SPFBO Status: cut
Overview (No Spoilers):
King Laurent feels an immense amount of pressure to protect his kingdom, Meirdre. Without a wife or heirs, he’s left vulnerable to attacks by foreign nations. After being reminded of Meirdrean traditions, the royal guard is sent to a neighboring town to find a maiden willing to marry the king, knocking on Riette’s door first. She readily agrees to the terms to help her family, but her ulterior motives are to free a friend currently locked away in the castle for treason. With it getting harder and harder to pay the king’s taxes, Riette is actually part of the resistance. She comes to find that not only does the king have secrets, but so does Meirdre. Riette accidentally discovers that she is a crownkeeper, someone destined to protect Meirdre and its people from outside attacks as well as natural disasters. Will she be able to put her differences with the king aside to protect the land she loves? Will she be able to interpret the warnings in time?
Crownkeeper was published by Anne Wheeler in October 2021. This book is actually a compilation of three novellas (Treason’s Crown, War’s Crown, and Queen’s Crown), so it has natural rises and falls throughout, with the overarching goal being to watch over Meirdre and the sovereign. While Riette is the main character (written in first person), there are also a few sections told from Laurent’s point of view (in third person). As these two are brought together for an arranged marriage and come from opposing views and worlds, there is no immediate spark between them. In fact, both end up committing unforgivable acts that make trust between them nearly impossible. This makes the secondary characters much more important to break the tension, especially early on in the book. And so, I must say that I really enjoyed the scenes with Father Gerritt. He added levity to every situation and understood the reasoning behind Laurent’s and Riette’s reactions.
The magic in this world seems to be limited to Riette. Although others should have the same gift, it hasn’t been awakened. Since there hasn’t been a true crownkeeper for over a century, most of the knowledge surrounding it has been lost to time, forcing Riette to learn about her newfound ability on the spot. This is tricky as the political intrigue we witness suggests that war is imminent. Given the heightened concerns, the middle section seems to drag a little, as it focuses more on Laurent and Riette’s strained relationship and sets up the motivations behind the major players in the last section. That said, Wheeler excels at setting up the twists and turns that emerge over the course of this story – I never quite knew what was going to happen next. Crownkeeper is a satisfying read that will keep you guessing!
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound!):
- Why does Thomas sound so surprised when the guards mention that he could’ve been granted clemency by Riette when she marries King Laurent? Riette already told him this…
- Why is Willem in Haszen when the earthquake hits? I thought he was with King Laurent at the time… Had he been searching for Riette? It’s not like she’d been able to tell anyone about Haszen glowing on the map as she was taken away by Thomas.
- Lennert provides Thomas and Riette shelter in Haszen and talks to Thomas about the plan to overthrow King Laurent. But where is he at the end of the book? He sounds like an important figure in the first section of the book.
- How did Thomas make connections with King Damir? Is Vahl the one who gave Thomas the dagger when he breaks out of the dungeons with Riette the first time? Is Vahl how Thomas is able to stay well-fed and clean while locked up or is that a testament to King Laurent’s kindness?
- For the children “born with a particular connection to Creation”, are they always women? While it’s a patriarchy now, could Julianna have been put in charge if anything happened to Laurent?
- What happened to all of the people working at the castle when Laurent is brought back by Thomas as a prisoner? Is anyone killed? Where is Sara?