RATING: 3/10 – Wish I Hadn’t Bothered
BACK COVER SYNOPSIS:
Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy and sentenced to death, they have only one way out…
I’m sorry to say that, all around, ‘The Crown Conspiracy’ didn’t work for me. However, it seems that I’m in the minority, because the book has been nominated and given several awards. Plus, just a quick glance at ‘The Crown Conspiracy’ on Amazon shows a wealth of five and four star ratings. But I just can’t really see why. Now, I figure my job as a reviewer is to explain why, in specific detail, a book didn’t work for me so that others can read that and better decide if the book is something they might like or not.
Where to start? Well, the first scene would a point as good as any to begin with, I think. To put it bluntly, if I had picked this novel up in a bookstore and read the first chapter, there is no way it would have left the store with me. The first chapter, although in third person like the rest of the book, gives a limited perspective of Archibald Ballentyne who is a flashy, overly-ambitious, and obnoxious character that seems more caricature than actual character. (Actually, I continued to have this problem with every other character in the book, but I’ll get to that in a bit.) Because of the character, the whole chapter–despite some interesting plot set up–was equally obnoxious. Sure, there’s an awesome theft, but I had to put up with pages of Archibald whining.
So, from the first chapter, I wasn’t off on the right foot with ‘The Crown Conspiracy’. As I began the second chapter I was incredibly relieved to see that the focus shifted to Alenda, a character I expected to like. Unfortunately, that was taken from me swiftly. Within minutes my hope was squashed with awkward dialogue I know I’ve heard out of dozens of characters: “People like us simply shouldn’t do business with people like them.” [p19] And, a little later, “You already know me better than any woman should, more than is safe for either of us.” [p42]
For me, the characters never evolved from simple, ordinary constructions found in any fantasy novel to somebody with life, reasoning skills, or emotion. They were as dead as paper. Honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to care about a single one. I just didn’t want to bother since I could practically see where there ends would be, because constructions dance along plots and I find when that’s the plots, too, become more predictable.
I had some issues with plot that went far beyond predictability. Even if predictability is annoying, the far worse crime is to have a gap or break in the plot that leaves the reader reeling wondering what sort of logic one has to use to understand the story movement. There were several times where I wondered exactly how idiotic a character would have to be to make a certain decision, the worst came fairly early. The two rogues have been captured and framed for the assassination of the king. They’re put in the dungeons and await death. So, of course, the princess (because women are the bearers of compassion) comes, believes their story, and decides the best route for them to take is to kidnap her brother the king to keep him out of harm’s way. What? Really now? There’s not a soul in the world she trusts more than two guys who just say they weren’t the ones who killed the king? And then they just carry the Prince-King along until a beautiful friendship (or at least an obligatory relationship without much in the way of negative feelings) forms. I don’t know, it’s completely debatable, but I couldn’t quite roll with it.
In the plus category for ‘The Crown Conspiracy’ I can only say that it was a quick read and might have been much more entertaining if only I could have let go of my issues against the novel.
I hate to say it, but I can’t bring myself to recommend ‘The Crown Conspiracy’. With so many sure-to-be-great fantasy novels on the horizon, I wish I wouldn’t have bothered with this one and spent my reading time elsewhere.