Overview (No Spoilers):
The Iron Crown wastes no time setting the stage by opening with poor Fenn sinking, inch by inch, into a murky bog with no help in sight. His terror is only compounded when he is unable to recall how he arrived in this predicament, let alone anything else about who he is or the world around him. MacRae only layers on the mysteries throughout this first installment of the Dragon Spirits, with Fenn receiving minimal answers to the many, many questions he has. Thankfully, he happens across two reluctant helpers, Jisyel and Calidra, who through a series of unfortunate events become unexpected friends.
While much about Fenn remains an enigma, the rest of the cast carries their own burdens from a past infraction by Jisyel resulting in lasting consequences to unresolved family heartache for Calidra. When news arrives on Isle of Salt that Calidra’s father has passed, Calidra and Jisyel set out for the mainland with the wayward Fenn on what should be a relatively simple journey. Almost immediately their trip goes off script, resulting in the trio rebounding from one disaster to the next, acquiring new characters along the way from the broken General Varlot to the unusual Priestess Seyls. Despite the protagonists finding themselves in a cyclic pattern of dangerous situations which serves to heighten the suspense, the plot seems to crawl throughout a large portion of this read.
The Iron Crown is a fast read that has a young adult feel to the writing that left details on the slim side. I found McRae’s literary world to be fascinating dragon spirits are linked to lakes, forests, mountains and such, though they are constrained both in range and power by the domain they inhabit. Past events are heavily alluded to in The Iron Crown, especially as they are actively shaping the current politics and the emerging crisis. Due to the past stories being kept vague, even though they are referenced many times, this first novel of the Dragon Spirits series ended up taking on the feel of a middle installment.
The characters are one of my favorite aspects of The Iron Crown, specifically as we are granted the perspective of the cruel Master Inquisitor Torsten. By learning about his past, the Master Inquisitor is able to develop beyond a one dimensional villain and into a twisted antagonist whose motivations are more complicated that appear at the surface. That said, the rest of the cast contain plenty of their own mysteries that are primed to open new depths and insights to their pasts, particularly General Varlot and his wavering allegiances.
Overall, McRae has stitched together a curious foundation in The Iron Crown that takes the reader on a whirlwind of precarious situations, though much of this world remains a quandary.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- Will Fenn like who he was before if he gets his memories back? Is his family searching for him? Does he have a family? How did he get on the Isle of Salt? How did the Myr pick him?
- Did Hassen curse or bless Fenn? I’m guessing bless since the Hassen kept him alive when other lost individuals have died?
- What was the point of the Myr ‘touching’ people only to have them die?
- Is Torsten acting erratically due to giving his dragon a piece of the Myr spirit he had killed?
- So Varlot was framed by Torsten for paralyzing the Queen’s cousin. How could that mix up have happened?
- How did Varlot kill his family?
- Why didn’t Ashothka meet Calidra?
- What did Jisyel do to end up getting cursed by Hassen? Can the curse be lifted?
- Why is Selys helping Fenn? Why did Neros choose to bless her? Did he bless his other followers? Why did she pass out after Neros commanded her to destroy the Myr construct?
- How did Queen Surayo steal the Myr Citrine Key? What is its purpose? How did its absence stop the Myr? What did Apollo do with the Citrine Key?
- It took me longer than it should have to put together that Calidra’s sister is Apollo’s wife.
- It would have been so tempting for Jisyel to take Alnothen’s offer in order to remove Hassen’s curse. Calidra took such a selfish view of the whole interaction.
- Does Maloria still have Chyram’s blessing?
- I’m curious to know more about the Olmese and their talking griffins.
- It was a pretty big leap for Fenn to make the assumption that Vermecio would be the name of the first and only Myr construct that he’d heard of, especially when most people think the construct is a legend. Also, is the voice in his head manipulating him into whatever actions they want? Will he get the key that Vermecio requested?
- Furyn is a pretty terrible character. There has to be more depth to her than just an abrasive, bullying mother.
- Will the Nestol stay lost in the ocean?
- How do Apollo and Selys know each other?
- Will Varlot really align with Torston to become an Inquisitor?
Ogee: a pointed arch having on each side a reversed curve near the apex
Gamut: an entire range or series