Monday, 27 April 2015

Crown of Stones

Crown of Stones

by C.L. Schneider

5 out of 5

Synopsis
Ian Troy is one of the Shinree, a fallen people with an inherent addiction to magic. Scorned and reviled for the deadly side of their spells, the Shinree are bred as slaves. Their magic is suppressed by drugs and used only as it serves the purposes of the other races. Descended from a long line of soldiers, Ian is conscripted into the Rellan army and made to fight in their longstanding conflict against the ruthless Langorian invaders. The downfall of Rella imminent, Ian goes against orders and turns to the Crown of Stones, an ancient Shinree relic of untold power. Ignorant of its true purpose, Ian uses the crown to end the war, and pays a terrible price. A decade later, still tortured by the aftermath of that day, Ian lives as a bounty hunter in self-imposed exile. Having renounced his magical heritage, he curbs his obsession with a steady stream of wine and regret. He struggles to put it all behind him, until a fateful encounter with a pretty assassin brings Ian’s past crashing into the present. Targeted by a rogue Shinree, and a ruthless old enemy, Ian is forced to use magic again. His deadly addiction is rekindled and his life of isolation is brought to a swift end. With the land he gave up everything to protect once more in jeopardy, and his people’s future at stake, Ian becomes embroiled in a violent race for control of the Crown of Stones. To save the realms and those he cares for, Ian must embrace the thing he fears most: his own power. 



Review
Ian Troy has spent the last ten years trying to forget the war - the choice he made and the countless lives he took.  But things are coming full circle as an old enemy strikes again, forcing Troy to embrace the darkest parts of himself to fight back.

Ok, I really enjoyed this.  As you may have guessed from the high rating.
Crown of Stones was one of the books in Indie Book Club's March group read.  Yes, I realise that it's almost May.  First of all, my inability to be on time for anything is infamous.  Secondly, I've had a lot of time-sensitive reviews taking up my time lately, and I was enjoying Crown of Stones too much to rush it.

Believe it or not, I wasn't convinced during the first couple of chapters, as you follow Troy in his role as bounty hunter and self-imposed exile.  It was really confusing, and with Troy being a major loner, it was hard to get to grips with his world.
I think it was only with the arrival of Malak and Jarryd that I felt the story come to life, and I was hooked!

Malak and Jarryd are great characters.  Malak in particular leaves you guessing where his loyalties lie.  And it was interesting to watch Jarryd the puppydog become more aware of the dangers of the world around him.
The friendship between them builds slowly, and you are left with the feeling that they are all going to have important roles to play later in the series.

And the main guy - I'm just going to pause for a moment and say - this sword-fighting, magic-wielding, legend and walking disaster is called Ian.  I don't know why that fact makes me so happy, but it does.  Perhaps because it's such a contrast to all the other fantasy books where the main character has a name that immediately picks them out as a King; or all the other names that are found in this fantastical land.  We have Ian.  ((I know that he has a "given name", but don't burst my bubble.))
I felt Ian Troy was a perfect balance of everything that made him - the addict; the hermit; the overly-emotional one; the stubborn mule...

The world that Schneider has created is both impressive, and flawed.
She has created different races, a full history that is touched upon just enough to educate, without drowning out the plot.  There is conflict between nations that has lasted an eternity.  There are enemies, but no entire race is painted as evil, they all have their morals and traditions, their own reasons.

The flawed bit... you're thrown into this world, and it takes a while to start to understand all the rivalry and name-calling, the insults and reactions.  I find it a common problem in fantasy books, where authors are so familiar with the worlds they have created, they sometimes forget what it's like for newcomers.
Related to this, despite having in-depth history for all the different races, they all seem to merge into one.  There is nothing to distinguish between them in language, or daily behaviours.

The other problem I had was the lack of any likeable female characters.  I got the feeling that women were simply there to feed the men and provide somewhere warm to sleep.  Even the Queen, and the all-powerful Sienn - there were moments when I held my breath that they might actually become strong characters.... nah, let's be submissive and let the men handle it instead.  The only time any woman got assertive was when she (doesn't matter which she, there were dozens) tried to jump on Troy's dick.  Which must be very magical indeed, with how in demand it is.

Ok, on that interesting note, I'm leaving it there!
All-in-all, a good book, and a series I'll definitely be continuing.

Goodreads link
Amazon.co.uk

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