The Bitter Crown

THE BITTER CROWN by Justin Lee Anderson.

Orbit Books. p/b. £9.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Still coming to terms with the shocking truth, Aranok, Allandria and Nirea, among others, must race to save their people from not just the threat of the Blackening nor the demons that came so close to defeating them before but from the king himself and the machinations of those whom Aranok once counted among his closest friends. Ally will doubt ally, friend will mistrust friend, and the decisions of one will affect them all.

Samily, the young White Thorn, continues to explore her powers, wielding her abilities as a time draoidh in ways no one has thought to do before, but finds her faith called into question. Her burdens weigh heavy. The orphan Vastin has become a victim of the Blackening. Indeed, it appears to be the only thing keeping him alive. What will that mean, she has to wonder, if Aranok and his allies manage to lift the curse? So many questions lie heavy on so few.

The Bitter Crown picks up on events after the explosive climax of the first book. The reader is treated to a brilliant recap of key events, told through the guise of tavern gossip, reminding us just how off-plan the rescue of Queen Taneitheia and the confrontation with the draoidh Mynygogg had gone.

This second book in The Eidyn Saga keeps action very much the main driver, once again propelling the reader through twists and turns and revealing the most heinous acts. What began as a very classic fantasy series has gained grimdark aplenty, here with necromancy and torture becoming major plot points as the truth of the Blackening, and a possible way to stop it, is revealed.

Aranok still very much feels the lead character throughout much of the narrative and becomes increasingly unreliable and reckless as events unfold around him, lending a solid level of tension to the underlying plot. He is forced to confront some of the most harrowing and painful moments of the past and present, and even Allandria begins to question his abilities and convictions. How much of their memories can any of them trust, after all?

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