When a mad, magical emperor threatens her people, Askia is forced to flee her frozen kingdom and seek assistance from the southern kingdom of Vishir. But, as soon as she arrives in Vishir, she becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of political scheming that will test her ability as a leader and potentially expose a secret she’s kept for all of her life.
I’m just going to put this out there right away. This book didn’t do it for me. I am not a huge fan of political intrigue, and the vast majority of this story is about Askia’s quest to gain support and military assistance for her kingdom. What does that entail? A lot of detailed conversations with influential people in Vishir. Beyond these conversations, I really felt that nothing happened until page 300 and there are only 375 pages in the book. However, The Frozen Crown got starred reviews from both Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal, so I think my opinions are in the minority this time!
What I did like about this book are the characters. Askia is interesting, strong, and has a really compelling magical ability to see and speak with the dead. She’s watched over by a loyal guard and both have a sweet attraction to each other. I also loved the Queen Ozura who seems to have mastered the art of political manipulation and is always steps ahead of everyone else in her scheming. Those are the two most developed characters, though some of the periphery characters are given a good amount of time with Askia. I’m also intrigued by the villain of this story, but he remains outside of the plot for much of the book.
I also loved the magic system, though it was not well developed. Askia’s magical ability is the most compelling, and she spends a good amount of the book exploring the limits of her power. She’s able to ask the dead for help, which becomes pivotal when one of her own soldiers vows to protect her before he dies. The other two magical abilities discussed in this book are healing and the ability to discern if someone is lying. Ostensibly there are other forms of magic in this world, but we really only get information about Askia’s death magic. I hope that in the next book the magic system is fleshed out more, as I think it has the potential to be really fascinating.
Again, the plotting of this book left much to be desired for me. I would have loved to see more action, more peripheral character development, and stronger world building. The premise itself is so compelling, but I felt this book faltered. This is the first in a duology, so I may still pick up the second book to see if the plot picks up. It has to pick up, right?
Did you read this one? Tell me what you thought!
Side Note: I’ve decided, going forward, to include content warnings in all of my reviews. As someone with severe depression and PTSD, there are certain themes and plot elements that can really send me in a tailspin if I encounter them in the wrong frame of mind. I don’t avoid books that include these themes, but I do like to be prepared. For anyone else like me, I’ve got you covered. I’m still learning about content warnings, so do tell me if you feel I miss anything! I’ll include these warnings at the end, so feel free to skip if you want to avoid potential spoilers.
[CW: death, forced marriage, loss of loved one, misogyny, trauma].