Richard Ford – The Shattered Crown

richardford-theshatteredcrownHeroes must rise…

The King is dead. His daughter, untested and alone, now wears the Steel Crown. And a vast horde is steadily carving a bloody road south, hell-bent on razing Steelhaven to the ground.

or the city will fall.

Before the city faces the terror that approaches, it must crush the danger already lurking within its walls. But will the cost of victory be as devastating as that of defeat?

Last year I was quite taken with Herald of the Storm, the first book in the Steelhaven trilogy, so I was very much looking forward to this second instalment called The Shattered Crown. I liked the setting, the tone of the first novel, and the fact that there were many different flavours of type of story in the book. On the other hand I had some difficulties with the pacing and some of the characters. I was hoping that Ford would improve on the points I found lacking and keep everything I liked. And he did, mostly. 

While in the previous book the seven viewpoint characters each had their own story arc for the most part, which only overlapped some of the time, the events of said book have conspired to clump the viewpoints together in fewer storylines. This clustering of the different viewpoints created a clearer movement in the plot, allowing the pace to pick up more and the narrative feel less jumpy; even if we are head-hopping, we don’t hop storylines as often, so it seems more of a continuous whole. The story arcs are now mainly divided between the palace, the Greencoats, the Tower of Magisters and the underworld of Steelhaven. There is one significant viewpoint added, which is that of Regulus, former chief of the Sho’tana, a Southern mountain tribe. His is the outsider’s view and an interesting extension of our view of the world Ford’s created and of Steelhaven.

The characters I had some trouble with last time, mostly were better in this book, but unfortunately there is also a character that became decidedly less enjoyable than last time. Whereas I thought Rag and River could have been easily been omitted from the previous book, this time around Rag was vital and I loved her story line. River, however, is still seemingly peripheral to the story, which really makes me wonder what his role will be next book. The character that really disappointed me though was Waylian. While I still enjoyed his storyline, I found him a little too “Why me?” at times, which became wearing. The way Merrick and Kaira’s story developed was really enjoyable and given an interesting twist, especially when they form a close rapport with Janessa. I liked the questions of duty and loyalty their storyline posed, while still having some of the funniest dialogues in the story. Janessa fulfilled her potential this time around by grabbing her destiny by the horns and wrestling it in the direction she wants it to take. That isn’t to say she necessarily succeeds, but she felt more active and in control in The Shattered Crown, even if she keeps swinging between competent ruler and uncertain adolescent. I loved the rapport Janessa develops with Kaira and the way she decides to swing her own sword literally. Nobul storyline is fantastic, and reveals his very dark and mysterious past. He also forms the link between the Sho’tana and the rest of Steelhaven in a way that was quite compelling.

We see far more palace intrigue this time between Janessa, Merrick, and Kaira and their storyline. I liked the different guard divisions and their rivalries, the Skyhelm Sentinels, who provide the monarch’s personal guard, and the Order of the Blood Knights, who are elite fighters. The legendary Wyvern Guard were kick-ass and I can’t wait to see what happens with their story in the next book. The setting is once again firmly focused on the city of Steelhaven, though we catch more glimpses of the rest of the world and learn more about the different countries and the world’s history through Nobul and Regulus’ stories.

One question I was left with is who is Gelredida? Why isn’t she one of the council when she’s obviously quite powerful and she bullies them around anyway? And what about Amon Tugha, who and more importantly what is he, beyond the leader of Steelhaven’s enemy? Is he a magic user too? There’s much to be answered in the next book, not least whether there will be a city of Steelhaven at the end of it. The Shattered Crown is a strong second entry in the Steelhaven series and I can’t wait for the conclusion of the tale.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.