With this, the second volume of The Chaoswar Saga and the second-to-last volume of the entire Riftwar Cycle, Raymond E. Feist doesn't necessarily advance the story, but instead elaborates on the significance of the events in A Kingdom Besieged, and builds some necessary (and much-appreciated) depth on the part of the characters. While it left me impatient to move on with the story, to advance things towards the ominously titled Magician's End, it was largely satisfying in terms of securing the overall story arc.
A Crown Imperiled does three things exceptionally well. Number one, it reestablishes the Conclave of Shadows as a force to be reckoned with, giving them not only power, but a purpose. The period of mourning their losses is over, Pug is invested in the fate of Midkemia once again, and Magnus seems finally positioned to fulfill the critical role his family legacy has so long demanded. More than that, the psudeo-resurrections of Miranda and Nakor that had me groaning at the end of the first book are not only explained, but handled exceptionally well. The scene in which Pug is confronted with a demon who carries all of his dead wife's feeling and memories is one of the strongest emotional moments Feist has ever written.
Number two, the book sheds some light on those subtle political coups taking place across the land. I felt they were really underplayed in the first book - introduced and hinted at, but left very vague in terms of exactly what was happening any why. Here, we see that aspect of the tale really expanded upon, elevating a lackluster minor plot thread to a level of significance worthy of Midkemia's final chapter. Hal, Martin, and Brendan are drawn back into the heart of the conflict, elevating their tangential adventures into something as relevant as they are exciting. The entire flight sequence with Princess Stephané is probably the most exciting, swashbuckling event the series has seen in quite some time.
Number three, the book has some big . . . and I do mean BIG . . . moments. I won't spoil them here, other than to say there is a scene with dragons taking flight that has me grinning with excitement, and a world-ending cliffhanger that had my jaw dropping to the floor. It's not as strong of a book in terms of plotting as the first, but it does pull things together nicely, setting up what will hopefully be a fitting conclusion to the Riftwar Cycle.
Published February 26th 2013 by Harper Voyager
Paperback, 407 pages