Summary: Thousands dream of it; still more die for it. Yet, how many can truly bear it?
After centuries of bitter conflict the realm of Esmoria is at last united under the banner of a single king. On the surface the realm appears to be enjoying its first taste of peace, but lingering resentment and the untimely death of the new ruler threaten to return Esmoria to political chaos.
Meanwhile, in the farthest reaches of the frozen north, a dethroned monarch’s plot for revenge awakens a long-forgotten evil. As darkness and treachery descend upon the realm, a young escapee from a forced labor camp, a disenfranchised soldier, and an epileptic engraver’s apprentice find themselves at the heart of the troubles.
Thoughts: I seem to have saved some of the best of the SPFBO novels for last, entirely inadvertently. I have to say, though, it was a great way to close out the challenge! The Weight of a Crown may not have been the absolute best book I read, but it was pretty high up on the list, and for the faults I could find with it I have to also admit that I had a very hard time putting it down.
The story revolves around 4 main characters: Bokrham, regent to the Blood Marsh throne, struggling with the politics of having to hold a kingdom strong against threats both from without and within; Jeina, a convict sent to a labour camp to atone for her crime, who stumbles upon an ancient secret and has to flee for her life; Xasho, a Curahshena warrior who stumbles across some fascinating and life-changing weapons after a military blunder, and Nicolas, once apprentice to an engraver but now associating with the only one who can both explain the strange quality to his seizures and keep them from killing him.
You’ll notice this is the point where, in my reviews, I typically mention how their separate stories all come together to make a cohesive narrative. The reason I didn’t do so there is because it takes about half of the book before you really start to see hints of how their stories might be connected, and it’s not until after two thirds of the book have passed that everything comes together. Until then, it feels like you’re reading a book of entirely separate stories that just happen to take place in the same world. And in the early sections of the book, where each chapter ends with an exciting event or a question or some form of impending change, the constant flipping back and forth between multiple utterly-disconnected characters did leave me wondering why I should care about them. I felt like the chapter endings were supposed to be more impressive, to have you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen the next time that character’s chapter comes around, but it didn’t really do that for me, not for quite a while.
So is this a drawback? Well, yes. While multiple character perspectives are fine, especially when they all come from very different backgrounds and see things in different ways, having there be little or nothing that connects them makes the overall story very hard to grasp. I could tell you, at the halfway mark, what was happening in every individual’s story. But the overarching plot of the novel? Not a clue, at that point, and that’s a lot to expect readers to hang in there for.
It also means that it’s difficult for me to mention just about anything about said overarching plot without spoiling events that will take readers most of the book to actually reach.
And yet I still really enjoyed this book. The chapters were short, which was a drawback in terms of character development but it also meant that “one more chapter” syndrome was very easy to fall into. Kaeden’s writing style was very fluid, very engaging, and not knowing what was going on until relatively late in the book, I found myself enjoying the journey to that discovery. For me, it was one of those books that pulls you in very easily, the kind that, when you do stop reading, makes you wonder just how so much time could have passed because it didn’t feel as long as it was. It’s amazing how much that kind of readability can make up for other weaknesses.
So where do I stand on The Weight of a Crown? Given that I enjoyed it so much, I’ve got my eye on the sequel, for one thing. For another, I have to say that this too is a book that shucks off perceived limitations of self-published novels. If you work under the assumption that all self-published novels are ones that weren’t good enough to be taken on by traditional publishers (which clearly isn’t the case, but bear with me on this), then I’d swear that this one did come from a traditional publisher. The quality’s there, as is the effort, and the potential for improvement. So this was a fantastic book to end the SPFBO challenge on, and one that I’m very happy to have been able to read. It may take a while to really get going, but it’s worth the time you put into it, and I’m curious to see how Kaeden’s writing career will further develop.