The Iron Crown by L. L. MacRae

Book Information

Title | The Iron Crown
Author | L. L. MacRae
Series | The Dragon Spirits #1
Published By | L. L. MacRae
Pages | 568

About the Book

A new epic fantasy series bursts into life with the DRAGON SPIRITS who reign supreme in the magic-drenched world of Tassar.

Fenn’s first and only memory is finding himself in the middle of a forest, face to face with a dragon spirit mocking him, all knowledge gone apart from his own name.

Lost and confused, his only hope for answers is Calidra—a woman living on the edge of the world with her partner. Forced to return home when her father dies, Calidra has put off facing her estranged mother for seven years, and she begrudgingly helps Fenn, forging papers for him so he can avoid the Queen’s Inquisitors.

But her mother is the least of her worries when they discover an ancient enemy is rising again. It should be impossible with the Iron Crown in power—and Fenn is terrified he might unwittingly be playing a part in the war’s resurgence.

Surrounded by vengeful spirits and powerful magic, Fenn’s desperate attempt to find his way home might well alter the fate of Tassar, and every power in it. 


Ever since reading L. L. MacRae's novella, The Citrine Key, The Iron Crown has been on my must-read list. So, when I received a message from L.L. MacRae asking if I would like to receive an advanced reading copy of this book to review, I could not move my thumbs fast enough to type the reply that I most definitely would. 

Upon starting the book, I knew I was drawn in, right from the very first page and as I got further into the story, I did not want to leave it alone for a minute, and would find myself disappearing in various parts of the house with my Kindle in hand, trying to see what would happen next, trying to fit in another page, or another chapter on the sly.

You can always tell a good book when you can't wait to pick it up or you find yourelf thinking about what is going to happen next. And that was the case with The Iron Crown. 

The book immediately throws us into the story, as we meet Fenn, struggling for his life in the middle of a bog. However, he has no recollection of how he got there and no memories of the time before the incident in the bog. As he struggles for his life, rescue comes from an unlikely source, the Dragon Spirit, Hassen, the Spirit of Salt Ash. 

At the end of the encounter, the dragon leaves him alive because he finds him 'interesting'. He subsequently meets Jisyel, who has been cursed by Hassen and Calidra. They take pity on his wretched state and take Fenn back to Jisyel's home, an inn owned by her grandmother. 
In the meantime, Calidra has received an invite to return home to attend the funeral of her estranged father. And here we have the springboard for the adventure that is to come. 

There are so many things to like about this book. If you like the found family trope in fantasy, then this is a book for you. L. L. Macrae does this so well. However, what I found interesting in L.L. MacRae's use of the found family aspect was, as more characters join the party, traveling across Bragalia to attend the funeral of Calidra's father, the relationships become more and more fractious, and there is always the underlying tension that the party will fall apart. Initially, the party is comprised of Fenn, Jisyel and Calidra, but this expands to include Delays, a priest of the Dragon Spirit Neros, and Varlot, a former general in the Posenthian Army.

The book is filled with memorable characters. Fenn is the obvious one that drives the story, The mystery of who he is, why he has lost his memories and how he can be cured is the main driver of the story, and I think that one of the appealing things about him is that due to the fact that he has lost his memory and all the aspects of himself, he is a blank slate. He is almost childlike in his innocence and sees the good in people regardless. 

Similarly, with Jisyel. She has an extremely positive personality, despite the affliction of being cursed by Hassen and this counteracts Calidra’s sometimes untrusting and negative view of the world. Varlot, is another matter. I am not quite sure what is going on there. He regularly disappears in the book. Usually visiting taverns and gambling dens, for which he seems to have an addiction to. However, he has reasons, and it is the reason for his behaviour that made him a character that I wanted to get to know more. 

When you look at the characters, they each have endearing qualities, and the more that you get to know them, the more you come to realise that they are broken through events in their life, and it is these experiences that draw each of them together. 

The book is written with multiple points of view, and in all honesty, I couldn’t pick out my favorites, from Fenn to Torsten (an inquisitor in the Iron Queen’s army, who I haven’t discussed, but is an equally intriguing character). About halfway through the book, we are reintroduced to Apollo from The Citrine Key. I really liked Apollo in that novella, and it was brilliant to see how he had progressed from the original story. It was kind of like meeting an old friend.

Now enough of the characters. What you want to know about are the dragons. The Dragons are a prominent feature of the story and go through the book deigning to give the people of Lassar their gift or their curse. I liked the dragons in this book as they seemed didn’t fall into the westernised version of Dragons as terrible flying lizards that terrorise the countryside, eating goats, horse and the odd stray child. To me they seemed to fit more of a Chinese mythological representation of dragons, in that they are more like localised spirits that are attached to either certain areas of land, sea or elements. And these facets give them their own personalities. They each have their own quirks to them. In some instances, they can be fearsome, or wise. At other times, they can be capricious and cruel.

Oh, and as a side note, besides Dragons other magical creatures populate the world. You also get a side helping of Griffins

The world building is rich, and it is cleverly written, in that the world opens up with the story. Initially, it is small and contained as the story starts on the small Isle of Salt, but as the story unfolds, so does the world, to become massive. 

Additionally, the magic system is similar. Whilst not initially overt, you get the feeling that there is more to it and by the end of the book this aspect opens out in a similar fashion to the world building. You get the impression that there is something big happening behind the scenes, but you cannot put your finger on it. However, towards the end of the book we get some tantalising glimpses of it.
Thinking about this book, I have lots of questions.

There seems to me that there is a lot of ambiguity in the story. One of these ambiguities is The Iron Queen herself. I mean, anyone that is called The Iron Queen isn’t going to Miss sweetness and light, but what is her deal? She seems to run the country with tyrannical zeal and yet everybody seems to trust her. And similarly, the Myr! Throughout the book, the people portray them as monsters. However, there are hints that other things are afoot and nothing is as it seems.

I tell you; this book quite plainly and simply has got its hooks into me and I cannot wait to see how the story progresses. 



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