eating without hurting yourself? Walking, especially over terrain, you could learn to cope, but it would be weird, and it would be so easy to sprain ankles and parts of your body, even if you don’t trip all the time. Just a few of my questions.
On another side of this, and slightly less obvious, is that it seems to me that Fenn’s motivations were simply assumed, without thought about how really having no memories might affect one. He makes a bunch of assumptions, has a whole set of desires, and it’s not like there was any one thing I expected to see. It was just that it felt shallow, like thought had not really gone into how that might affect one’s personality and goals, make them different from others and what one might expect. Since this isn’t just someone who has lost most of their memories; Fenn’s lost all his memories, and the loss is long-term.
But if you want a fun, escapist reads, with adventure and characters with varying degrees of complex personalities, background, and motivations, thrown into the middle of the resurgence of an epic war no one really understands? With the coolest dragon spirits thrown in? That is also not a classic hero tale (Fenn’s motivations and goals are actually quite selfish most of the time – but he does have compassion for the small things he can see and relate to; at times, he’s a quite interesting characters), though I’d say it feels like a classic escapist high fantasy.
This is a really awesome book on that level. And that was the mood I was in, when I read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though I can’t actually say I read all of it. I might have, but there are probably a few parts I’ve missed, given how haphazardly I read it. Someday, I will probably get to all of them, but who knows when that will be, and I will probably have read all of it long before I know I have it. But I figured I’d read enough to write a review.
The Spoiler Review:
This one is going to be short, but just some of my reactions/responses:
When Hassen flies through Fenn, right in the first chapter. I don’t know if all readers experienced this, but I wondered right away if Fenn hadn’t been cursed by Hassen at all but had instead been blessed by him. Things Hassen said contributed to it. It really seemed like he was curious about Fenn’s life, not like he was really angry or antagonistic. So I went through the whole book seeing Fenn as Hassen’s chosen and their relationship in that light (by the way, I enjoyed Fenn’s thoughts about power imbalances related to the dragon spirits and those blessed by them). I have to say this is like one of my favourite parts of the book.
Also, I found myself wondering, from some things the author said on Twitter I think it was before I really read the book, about dragon spirits and if any of them handle the demise or diminishing of their domains badly. I would expect not all spirits would, but that many would. So it was interesting to see that many failing spirits do get “corrupted.”
And is Miroth an interesting case? Torsten – the crazed inquisitor, torturer – is a bit of an odd character. And the book made one wish his and Miroth’s relationship could have been purer, cleaner. As it is, it’s kind of sweet in a way. But Miroth is a spirit who appeared to Torsten shortly after he was born and made friends with and helped a boy who was bullied in ways – and now Miroth’s domain is dying, and with it Miroth is failing. Miroth is a lake-spirit, by the way.
What is the relationship between the Iron Queen and the Dragon Spirit of Iron who’s been bound in a sword I think it was? Is the Dragon Spirit her servant? Does the Dragon Spirit want to serve her? What is going on there? I have some serious questions.