Reviews

The Broken Crown, by Michelle West

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

kjjohnson's review

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4.0

Overall I quite enjoyed this book.

Michelle West’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer (for me) were on display, and as with the House War books I found the strengths significantly outweighed the weaknesses.

Pros:

Characters. This has always been my favorite part of West’s books, and that continued here. She did an excellent job giving strong motivations and personalities to all of the main characters. They aren’t one-dimensional, and act in ways that are sometimes against the interests of the plots they are part of because of their personal histories and emotions. It made it easy to empathize with even the villains (minus the literal demons). I wanted to read more about the new characters, especially Teresa and Diora, and wasn’t even that disappointed that the characters I loved from the previous series were more cameo than MC. Even some of the minor characters made an impact, and I’m very intrigued by what’s up with Kiriel. Sidenote, she has so many wonderfully drawn female characters, both main and side, and I really appreciate that in epic fantasy which often leans way male.

World-building. Even if I found some of it kind of iffy in execution, West made very thorough cultures that contrasted against each other very well (e.g. importance of blood vs. Houses that you have to be adopted into; roles of gods; roles of women). The plot was intricate, and there were multiple sides that each had their own agendas and things going right and things going wrong, and I’m interested in how they will all collide. Also feel bad for Lamberto (I think that’s the clan name) who is caught between his biggest rival + his greatest enemy + the ruler he actually wants coming from the north and the dishonorable coup-leaders from the south. Talk about best of two evils for who to support, for him.

Diora’s arc. I just loved it, and loved how she went from child to well-trained wife (to a weak man) to finding her happiness with the other wives and loving them, to being forced into inaction as they were all killed in front of her (and felt betrayed by her inaction even) to being a pawn again for the very people who committed the coup. She had such little power she could wield outright, but she chose a way and a timing and struck the strongest blow she was able to after meticulous planning, in order to get a measure of revenge. Her speech at the end denying anyone the ability to marry her, using her voice to get support from the people, was smart, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

I also thought the book was pretty thematically interesting, as it got into how love can be strength or weakness, the importance of choices (even or especially in a land with seers), and power. I also liked the ongoing theme of not-powerful, unknown people making small differences that had an impact, and that non-powerful people are and should be remembered (like the person who helped raise Kiriel, or Jevri bringing Fredero’s sword and ashes back).


Cons:

Unsubtlety/pacing. As usual, there is a lot of what I consider unnecessary repetition in the story. E.g., I get that Sendari and Teresa were both in love with Alora and they have a tense sibling relationship now because of it. It’s a super interesting dynamic, and I love the choice, but it did not need to be baldly repeated a hundred times imo. Also I kept expecting the war to actually begin in the first book until I realized there were only a hundred pages left and it was six months in book time until the estimated battle time. That may have been more on my expectations, though.

World-building kinda. I just thought it was a little weird that the Dominion culture had Japanese trappings (including specifically samisens and saris and the coloring/hairstyles) but seemed to culturally be more a take on Arabian tribes? I dunno, fantasy cultures are often based on Earth cultures, but it took me out of the story occasionally.

Scope. While I really enjoyed most of the characters that I got to know, there were SO MANY characters and ranks and names that it was really hard to keep track, and a lot of the tertiary ones seemed pretty interchangeable. Like the Verrus’ under Kalakar? There were at least two, maybe more, and I could not tell you a thing about them. Though I guess the huge scope made it feel a little more real/lived in? As not everyone was automatically connected? But still, it was pretty overwhelming.

tatere's review

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4.0

If only some dramatic stuff would happen every once in a while here ... #joke

This was at least the third re-read for me. I found myself frequently comparing the Dominion to Krasia in Peter Brett's Demon Cycle, and it highlighted how important the Lady and the night are in broadening the culture of the Dominion, and making it more plausible to find yourself sympathizing with even some of the men there. The very seat of power is based at, and made possible by, the lake of the Lady. It's still a screwed-up system in many ways, but you can squint at it and see castles and Barons and Ladies and serfs instead of Tyrs and Serras and serafs without too much of a stretch. There truly is more than one kind of strength there.

Brett's Krasians, by contrast, have no alternative aspects. Everyone either is or wants to be an amoral murdering genderist psychopathic bully. Oh, but with "honor", and they kill the demon-type things as a national pastime, so it's OK.

Also, "The Broken Crown" has Jewel in it, so it wins hands-down for that alone.

genarti's review against another edition

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just lost momentum / wasn't in the mood for it -- might well pick it up again sometime!

marktimmony's review against another edition

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5.0

The first book in a six-volume series, this took me by surprise and now I can't get enough! This is not the type of book you can skim, because you'll just miss too much. West's prose is detailed, colourful and engrossing. Prepare yourself for a highly satisfying journey into a new world and an epic tale that gets bigger as it unfolds. All the keys of a great fantasy writer are here - depth of history, power-hungry gods and tons of political intrigue in an Empire vying for a war of retribution against their Northern neighbours. The thing that sets this apart is that, while West uses a standard formula, she displays a flare for world-building and convoluted plot lines that should entice any reader looking for something to sink their teeth into.

metafiktion's review

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adventurous challenging sad slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

evakristin's review

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5.0

In The Sacred Hunt West is just stretching her wings; in The Broken Crown she soars. Since I finished Malazan a few years ago I've been searching for something to scratch that itch. West is no Erikson, but she gets damn close, and this is only the first book in the series.

I deeply enjoyed exploring the Annagarian culture, obviously heavily inspired by Far East feudalism, and veiled behind Spanish sounding names. Diora de'Marente quickly became a favourite, though West's constant reminders of how perfect she is at times became a bit much.

But hey, my old favourite Evayne is back, and there was far fewer raising of brows in this one compared to TSH. Very much looking forward to the next book!

assimbya's review

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3.0

This book was a bit of a fantasy novel guilty pleasure for me, as it wasn't actually written that well, and there waasn't much to it beyond the surface level of the plot. But it was a good book to get immersed in for a few days, with its many characters and labyrinthine plot, and I did find it quite interesting.

myth's review

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Unfortunately I could not finish this. Normally I am undaunted by length of book and amount of politics, but while I could understand what was going on WHY it was going on was beyond me. The amount of idiot ball holding put me off, too, but my biggest gripe is the way the book deals with women and how expendable all but the super special ones are. Maybe it gets better later on. Maybe it doesn't. I can't slog through to find out.