Title: The Frozen Crown
Author: Greta Kelly
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager – Harper Voyager
Publication date: January 12, 2021
One Sentence Summary: When Radovan takes over the Kingdom of Seravesh, Princess Askia flees across the sea to Vishir to plead for help, only to end up in a tangled web of court politics.
Court intrigue and politics are some of my weaknesses when it comes to fantasy. I’ll gladly forego all the violence, blood, action, and ultimate battles for court intrigue. Give me a bunch of characters who manipulate each other, have ulterior motives, and hold your fate in their hands and I’m a happy reader. Except I was a little frustrated with Askia and her childish behavior, so The Frozen Crown was a bit of a disappointment.
Interesting Court Intrigue
Princess Askia and her soldiers have been pushed out of Seravesh by the invading Rovan Empire, who worked with her usurping cousin. Idun is supposed to be a place of safety, but the Roven Empire is prowling on the edges. With her life in danger, Askia convinces her childhood friend, Prince Iskander of Vishir, to take her across the sea to Vishir so she can petition his father the Emperor for an army to drive out the Roven Empire.
But Vishir is not Seravesh. Even though she spent her childhood traveling Vishir with her late parents, Seravesh has become her home and she has no idea how to navigate the foreign halls. At every turn her Seravesh ways are met with resistance and mockery from the Vishiri court, until she learns to play the game to get what she needs.
There’s magic, danger, and court intrigue at every turn in The Frozen Crown. The story moves quickly as Vishiri court politics seem to be mercurial and Askia struggles to keep up. It’s a dizzying game with some surprises thrown in, but, at the same time, complications and roadblocks are expected, so aren’t complete surprises. It just begs the question of what’s going to happen next.
Overall, the story is quite simplistic: a princess trying to keep out of Radovan’s, the ruler of the Roven Empire, grasp by getting the attention of the Vishiri emperor so she can gain an army. Of course, there’s more to it that Askia needs to do in order to fulfill her needs. But it’s a simple story couched in court politics that changes with the wind.
But it also falls into what I think of as boring fantasy pitfalls. There’s a great deal of focus of the clothes and costumes the members of court wear, as well as large ceremonial gatherings that require special attire. Then there’s the focus on teaching Askia how to properly use her powers, which was mildly interesting, but felt like overly large scenes for smaller plot points.
Despite the stereotypical fantasy bits, The Frozen Crown presents an interesting enough story, but it’s really the ending that steals the show, taking a turn I didn’t expect. It’s a quick, easy, and uncomplicated read that attempts to throw curveballs.
A Young Princess
Askia is a bold, outspoken princess who was raised far from the land she becomes heir to. With a mother from Seravesh and a father from Vishir, she grew up traveling Vishir, exposed to war and battle, until she was orphaned and tortured by the Shazir. It presents few problems to her, though, as she appears to carry trauma when it suits her. Instead, she attempts to march full force as a Seravesh princess into a foreign court that doesn’t take well to her presumption.
Askia is young, and it shows. I liked her fire, but was annoyed when she expected the Vishiri court to bend to her. She refused to play their games even though she needed them, so came off as a pampered brat with far too many love interests. The Frozen Crown isn’t listed as being YA, but, with Askia being so young and so impudent, I got a very strong YA vibe. Needless to say, I was not impressed with her. Nor was I impressed by the men who kept falling in love with her.
The one I was absolutely impressed with was the emperor’s primary wife. In Vishir, the emperor is married to a number of women in order to stitch the empire together. His first wife Ozura, though, rules over the other queens and it is she who determines if another woman will be allowed to enter court. She was strong and insightful and continually pushed Askia. She also had her softer moments and points, but I adored the strong hand she had and how self-assured she was.
There were a number of other characters surrounding Askia, from Prince Iskander to the head of her guard to her Vishiri lady-in-waiting, who helped round out the story and Askia. They were all interesting in their own ways and added a bit to the story, but also felt very one note.
Polar Opposites, but Fascinating
Most of The Frozen Crown takes place in Vishir, but the lands north of it strongly reminded me of Russia. They were painted as being cold with heavy, white winters and full of evergreens. It’s also clearly European-inspired with fortresses and cold castles. Even though little of the story takes place there, it still left a strong impression on me, likely because it did feel so stereotypically European.
Vishir, on the other hand, is described as warm and sun drenched. It appears to be the polar opposite of the lands to the north. It’s full of bustling color, indulgences, and frivolities. It also made me think of Morocco. With the bold colors, fragrant foods, warm climate, and darker skinned characters than Askia and her people, I couldn’t shake the feeling Vishir is Moroccan-inspired. It was vibrant and beautiful. There was such a strong sense of place that the world was probably my favorite part of it, and I really wanted to stay in Vishir forever, even though women are more limited in what they are allowed to do and are often to blame for men’s actions.
The magic system was probably the most fascinating to me. Since a good portion of the story is focused on teaching Askia how to use her powers, there’s quite a bit given about it. I liked that there are two sides to the god, one that rules over magic and one that fosters a religious order that seeks to purge the land of witches. The powers themselves are well-described and it was easy to figure out what was in the realm of which power. I was a little disappointed the more elemental powers didn’t figure much in the story, but the other three (the powers of healers, truth witches, and death witches) were fascinating. With the way the book ended, I’m hoping for more exploration of the magic system in the next book.
Fun Court Intrigue, but Uncomplicated
The Frozen Crown is not a complicated book, but I did enjoy the court intrigue when Askia wasn’t annoying. Askia spoiled much of the book for me with her childish unwillingness to work with the system she desperately needed help from, even though she had grown up in and around the very same court. In theory, this was an interesting idea. In execution, I think the main character falls short and I have a hard time looking past her bad points to find an interesting story. Overall, not a bad start to the duology, but I hope Askia matures quickly in the second book into a figure worthy of being a queen.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.