Crownbreaker by Sebastien de Castell
Hot Key Books, HB, £12.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
In the sixth book of the Spellslinger series, we find Kellen and Reichis enjoying life as teacher and partner to the young queen with only the minor inconvenience of mages trying to assassinate Kellen for the inconvenience of living. It is all too good to be true and Kellen’s comfortable world crumbles when his mother is killed and he learns of a god rising from within the disunited Berabesq tribes. If this god can unite the different factions, then they will be an army that conquer the world. Kellen’s queen, and his estranged father, want Kellen to destroy this god before he becomes too powerful. Already an outcast from his own people, Kellen’s reluctance to carry out this duty further isolates him while giving him the freedom of thought to question everything and uncover that this is no simple assassination. Conflicts from the rest of the series come to a head in this sixth book as once again, Kellen chooses for himself rather than allowing himself to be a puppet.
Crownbreaker is a first-person narrative from Kellen’s point of view. From dingy bars to the opulence of a deity and Jan’Tep elite, we follow Kellen as he moves through a world out to get him because of his cursed past or current beliefs. The best part is Kellen knows he’s being manipulated. Too much has befallen him for him to be naïve, but he doesn’t know everything. Journeying with him as he uncovers his suspicions is as much fun as the action.
Kellen’s voice is clear and conversational. The reader is addressed throughout with asides to the plot which enriches the storytelling. Kellen feels like a real person, which is the ultimate goal isn’t it? I felt his bittersweet pain at meeting old friends and loves, his frustration with a family that don’t understand him and can’t accept how they wronged him, and the agony of the betrayals that assault him throughout.
Although this is the sixth book, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you don’t have to read the other five to know what’s going on. I haven’t but de Castell is such a disgustingly talented writer I had no problem following the plot, picking up the threads from previous books, or being utterly sucked in to a very witty and moving story about family and a sense of place in the world. That said, even knowing how it ends, I am heading back to the beginning because the style of writing is so strong.
If you’re already a fan, I can’t see how you could be disappointed, and if you haven’t read any of the Spellslinger series, then I would definitely recommend it for any fantasy fans.