Published: April 21st 2016 by HachetteAU
Format: Paperback, 208 pages
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Two women on either side of the Silver-Red divide tell the stories no one else knows.
Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary - how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.
Diana Farley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation - Mare Barrow.
Cruel Crown is a bind of two novellas set in the world of Red Queen. These novellas open up the world and allow us a glimpse into two fascinating characters – Queen Coriane (Cal’s mother) and Farley.
I loved the writing in Queen Song. It was evocative and beautiful and I felt Coriane’s pain keenly. It’s been a while since I read Red Queen and Glass Sword, but I don’t recall being this impressed with the way they were presented!
This novella reveals that Cal’s grandfather was married to a woman but had a man, Prince Robert, as his Consort. I thought this was an interesting way of dealing with the two (seemingly) contradictory goals of the King – to be happy and to produce an heir. But by all accounts, and certainly in Corian’s eyes, Tiberius, Robert and Queen Anabel were content with their arrangement.
Red Queen showed us a side of Cal’s father that made me dislike him, but having read Queen Song I feel as though I’ve seen first hand how the death of his Queen broke him. Seeing Elara as a teenager was also really interesting – Aveyard has subtly planted all sorts of doubt in my mind about someone who I saw as selfish and horrifying earlier. I suspect that I can guess how she became the bitter, twisted person we dealt with in Red Queen and Glass Sword.
And finally, Corianne. Beautiful, broken, fragile Coriane, who didn’t deserve the fate she endured. I think Aveyard approached her depression and anxiety with care. And although I might be able to understand why Elara did what she did, I won’t ever be able to forgive her, because if there was anyone truly innocent in this world, it was Coriane.
Farley’s story takes place just before and during the beginning of Red Queen. Through her, we find out a little more about the structure of the Scarlet Guard and their mission in the Lakelands, Norta, and the other countries on the continent. I’ve always found Farley interesting so I was looking forward to reading from her point of view.
Unsurprisingly, Steel Scars is dry. It lacks the poetic language of Queen Song and is instead relayed in a precise, clipped tone. Much of the story is told through military reports, which was a cool addition but I’ve seen readers complaining that they found the reports difficult to follow. I had no such issue, but if you’re planning to read this novella then I’d say keep that in mind.
I think my favourite part was seeing Shade Barrow from Farley’s point of view. He’s interesting, even in Farley’s biased and world-weary eyes, which is a feat.
While Steel Scars isn’t as beautifully tragic as Queen Song, it gives us a view into the Scarlet Guard that isn’t Mare’s. I think this is important because Mare is a biased and often unreliable narrator. Taken together, the novellas showcase the versatility of Aveyard’s writing – her full length works leave something to be desired when it comes to planning and execution but the potential is obviously there.
It’s not absolutely necessary to read Cruel Crown to understand Red Queen and Glass Sword, but I believe fans of the world will benefit by reading the stories of these two incredible ladies.