Greetings, Seekers! I (Jonathan) have been traveling a lot for work per usual. A positive side effect of all those flights is more time to read. Here’s my spoiler-free review of the last book I finished: The Starless Crown, by James Rollins. Please keep in mind that this is just my opinion and you may vehemently disagree with it at your leisure.

Cover art for The Starless Crown

Genre: Science fantasy

Overview: An alliance embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the secrets of the distant past and save their world.

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Starless Crown Book Review

I selected The Starless Crown due to some striking similarities between it and the novel Kristina and I have written (Trials of the Innermost). There’s a tidally-locked planet, a mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements, animal companions, and multiple points of view (POVs). So, I really wanted to love this book. I was rooting for it. But when I finished reading it, I was left with mixed feelings. Here’s why.

First, the good stuff. Rollins created a fascinating setting. The climatic extremes produced by a tidally-locked world and the civilizations that formed around them are presented in a straightforward, easy-to-visualize fashion. The mysterious southern kingdom, known as the Klashe, in particular caught my interest. And such fascinating fauna! From giant bats to killer insects, this story has it all. Plus, there are illustrations of them, which is always a welcome addition.

Rollins also has a knack for horror. Not of the gruesome variety so much as the shocking. I’m accustomed to that from watching anime, but some readers may find certain scenes disturbing. In my opinion, they are well-executed and not gratuitous, which heightens their impact when they occur. It also makes the villains feel truly evil.

Speaking of which, there are some really great characters in The Starless Crown. I connected the most with Nyx. She embodies the reluctant hero trope in a believable way. I also found myself drawn to Jace and Darant. The former for his labrador-like indefatigable loyalty, and the latter for his Han Solo-esque roguish qualities. With that said…

I’m a fan of multiple POVs. But, in The Starless Crown, it takes a very, very long time for all of the characters to make their debut, and when they do, it’s not always spectacular. In particular I take issue with Kanthe, the so-called Prince in the Cupboard. A great nickname for a rather flat character. It’s just hard to feel sorry for a prince, and his redeeming qualities that eventually emerge are very predictable. Making matters worse, he’s attracted to someone who is probably his sibling, which earns him a big Mr. Yuck sticker. Other characters who suffer the same lack of nuance include the disgraced knight Graylin, the odious Wryth, and Jace (but he’s at least likeable).

In summary, there’s a lot to love about The Starless Crown, and then there are some less well-executed parts. The world-building is detailed and fascinating, and Nyx makes for a compelling main character. Those bright spots are held back from greatness by some less-than-stellar characters and pacing issues. A flawed gem, if you will. Do I anticipate reading the sequel? I want to know what happens to Nyx and her friends, but I’m not in a rush to find out. With that said, Rollins is clearly a talented writer and I would like to explore the other worlds he has created. You can check out the MoonFall Saga and his other works on his website.

If you’ve read this book, what did you think? Tell us in the comments. (For more book reviews by J&K, go here.)

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