Book blogger, audiobook lover and shamelessly honest reviewer. Mostly read fantasy, mystery, romance, UF and YA but all genres welcome.
The Crown Tower is the first book in the Riyria Chronicles, a prequel to the Riyria Revelations trilogy. I haven’t read the latter so I struggled as to what to read first: order of publication or chronologically? The author made it clear it could be read either way so I decided to start chronologically. I think this was a mistake.
Simply put, The Crown Tower is just an OK book. Hadrian and Royce weren’t very appealing or captivating to those of us who are meeting them for the first time. Hadrian in particular was unbelievable as a former captain because he didn’t seem suited to lead a group of soldiers. He seemed to have no head for strategy and zero awareness of his surroundings. Instead of a man who traveled the world, he was so naive that he seemed almost dumb. Royce makes more sense but his penchant for stabbing first and asking questions later made him seem a bit of a psycho. He was believable at least.The plot moves along two concurrent POVs: Hadrian’s and Gwen’s, a prostitute whose life will intertwine with our main characters. Hadrian’s sections were more interesting as they dealt with a journey full of mysteries and the heist of a seemingly impregnable tower. In the meantime, there’s the developing relationship between Hadrian and Royce. They are very different and they don’t think they can work with the other at all. But after lots of bickering, fights and chases, they discover that they make a better team that they could have imagined as each has strengths that the other one lacks.
This is more of a surprise for Royce, who doesn’t trust anybody and has never met a person who knew the meaning of loyalty. Their burgeoning relationship is the best part of the story. They don’t have great chemistry yet but I found some of their exchanges very amusing. I wished though that the heist part hadn’t been rushed as much. Sometimes I had problems determining when enough time had passed and some of the planning and execution was skipped through. It robbed the story some of the “mission impossible” feeling we were supposed to get.
Gwen’s sections were a bit ‘meh’ – I didn’t think what was happening with her was so interesting that it needed almost half of the story. I didn’t feel much of a connection with her, maybe because I felt like her situation was glossed over. What was her first time like? Did she dream of getting married? What did she feel when she realized she had fallen into a life of prostitution and that she couldn’t leave it if she wanted to comply with her Mother’s wishes? Most of us wouldn’t go to that extent to fulfill a promise (even one made to our Mother) so I needed more explanation as to why it was so important.
As it was, I wasn’t that invested in her struggles, her bid for freedom and her fight to be a woman in charge of her destiny. And after such a build up, I felt let down that things ended just when she started to fulfill her promise.
I’m a fan of Tim Gerrard Reynolds but his performance here seemed a bit flat. I don’t know if it’s because I had issues with the story but I didn’t see the depth of feeling I’ve heard in other books he’s narrated.
I will still give the Riyria Revelations a chance because I’ve heard many good things about it. Maybe if I had already known Royce and Hadrian, these young versions of them would have made more sense. So if you are a beginner to this world, I recommend you start with Theft of Swords (the first book in the Riyria Revelations) and then decide whether you want to continue unto this new series. I really wish I had done that.
Note: The pictures above are part of the murals in the Stadhuis (Town Hall) in Bruges, Belgium. I was visiting the city while I was reading the book and thought they fit the story.