Fantasy Book Review: The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly

Fantasy Book Review

Title
The Frozen Crown
Author: Greta Kelly
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genres: Epic Fantasy
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted

From its opening betrayal to its shocking conclusion, The Frozen Crown is a book that pulled me in and refused to let me go. I spent but a single afternoon and back-to-back evenings with Princess Askia (whom I adored), but it was enough to make me care, deeply and passionately, about the woman, her cause, and the choices she's forced to make. The only thing stronger than Greta Kelly's characterization is her flair for intrigue, resulting in a book that you just cannot put down.

I've been thinking all day about how to approach this review, and perhaps the best word I can think of to sum up this book is unexpected. There are so many pieces of this story that are familiar, and yet the way those pieces fit is entirely refreshing. At its heart, this is the story of a woman faced with the need to barter her freedom to save her people, with marriages arranged and forced before her, and yet it's never quite that simple. It's a book with a royal harem at its heart, along with two rulers who lay very different claims to a young woman, and yet the women hold all the power. There's a love triangle, or perhaps a quadrilateral, driving the story forward, but instead of being tired and tropey it feels genuine, with impossible choices that hit hard.

The world-building here is simple, and yet it works. We're presented with three distinct geographies, a social clash between cultures, and a religious clash between faiths, and it all comes together wonderfully. There's no info-dumping and no heavy-handed exposition - it just fits naturally. What's even more impressive is that there's nothing black-and-white about it all, especially the quiet war between the Shadow Guild and the Shazir. I've never felt such conflict over a character as I did with Khaljaq, with revelations about Askia's parents making it even harder to know whether to trust, hate, suffer, or dismiss the man.

Surprisingly, for a book that's almost entirely set at court, comprised largely of dancing and debate, the pacing here is perfect. It's a story that moves along quickly, with a definite sense of urgency, and nary a moment where it stalled or fell into a lull. If there's anywhere the book does feel a bit thin or soft is with Enver and Iskander, half-brothers and Princes with very different personalities and agendas. A little more depth or complexity to either would have added some genuine drama to the book, aside from the love triangle, but (to be fair) Iskander does get some interesting growth as the story continues. Also, there's a certain gift in the second half of the book that gets entirely mishandled, and I struggled to believe none of the characters suspected its significance, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Be warned, this is the first part of a duology, and there is a MASSIVE cliffhanger, but instead of walking away feeling cheated or frustrated, I'm desperate to find out how it all ends. Askia is a kickass heroine deserving of that desperation and, while he spends most of the book off-the-page, I suspect Radovan will prove to be a worthy antagonist.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2

My sincere thanks to the publisher for author me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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