The Tainted Crown
by Meg Cowley4 out of 5
What is the price of kingship?
The kingdom of Caledan is thrown into turmoil by the queen’s murder. Her heir, Soren, flees with a price on his head after being framed for the killing by his uncle Zaki, who seizes the legendary throne of the Dragon Kings and rules with an iron fist to crush dissent. However, suspicion is rife following Zaki’s ill-omened coronation and a crime ill-fitting the beloved Prince Soren.
Now a fugitive roaming the wild, Soren has lost everything. He tries to reconcile his grief and determine how he can reclaim his throne when fate has left him with just one old man, but the odds are greatly against him. If no-one follows him, or believes his innocence, is he worthy to rule?
Across the kingdom, Soren’s cousin Eve takes matters into her own hands and journeys to the ethereal Eldarkind on his behalf, however this reveals her own inescapable fate. As she comes to terms with the gift and the curse of magic, Eve risks her life to help Soren.
Before the fragile peace shatters, can Soren reclaim the throne - and should he?
After being blamed for the death of his mother, the Queen, Soren is on the run. He has to prove himself worthy of the dragon crown, and overthrow his usurper uncle.
I downloaded this when it was free a couple of months ago, because it looks great, and I knew I was going to meet the author at the UK Indie Lit Fest, which is always fun!
The story starts with Zaki murdering his sister, to steal her crown, at the same time, setting a rumour that it was Prince Soren who committed the crime.
We then follow two main narratives - Prince Soren proving himself worthy of the dragon crown, and seeking the help of the mythical dragons; and his cousin, Lady Eve, who becomes an important ally, and link to the mysterious Eldarkind.
This was a fun adventure, covering the whole of Caledan, as they race to save their country from ruin. It contains dragons, fighting monks, political intrigues, and magic.
Soren has to set off, unable to mourn for his mother, and trying to stay one step ahead of Zaki's spies and assassins. He is forced to test his endurance and skills, in a way no training has ever prepared him for; and he has to work out what is important.
Likewise, his cousin Eve has to discover her unusual heritage, and what it might mean for her. She had always railed against being a proper young lady, and not being allowed to venture beyond her father's land. She finally breaks free and sets out on her own adventure, finally able to do something to help.
I felt that this first Book of Caledan was really setting up the rest of the series. Even though some major things happen, it's all about getting to know our heroes and villains, and getting them in place for the next adventure.
The downside for me is that, even though it's a fun adventure, there aren't any plot-twists. You know what's going to happen from the beginning.
The characters are good, and I look forward to seeing how they develop in the rest of the series, but they are fairly standard-fantasy-stamps. You have the heroic-good-natured-Prince, the elf-like-magic-savvy-race, the old-knight-mentor, the evil-big-bad - to be honest, I was surprised that Zaki didn't cackle maliciously and rub his hands.
I thought the story was slowed down in places, by lots of contemplation and explanation. Sure, Soren is a young man with a lot of responsibility suddenly thrown on his shoulders, so it's natural he should double-guess himself. I just found that the narrative slowed to explain to the reader why he has logically chosen X, Y, or Z. Which didn't really work when it was in the middle of a battle, or when he's facing his uncle, etc.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and as I have a shiny signed-copy of The Brooding Crown, I can't wait to continue the series!