Serena’s Review: “The Fiery Crown”

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Book: “The Fiery Crown” by Jeffe Kennedy

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, May 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Conri and Lia’s marriage of convenience has turned into an uneasy alliance. If only the two leaders could agree on something. Driven by revenge, Conri wants to attack Emperor Anure before the tyrant gets to them first. But Lia needs to keep Calanthe safe, and refuses to sacrifice her kingdom. Their ongoing battle for control has built up tension they’re both more than happy to release in bed, the only place where they find common ground. But Conri and Lia are developing deeper feelings for each other that are complicating matters. In the second book in the Forgotten Empires trilogy, Conri and Lia find their loyalties torn, and with Emperor Anure’s threat growing, will they be able to risk everything with each other before it’s too late?

Previously Reviewed: “The Orchid Throne”

Review: While I was late getting around to it, I really enjoyed “The Orchid Throne.” But I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I finally picked it up was because of the growing guilt from my NetGalley shelf glaring at me with this book, the sequel, continuously sitting there as a request I placed waaaaaay back in 2020 that I still hadn’t read or reviewed. Lucky for me, the first book was good enough that it was quite easy to jump back into this world with only a small reading break between novels.

While Conri has technically “claimed the hand that wears the Orchid Ring” by marrying the queen of Calanthe, Lia, he doesn’t feel any closer to his goal of killing the cruel emperor Anure. Instead, he feels bogged down and trapped on a beautiful island where no one seems to be taking the threat of war seriously. Little does he know that no one takes the threat of war more seriously than Calanthe’s queen, Lia. Calanthe holds secrets, and as Conri begins to learn more about the land he now co-rules and the woman he’s now married to, he begins to see that his own view of the world and its priorities may, in fact, be what was misordered all along.

This story picks up immediately where “The Orchid Throne” leaves off. Meaning, Lia and Conri are still only about a week into their new marriage, and as such, are still very much struggling to understand each other and the shifting dynamics that make up their relationship. I really liked everything we got from these two and this marriage of convenience. For one thing, I appreciated the conversation that was had about the fact that attraction and chemistry, while great, do not on their own make a match made in heaven. Indeed, while Conri and Lia both appreciate the sparks in the bedroom, this compatibility makes it all the more bemusing when they butt heads again and again in other arenas. Particularly, I enjoyed the continued look at how both Conri and Lia approach leadership and their conflicting priorities. We also see how easy it is to misunderstand another person’s motives and motivations, especially when we switch perspectives between the two and see one scene interpreted very differently between them both.

I also liked their individual stories. For Lia, she must grapple with the balance between strength and vulnerability, private and public, and how to navigate ruling a land and planning a way with a man she only halfway trusts. For Conri, we see his ongoing struggles to continue a mission that he had created his entire self of sense around while at the same time grappling with the idea that his approach, to care about nothing but the mission, may not be the strength he thought it was, but instead, a weakness.

I was also surprised by the second act of this book. While the first half is concerned with a lot of this character work that I’ve been describing, the second one really gets going on the action front. The first book was pretty light on this stuff, and I had gone into this one not expecting much conflict until the third and final book in the trilogy. Boy, oh, boy was I wrong! We have battles, we have blood, we have, yes, even death. It was pretty non-stop there at the end, and I enjoyed it all.

I really have very few qualms about this story. I don’t know if it’s doing anything particularly masterful, but then again, why should it? It’s a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy story with two very sympathetic leading characters. This book also set up a lot of pretty big world events that will need to be dealt with in the third book, and I’m very excited to see how this all gets wrapped up. If you enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, this is definitely a solid sequel that’s sure to please.

Rating 8: An intriguing look into the intricacies of a new marriage, where the person you love most can also be the person you least understand.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Fiery Crown” can be found on this Goodreads list: Upcoming 2020 SFF with female leads or co-leads

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