Reviews

The Broken Crown, by Michelle West

kmj91's review

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5.0

4.5 stars, another great Michelle West book

At this point, what can I even say about Michelle West's books that I haven't already? Is this a well-written tapestry of a book that introduces dozens of arresting characters? Check. Does the plot start out slow but is filled with such insightful and thoughtful worldbuilding that it reads much quicker than it feels like it should? Check. Is Jewell ATerafin in this one as well continuing to gain power and influence that you marvel at how much she has grown? Check. West is so absurdly good at kicking off fascinating fantasy series that its almost embarrassing. I can't wait to continue on with this one.

lmwanak's review

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4.0

This is my second time reading this. I'm catching nuances that I didn't get before. I remember the first time I read the series, it felt as if some characters was just dropped in out of the blue (particularly Jay and the Aterafin House). But now, I can see glimpses of the total story, especially when Diora encounters the Voyani. And it was a delight to read Sagara's prose and the Japanese influence of the Dominion. Can't wait to read the next one, which is sitting at home on my shelf.

agathag's review

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challenging emotional slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

coolcurrybooks's review

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4.0

Trigger warning for sexual assault

The Broken Crown is the start of a six book epic fantasy series by Canadian author Michelle Sagara West. While The Broken Crown does have some sword fights and so on, the majority of it is political intrigue. It might appeal to the same audience as Game of Thrones, although it is less grimdark and more traditional. However, what really made me love The Broken Crown was the strength and presence of the female characters, of which there are many.

The Broken Crown tells of two countries – the Dominion and the Empire. Most of the page time is spent on the Dominion, which is ruled by a hierarchy of war lords who gain honor on the battle field. But the current ruler of the Dominion is weak, and his war with the Empire was a disaster. Some of the men who vowed to serve him embark on a conspiracy to overthrow him, and caught in the middle of all of this is Diora, a girl who grows up to be the Flower of the Dominion, the most beautiful and graceful woman of all. Yet this is not all, for the Lord of the Night and the demons who serve him have their own plans concerning these affairs…

The Dominion is extremely patriarchal. A woman’s place on society is based on who her father is and who she marries. Women have few choices and no legal rights. No woman of the Dominion wields a sword on the battlefield. They have to find power in other ways, such as with Serra Teresa, Diora’s paternal aunt. Serra Teresa is bard born – her voice has the power to influence or command others, and her song is enchanting. However, to Teresa this is as much a curse as a gift, for it means that she was considered to valuable to be married off and leave the family. Thus Teresa is not able to have control of a husband’s harem and friendships among sister-wives. Diora was born with the same gift and curse, and Serra Teresa will do everything within her power to see that Diora has the life that Teresa was unable to have.

“There are battles that are fought in this world in which no sword is raised.”


Teresa and Diora are not action heroines. They do not lift swords or go to battle, but they fight in their own way, with words and gestures. Diora in particular endures immense difficulties, keeping face schooled into a careful mask of politeness. It takes a long time for her to act, but when she does, it is noteworthy. They are not the only female characters of note. The Empire is much more egalitarian, and many of the female characters we see there are involved in military pursuits. The Kalakar, a female general, is a particular favorite of mine. There’s also a girl Chosen One who is likely to become pivotal.

I will warn you, the first seventy pages at first appear to have nothing to do with the plot. And for the most part, they are not directly relevant to the events occurring in the rest of the novel although I believe they will become critical in later volumes. However, both passages also involve something that I see as an essential theme of The Broken Crown – choice. In these pages two women are offered hard, difficult choices for which they are unlikely to be remembered or gain any glory. Yet both accept, knowing that their difficulties have the possibility of leading to gains for humankind. Choice or lack of it underlines all of The Broken Crown.

Although I do believe the events of those seventy pages to be important thematically, does it really taken seventy pages to cover this material? Like most epic fantasy books, The Broken Crown is long, measuring out at somewhere over seven hundred pages. For the most part it is slow going, especially in the beginning. I don’t think it really starts to pick up until after page three hundred.

I encourage anyone who likes epic fantasy to pick up The Broken Crown, particularly if they are looking for some epic fantasy where women play a large role. It may be long, but I found it ultimately worth the time involved. I certainly intend to read the sequel.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

kikiandarrowsfishshelf's review

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5.0

Last year, there was a student who sat outside the prep room reading. She read Michelle West, but she had yet to read this series. This is a shame because while the Sun Sword series is sprawling, it is a beautiful work.

