Friday, July 15, 2022

Review: The Starless Crown by James Rollins

by James Rollins
Release Date: January 4, 2022
2022 Tor Books
Kindle & Audiobook Editions: 560 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250816771
ASIN: B092T873GC
Audiobook: B095567YVZ
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher
3 / 5 Stars
A gifted student foretells an apocalypse. Her reward is a sentence of death.

A broken soldier, who once again takes up the weapons he’s forbidden to wield and carves a trail back home.

A drunken prince, who steps out from his beloved brother's shadow and claims a purpose of his own.

An imprisoned thief, who escapes the crushing dark and discovers a gleaming artifact - one that will ignite a power struggle across the globe.

On the run, hunted by enemies old and new, they must learn to trust each other in order to survive in a world evolved in strange, beautiful, and deadly ways, and uncover ancient secrets that hold the key to their salvation. 
My Thoughts
The Starless Crown is the first book in a planned four-book series, and I really wasn't sure what to expect from an author whose work usually tended to focus on the thriller genre. I like it when authors branch our and explore other genres as I don't think most of them are one-genre writers to begin with.I do think fantasy, and horror, can be quite difficult to write in order to avoid those repetitive tropes which tend to annoy readers a lot. I did enjoy this novel quite a bit, but did think it fell into some of those tropey traps that can be quite annoying, and for whatever reason, I had difficulty actually reading the book. Once I switched over to audiobook format, I zipped through twenty-two hours with little problem and thought the narration was better than reading the book. 

There are multiple main characters and multiple POV, and although I don't usually have trouble tracking characters, the author kept adding characters and plot points without fully developing previous ones. And while I can be patient and wait to figure out where everything is headed, some of it was confusing as the writing style seemed to switch from being character-driven to plot-driven and I don't think that works very well as you have some sections where you are being told what is happening rather than trying to work it, then in other sections, you have no idea what is going on because the author doesn't give enough information.  I did feel like a lot more insight into the characters' thoughts and feelings was needed as some of them I had no clue and didn't really care what happened to them. Rhaif's chapters didn't interest me at all because he wasn't written in a way that made me empathetic towards him and frankly, I tuned out a lot during his parts and had to rewind and listen to it again.  I did like Nyx and thought her connection to the bats was quite interesting. It would have been really cool for her to keep her disability however, and maybe use the bats to be her eyes. Not really a fan about that whole situation as I think the author was onto something quite fascinating and let it slip through his fingers.

I did like the concept of the story, the mix of fantasy and science,and the whole atmosphere had this very unsettled feel about it which worked for me considering the 'doom and gloom' prophecies about the moon throughout the story. And while the author could go on and on describing things, I don't think he focused necessarily on the things he should have as there were aspects to the world-building I thought were quite interesting that I would have liked to learn more about. And as we learned more about the prophecies, I kept trying to piece things together into what I thought would happen. And what it does contain is every single trope you can think of with regards to fantasy literature: the chosen one, the second son of the king who is out to prove himself, the knight who was banished and exiled for trying to do the right thing, the weak academic who always tries to do the right thing, and the list just goes on and on.  Maybe the author will take that bag of marbles he's got for tropes and actually shake it up in book two and a beautiful agate will tumble out and something we didn't expect to happen with leave us gobsmacked.  We can only hope, right?

The Starless Crown definitely had an interesting concept and I enjoyed the world-building and wanted to learn more about it.  The story did meander quite a bit and I felt like the author lost track of his characters at times as their personalities and distinct voices were lacking.  I also thought the pacing was off as there wasn't a lot of build up to the finale; however, I did like a lot of the creatures introduced in this story and am particularly interested in the Myr bats as I thought they were fascinating.  This one of those books you have to read for yourself to see if you will like it, but there was enough to convince me to continue on to book 2, The Cradle of Ice, when it is released next February.