Book Review: The Iron Crown

A couple of my favorite authors were part of SPFBO7 and were ultimately cut, but several books progressed further to become finalists. I decided to add a few of them to my 2022 reading list and review them for myself because, well, reviews are subjective. I can't help but wonder how some books progress in contests like these while others don't, and as a writer who someday hopes to submit my own books to SPFBO, reading the finalists' books will (I hope) help me have realistic expectations for my own submissions.

The Iron Crown by L.L. MacRae is a SPFBO7 Finalist. Based on the fantastic cover art and the intriguing book blurb, I thought I understood why.

Book Blurb:

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.

The Iron Crown caught my attention at the beginning with the mystery surrounding Fenn and the colorful descriptions of the world and creatures. The world is full of magical and political motivations, and the characters' journeys are paced well. However, I had a hard time really getting INTO the story. As the book progressed, I found it harder and harder to stay engaged mainly due to flat character development, which in some cases was just not believable, and in regards to one character, just made that character annoyingly contradictory to herself. That said, the action scenes, fight scenes, were very well written. The description of the creatures and the world itself were entertaining and captured my imagination. Several of the descriptions of the dragon-spirits were so beautifully vivid, I literally put the book down to just let the image sink in.

In the end, The Iron Crown sets you up for the next book in the series, and is a decent read for fantasy fans. In regards to how it ended up being a SPFBO7 finalist, the contest is entirely subjective, which is just the nature of the beast, and while I do not entirely understand how this book beat out so many others, I respect the reviewers' opinions and applaud the author for her hard work in crafting a new fantasy world.

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