Review: CROWNBREAKER by Sebastien de Castell

Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 492
Release Date: October 17th, 2019
Series: SPELLSLINGER, Book 6
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It

WARNING: Possible light spoilers for earlier books in the series. You can read reviews for those books here: SPELLSLINGER, SHADOWBLACK, CHARMCASTER, SOULBINDER, QUEENSLAYER

Crownbreaker

Kellen’s been asked to do a lot of crazy things over the year, but this is the first time he’s been asked to kill a god. A child has been born in the Berabesq lands, one who is aging rapidly, performing miracles, and has the people believing he is their god walking among them at last. But the real cause for concern is that the fractured Berabesq faith is finally uniting to go to war against the other lands. Now, Kellen finds himself pressured not only by the Daroman Queen, but by his father, leader of the Jan’Tep clans, to sneak into the holy city and kill the child before war ignites throughout the entire continent. But Kellen’s not so sure killing a child is the answer – especially when it becomes increasingly clear that this newly appeared god is the final card in a long-played game.

CROWNBREAKER is a satisfying conclusion to a mad-cap adventure series it’s been a joy to experience. Readers of past reviews may remember I bounced off of the previous entry, QUEENSLAYER, as I was baffled by some of Kellen’s character development and wasn’t fond of an extremely dark moment that was at odds with the rest of the series. CROWNBREAKER, thankfully, is a return to form, a balance of high stakes and humor that had me tearing through the pages to get to finale.

That return to form includes Kellen stepping up once more as the reluctant hero who constantly has to outwit stronger opponents. I was also pleased to see the return of many favorite characters, as several of Kellen’s past allies appear at this climactic event. Kellen, Reichis, and others must work together to thwart unknown forces who are determined to see war happen, while also avoiding death at the hands of the Berebesq who are protecting their god. Kellen also gets some big emotional closure, as family drama that’s been brewing since the first book finally came to a head. I’ve really come to enjoy watching Kellen’s growth from the timid boy to self-assured man who is willing to look his father in the eye and say, “No.”

That being said, Shalla (sorry, SHA’MAAT) is the worst and will always be the worst, and nothing will ever convince me otherwise. Kellen’s continual excusal of her behavior is a constant sticking point for me, as by now I feel like she’s done some unforgiveable things, family or no. There were also a few character developments for side characters that I felt came out of left field (potentially because they happened off-page) that left me with my head cocked. And while all the countries in the SPELLSLINGER series have various real world inspirations (Gitabaria seems to pull from Italy, for instance), it did leave me a bit uncomfortable that it was the tribal people from the desert who were about to launch a holy war on the rest of the world. It’s not the first fantasy to use this particular trope, but I did want to flag it.

Still, CROWNBREAKER was pretty much what I hoped for in this final outing in a series I’m very glad to have read these last few years. The series hasn’t been perfect; I definitely eye-roll a bit at Kellen’s James T. Kirk-like ability to have a new love interest in every book, and I’ve already mentioned my past problems with QUEENSLAYER. But on the whole, SPELLSLINGER as a series is just FUN. Kellen, Reichis, and Ferius are a great group of characters to hang out with as they wander the continent finding new ways to get into trouble. The books are tightly-paced and keep that “what’s going to happen next” energy high. The SPELLSLINGER series hooked me from book one and almost never let go, and I’m so glad I managed to read the whole thing from start to finish.

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