Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard

This is a collection of three short stories that can be purchased as separate e-books, or all in a single print book. For this reason, I’ll review the two original short stories separately. The third addition is a preview of Aveyard’s upcoming novel, Glass Sword (the sequel to Red Queen), which I will not review here.

**SPOILERS**

Queen Song

This short depicts the tragedy of Queen Coriane, Cal’s late mother. Since I found the Silver Court intrigue in Red Queen fascinating, I was excited to get another look at this subtle war zone. I never felt particularly attached to Coriane or Tiberius, in part because I know they die, but mostly because they weren’t all that interesting. The pacing of the story was rushed, and any insight I was given to the characters seemed contradictory and unnecessary. For example, a large portion of the introduction discusses Coriane’s affinity for engineering, but it never comes into play later on and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose, other than perhaps to draw a parallel with Cal’s similar affinity discovered in Red Queen. This doesn’t make much sense, though, since Coriane dies while Cal is too young to learn any engineering from her, and the people of court take great care to avoid talking about her.

I also didn’t quite understand Coriane’s paranoia as it related to Elara. Given the brief mentions of her in Red Queen, I was under the impression that Elara played a more significant role in Coriane’s death, when in reality she only invaded her mind once. It seems strange that Coriane so weak and insecure that she crashes and burns after one incident, painting it into a war between herself and Elara. I would’ve like to see more of the whisper’s influence, perhaps in the form of an influenced betrayal as we see in Red Queen. In the end, the story felt disappointing, sparse and unfinished.

 

Steel Scars

This short depicts the actions of Captain Farley of the Scarlet Guard up to the Queenstrial of Red Queen. Unlike Coriane’s story, Farley gets a lot of real estate to describe… not much. A good portion of the story is told in secret communications between the Guard, which was interesting, but inconsistent and distracting. The Red Queen stories consistently honor a limited perspective first-person narrator, so briefly seeing the perspective of Drummer and Ram feels like cheating, when all the information gained from the perspective switch could’ve easily been relayed when Ram meets up with Farley later in the story.

I honestly never felt as though I needed Farley’s perspective, and she never seemed the type of character to narrate her story as such. It seemed like the intention was to give a more well-rounded perspective of Farley and show that she’s not all-powerful in the Guard, and I can understand that her guarded nature makes her the only one capable of telling this story. But if she wanted to give a thorough representation of the war and the world beyond the Silver Court, I think Aveyard would’ve been better off writing the same story from Shade’s perspective. He would be more willing to share, and he’s seen the conflict from multiple perspectives, giving him a more unique and interesting experience.

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