The Frozen Crown (Warrior Witch Duology book 1) by Greta Kelly (book review).

February 24, 2021 | By | Reply More

Emperor Radovan has taken six wives, one from each of the nation’s he has conquered. All six have died. Each marriage brought with it a brief moment of peace which shattered as each princess fell to her death from Radovan’s tower. The kingdom of Seravesh is the latest country to be ground under the expansionist heel of the Roven Empire.

Askia is the uncrowned exiled Queen of Seravesh. Her cousin has taken the Frozen Crown and let the Roven Empire occupy her country. Askia will never accept his offer of marriage, even as his fire witch burns city after city and her people turn to ash. Askia needs an army. The remnants of her guard cannot win back her crown and save her people. Her best hope is to leave her people in their suffering and beg an army of her godfather. Thrust into the tangled web of unfamiliar politics Askia must learn quickly to save her people, herself and the world from the mad-Emperor that will have her at any cost.

Why do so many of the female heroes of recent fantasy need to have horrifying torture in their backstory? The boys tend to be orphaned, sometimes that even happens on camera, but that’s not enough for a female to be a protagonist in a classic style fantasy. Heroes of either gender are usually teenagers, often royal, sometimes secretly or at least raised in the halls of power. Never quite handsome, always having some quirk or difference that they fixate on which is revealed to be special and eye catching when in a different locale.

This is particularly the case with girls, where scars are common but never manage to limit their looks. Perhaps to make casting easier when the rights are sold but Hollywood will find a way anyway. ‘The Mortal Engines’ protagonist had facial scars that caused almost physical illness in onlookers but wore a simple eyepatch in the movie.

A young female protagonist is not just orphaned, she is physically tortured, often as part of being orphaned. Friends made in slavery are abused by guards until they are dead in a salt mine (Sarah J Maas). The physical assaults from the men lower the status of their victim and often results in emotional abuse from women due to that social decline. Askia has all these problems. Her mother left her royal position to marry an itinerant healer. When barely into her teens her parents are burnt as witches and terrorists by a powerful male-dominated cult. She only survived due to her resistance to the torture that scarred her body which proved her ‘purity.’

Then she is forced to return to the grandfather her mother abandoned. What makes Askia’s story more than the usual trope-fest is the shades of grey. Rather than good versus evil there are complications, perspectives of what is right that are somewhat believable even from a torturous cult leader.

Beyond the intriguing world of mad-emperors, cults and witches, I like Askia. She might have a tendency to get hot under the hormonal collar more than I would expect, but she’s young and we’re reading from inside her head so allowances can be made. What really sets her apart is that she works for the things that she wants. She fights and trains to protect herself and her people and listens to her advisors. She dusts herself in glitter and plays flirtation politics until she gets better at something she hates and sits up nights honing her witchcraft. She does not languish and just remind the reader that she’s really good at things but swears and swears and gets it done.

I am looking forward to reading the next book because I have some theories about traitors and jewellery that I want to be right about. I really hope that Kelly does not let me down with ‘it was just a coincidence’ or other brush off’. That would lessen the appeal of ‘The Frozen Crown’ for me. Fans of Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Grishaverse’ novels and Emily Duncan’s ‘Wicked Saints’ will appreciate Askia and the challenges she faces as a barbarian princess.

People concerned with the questionable female characters of ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Throne Of Glass’ might want to give this to the overly impressionable teens in their life.

LK Richarson

February 2021

(pub: Harper Voyager, 2021. 384 page hardback. Price: $26.99 (US), $33.50 (CAN), £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-06295-695-8)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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