The Broken Crown Review

By Tristen Kozinski No comments
I found the Iron Crown slow to start, propelled solely by the mystery of its main character’s origin. I attribute this primarily to the fact that the book struggles with characterization. Our main characters isn’t given any particularly interesting, likeable or enjoyable traits; he has no sense of humor, no snap, no energy in his actions or dialogue, and there’s no tidbits about his history to tantalize and tease us as we read. His one moment of actual personality is when he resolves to complain less. The supporting characters have slightly more personality, but its not implemented well, and almost exclusively implemented through dialogue: either the characters talking about themselves or one another. They almost never take meaningful, physical actions, and on top of that are ineffective; only one of them has any combat abilities through the first ninety percent of the book, and she’s not particularly impressive in those abilities/never succeeds in fighting anything on her own (doesn’t even attempt to really.) This character’s main personality trait is being paranoid/mistrustful (a potentially enjoyable trait) and she does exhibit this trait throughout (the physical displays are almost always supplemented by mental dialogue) but the author spends the book expressing this as a negative trait from a variety of perspectives, which in turn makes this character unlikeable because we’re constantly being told not to like her main personality trait. Continuing in an adjacent vein, the characters motivations are weak; our main character wants to recover his memories, and our secondary characters have separate motivations to reconcile with their family (the paranoid one, which happens about 40% of the way through the book) and to lift a curse of soft leprosy (which basically entails begging a spirit to take pity on her.) These aren’t terrible motivations, but the character’s lack of agency/control over them, and lack of immediate/tangible stakes dilute them. This lack is slightly improved come the second half of a book where we meet the thief. The thief glows with personality within the first chapter, and stakes (his life/ability to live with his family) and threat are made immediately evident and personally connected to him. He is absolutely involved and so he quickly became the one character I actively cared about.
The main plot of the book is not well integrated into the character narratives, or into the actual book itself. The characters barely have any interaction with it (any agency against it) aside from passing conflict. Even outside of the character’s view, nothing tangible is happening except random attacks and trying to figure out what’s happening (which is basically conveyed to the reader about 20% into the book, so they spend the next several hundred pages waiting for the secondary characters to catch on and things to actual start.)
The prose is decent outside of the characterization effort, but somewhat boring. The worldbuilding of the spirits is nice, but the effects of their boons is one dimensional and so becomes a little boring.