Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard
Synopsis: Two women on either side of the Silver and Red divide tell the stories no one else knows. Discover the truth of Norta’s bloody past in these two revealing prequels to #1 New York Times bestseller Red Queen.
Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.
Diana Farley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow.
My thoughts: I absolutely love extra stories like this, especially when a series is so intriguing and deep, so I was thrilled to learn about this novella containing two short stories from the Red Queen universe. Not only was the cover gorgeous, I discovered, but one of the stories was about Coriane, Cal’s mom! Was I stoked? Absolutely. Did I purchase it immediately? Yes. Did it live up to my expectations? Well…disappointing is too strong a word, but I definitely had higher hopes for this novella.
The first story, Queen Song, was all about life before Mare. Coriane was the first wife of King Tiberias and the mother of Cal–in Cruel Crown we get a glimpse into who she was, how she came to be queen, and ultimately the tragic circumstances (or horrifying evil hater) that led to her death. The problem with this: it was just a glimpse. The love story was so cute, but I felt some of the feeling and romance was lost because of the detached perspective and brevity of the story. I wanted to go deeper into this woman who profoundly affected so many lives after her death, who stole the King’s heart and mothered the kid who would steal Mare’s (and mine). And while the ending was so chilling and haunting and nightmare-inducing–super well done–after I rubbed away my goosebumps I was left with a sense of dissatisfaction. Not only because it was so tragic Coriane died, but because I felt her story should have done her justice and it didn’t quite hit the mark.
The second story, Steel Scars, follows the rebel leader Farley and her quest to further the Scarlet Guard’s mission of overthrowing silver reign. I like Farley. She’s cool, I guess, but not my favorite. She does have a compelling aura about her, and it makes her character interesting to read about. The storyline, though, I found boring. I was interested but had a hard time staying engaged with the plot, and it was so full of military jargon that sometimes I didn’t get what was going on until later. A lot of it just felt redundant. Really, it was the introduction of a somewhat familiar character that sold it for me–I won’t say any more for the sake of spoilers, but I thought that was an excellent tie in. And I loved how it ended and overlapped with the events in Red Queen, bringing everything together. That was awesome. I’m a sucker for great tie-ins.
Overall, Cruel Crown was worth reading and enjoyable, but maybe I’ll curb my excitement from now on when I see a beloved series has a novella.
Rated 3.5/5 for a compelling look into characters that Victoria Aveyard has taught me to love