The Crowns of Croswald
Standalone or series
Series (first book in the series)
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
I love magical fantasy stories and would be keen to find a new series to sink into, so when a PR for the publisher contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reading on NetGalley Ithought it was worth a try. I’d never heard of it before the message, but I if I’d found it via a bookshop or Amazon it’s exactly the kind of book I would pick up.
Review copy or purchase
Review copy via publisher Stories Untold and NetGalley UK in exchange for an honest review.
What it’s about
Ivy Lovely is a maid working with the kitchen dragons in the basement of the most unmagical castle you ever saw. She dreams of a very different kind of castle and a mysterious man who seems to suggest another life for her. Ivy enjoys talking to her best friend Rimbrick the dwarf who entertains her with stories about life beyond the slurry fields which surround the castle where she lives, where the Dark Queen rules overall and the magically inclined study at the Halls of Ivy school. After an accident in the kitchen Ivy is fired and flees the slurry fields straight into a travelling admissions office for the Halls of Ivy who say that Ivy has magic in her blood and should be trained up as a Scrivenist (a writer of magic who is assigned to a royal family to assist them). Ivy’s adventures at school reveal more about her life than Ivy every knew, including why the Dark Queen is after her.
Let’s get one thing clear from the start. This is the story of a young orphan who escapes a life of domestic servitude and bullying only to discover their magical heritage in a special school. Yes, that has very clear parallels with the stories of an internationally known wizard. However, just as there were magic stories before Mr Potter, there can be magic stories after him, and the adventures of Ivy Lovely can and should be considered on their own merits.
When we meet Ivy she is working in a very anti-magical castle. At 17 years old she has not been beyond the slurry field boundary of the castle, and only leaves the kitchens to lie on a hill at night after work is done sketching pictures of the different castle which haunts her dreams and listening to stories from best friend Rimbrick the dwarf.
When Ivy finally leaves the slurry fields, fleeing an angry cook, she is immediately picked up by the travelling admissions office for the Halls of Ivy school of magical learning. Ivy’s life changes overnight as she takes magical classes, including secret lessons with an old man who lives in a hidden room in the castle. She gets caught up in mishaps and misadventures as planned lessons seem to change around her and teachers – including the head of the school – behave suspiciously.
The author D.E. Night clearly has a lot of ambitions for Ivy’s world, and it’s clear this first book in the series is setting up a bigger story universe. Unfortunately, in the bid to capture all these ideas and hint at a bigger backstory this book suffers.
We seem to skip through a lot of key information. Ivy seems to know things without ever learning them, and a lot of assumptions are made about the reader’s knowledge to skip over some gaping plot points. For example at one point towards the climax of the story the narrative says Ivy’s ‘electric energy’ reacts to a situation. Electric energy has literally never been mentioned in relation to Ivy at any other point in the story (I used the app’s search function to look for the phrase). Even the word electric was only used twice before, and neither time was it about Ivy or any other character’s ability.
These frustrating gaps or crammed in knowledge made for quite a disjointed story, leaving me in no hurry to explore Ivy’s further adventures.