This book is the first volume in the Sun Sword series and focuses on the shifts of power in a country that resembles an Arabia from the 1001 Nights (yes, I know the Nights are really from India). One of the central characters, Dio, is the most beautiful woman in the world. She also is the favored child of her father and eventually marries the prince of the kingdom, who doesn't deserve her or the kingdom. Her father and his friends have something to say about the kingdom bit.

What makes this series worth reading is the type of women that inhabit it. Dio is not a fighter in the traditional sense of the word. She does have a magic, think of it as a siren voice, but does she know how to use a sword, no. Yet, Dio is more of a fighter because of this. She plays the long game, if I may borrow a phrase.

This series deserves more popularity than it garners. It is better than any of those big sprawling male written series such as those by Jordon, Goodkind, or Martin. Her books are close to those in length, yet the focus is different. It is not "female" fantasy, whatever that is, but more of, in a part, of difference in heroes and heroism. In the fantasy books that make the New York Times Bestseller list and become television, there are big epic betters with swords. West has those, but in sharp contrast to those battles, the most heart-wrenching scene in the series occurs in this book when Dio must keep still. She cannot speak. She cannot movie. She must do this because it is the only way for her to win in the end.

West's series might be more traditional and genre based, but she presents one of the few books where people, women in particular, are strong in different ways.

beejai's review

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4.0

A while back I was listening to the House War series by this same author on audible. I stopped that series so I could dig up "The Sacred Hunt" books that take place in the same universe and keep the right chronology. Unfortunately, I never did manage to get them as audiobooks (Shame on you, Audible).

Anyways, I decided on a whim to start this series even though I never did read the Sacred Hunt books. The first 20-30% seemed very complex and slow but I am guessing it would not be so much so for those who did read TSH. I love the complex and workable blend of Eastern Asian and Muslim cultures that is the Annagarian culture. I loved the return of Jay, the main character of the HW series, even though she plays only a peripheral role so far in book one of TBC. Diora and Teresa (especially Teresa) are awesome characters. For that matter, Michelle West is probably one of the best in the field for creating awesome and believable female characters is a fictional universe that is very male-dominated.

I think I might have preferred to read this, especially the beginning, but with so much else I am required to be reading for my Master's classes, I'm glad to have this to listen to on my commutes. If you have been thinking about this series, do it. If you dnf'd it in the early pages, please pick it up again. This book and I am guessing this series, is worth it. Michelle West/Sagara is probably one of the most underrated fantasy authors out there.

traveling_in_books's review

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dark reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

4.0

chalkletters's review

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challenging emotional mysterious reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5

The Broken Crown is dense and rich, there are layers upon layers of meaning and scheming and character relation: many of them going on under the surface. My praise of it and my criticism of it very much come from the same place. Because there’s so much going on, I constantly felt like I was missing something. I could see that there were things going unsaid, things left to the reader to infer, but I struggled to catch hold of them. Reading The Broken Crown was equally rewarding and frustrating. 

The cast of characters is, appropriately for the epic scale of the book, pretty daunting. Though there’s a cast list at the front, it’s organised in a way that makes no sense for the beginning of the book, which is a shame. Even after reading the book and listening to the audiobook, there are characters living in the north that I still don’t understand. In many cases, characters are introduced before they become important. While I can see the benefit of this in giving more context and not dropping significant figures in only at suspiciously convenient moments, it did leave me scratching my head as to why certain perspectives had been chosen.

That said, all the characters feel very natural to the world Michelle West has built. It’s fascinating to see female characters who are very much bound by a sexist society and yet find their own ways to life and love and gather power to themselves. I particularly enjoyed Serra Alina — as I did all of the Lambarto characters — and Ruatha. 

Michelle West’s world building was compelling, especially the idea of the division between night and day and how that reflects public and private. It felt like even the narrative followed this cultural rule in implying certain things that it didn’t say outright. The prose is lovely, there are some really beautiful descriptions of mental states and emotions. Though there isn’t a huge amount of description of the landscape, I still came away with a solid impression of the Tor Leone. 

It’s tricky to rate The Broken Crown because, no matter how much I wanted to understand it and like it, a lot of my actual experience was frustration. But perhaps it speaks highly of Michelle West that, despite that, I do want to go back to it and try again.


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gigiglorious's review

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5.0

How the fuck can Michelle West write so many interconnected epic fantasy books over the span of 30 years, where none of the books feel padded with useless information, and the characters are super compelling and the driving action of the book? I read over 600 pages and just want more. Why have these books not won awards? Why are people not reading and weeping over them? Why is Michelle West not a household name for epic fantasy? The more I ponder about this, the more upset I get.

quinnak16's review

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slow-paced

2.5