This ARC was given to me for free by the publishing company, in exchange for an unbiased honest review.
Hi! Joanne here! So Ava has absolutely refused to cut down this insane review, so just to let you know, it is TL;DR, and to make your life easier because I had to chop the paragraphs up, I’m using a fleuron (❧) to separate each time Ava changes the subject to talk about a different aspect. Enjoy!
I’m not religious but I thought about taking up church-going just so I could start praying for an early copy of Kingsbane. As it happened, some deity somewhere was smiling upon me and I was sent an ARC by Sourcebooks. But this deity…this deity has a weird sense of humor. I didn’t understand the ride I was in for when I got ahold of Kingsbane. I thought I understood fear, adoration, and shock when I went through the roller-coaster of awesomeness that was Furyborn.
And then. And then. Claire Legrand hits us with Kingsbane. I was recently in the archives of Wikipedia, looking up Aliens information for some reason, and I stumbled upon this quote by David Kehr, who saw Alien in 1979, and then watched Aliens in ’86: “One sequel that surpasses the original.” Now, people loved Alien. But people were SHOOK by Aliens. And, honestly, that’s how I feel about Kingsbane. Sometimes you stumble upon a series that starts strong and stays strong, and you feel lucky. But every so often, you find a series that starts off with a killer book, and somehow just keeps getting better.
I don’t know how Claire Legrand did it. But I’m going to be grateful, always, even as I sit here in a mildly-catatonic state (I finished Kingsbane approximately five minutes ago, and now that I’ve appropriately scream-ranted about the ending at my bewildered roommate, I’m physically capable of writing this review. But don’t mistake me for calm, friends. I’m freaking the fuck out.
Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.
Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.
Book Cover Comments
I don’t know who’s designing the covers for The Empirium Trilogy (Wait I can actually look this up)…..
*2 minutes later*
Nevermind! I now know who’s designing the covers for The Empirium Trilogy: David Curtis, you absolute genius. I loved the Furyborn cover for its expert simplicity; but the Kingsbane cover extrapolates and emphasizes some of the details on that first cover, just like the actual content of the book I might add *har har Ava you’re so smart*, and I’m in love with it.
That red is absolutely gorgeous (even more so in person), and I love the contrast of those black *waves hands* the wiggly-warpy-swirly-dudes I dunno what they’re called, but I love them. The shattering crown is such a beautiful detail, and I love the dark staff in the middle, and the chain links around that center symbol. The more you look at the cover, the more you discover, and I think that’s a really special thing to have been able to create. It’s a gorgeous cover, befitting a gorgeous book.
The Actual Review
The fact that I have to write this without spoiling anything has me sweating. I feel like I have heartburn or something. I simultaneously want to scream into a void (or, in this case, at my poor roommate, who is currently nodding her head in an effort to appease me and the garbled fangirl-speak effusing from my tongue right now), or bite a cement block for no reason beyond the fact that I can’t comprehend the physical world right now.
It’s been a long, long, long time since a book left me in such a state of NFJANJGNWNGAKJENRKJGNKNWJKFNAJFKAFKAKJSFHBASHEIJFWIUHIS. But here I am.
I realize that this is not a great review, but everything I want to scream about would be a spoiler, and I might not be the nicest person on the planet, but I’m not enough of an asshole to ruin the best book of 2019 (nay, this decade) for everyone.
*I took a fifteen minute break wherein I drank some coffee, ate a chocolate croissant, and did some deep breathing exercises*
One of the things I find so fascinating about the Empirium Trilogy is the way Legrand utilizes the prologue to drop hints about stuff and things that happen later on in the book. And you sit there, all high and mighty, thinking you’re some Einstein who’s got it ~all figured out~ and then you actually read the book and you get hit by this wrecking ball of information saying “Haha sucker! You knew merely 20% of the stuff and things!”
I, personally, am an addict for this feeling. I love thinking that I’ve figured something out and then having the rug ripped from under my feet. It’s a George RR Martin-esque feeling, and one that I find so rarely in YA. But I’m pretty sure that Legrand looked upon the word “predictability” at some point in her life and said, “Yeah…this is never going to be a thing for my books.” Her talent when it comes to plot twists, shocking surprises, and near-misses is truly astounding; if you were surprised by Furyborn at any point in the book (and loved that “OMG WUT” feeling), you’re going to be obsessed with Kingsbane. And then you can join me in the asylum where people who finish Kingsbane inevitably have to go live because NFJANJGNWNGAKJENRKJGNKNWJKFNAJFKAFKAKJSFHBADF.
I’m pleased to announce I did not accidentally rip out one of the pages in my efforts to turn them so quickly! I even read Kingsbane slowly so I could savor every juicy sentence from it (5 days to finish a book is almost unheard of for me) And I’m really glad I did, because going slowly really lets this book shine. I love that, despite this massive, glamorous, incredibly rich and detailed world Legrand has created, I’m never confused about where or when the characters are, or how they got there, and so on. It’s a little detail that sometimes gets overlooked in the magic of fantasy, but being grounded in that one way really lets the plot and characters blossom. Kingsbane is a dark book, but there were still moments of hysterical dialogue, and pieces of normalcy while ~shit hit the fan~ that served as constant reminders for what I love so much about this series.
❧Characters: Rielle & Eliana❧
The Empirium Trilogy follows angels and marques, godsbeasts (I named my car Atheria, fight me) and monsters; and at its core, it is achingly human. The imperfect, flawed, broken and scarred characters of Rielle and Eliana are maybe the most beautiful voices I’ve ever read. I don’t mean that to say they’re perfect 25/8; most of the time, they’re stumbling, flailing, and yet throughout the book, they remain so heartbreakingly human, despite the world-sundering power they both have.
It’s not often that I cry over characters, but watching Rielle struggle between the rock of what’s expected of her and the hard place of what she truly wants, really broke my heart. This is a woman who is angry (if you know anything about me, you’ll know I would die for angry women), fierce, hurting, unforgiving, and still so loving. I don’t want to make it sound like Rielle is a person who, at the end of the day, will make what could widely be regarded as The Most Ethical And Morally Correct Choice Because She Loves Some People, but her grayness and her fury all found its place in Kingsbane. Oh, and also in my heart.
Eliana also stole my heart (they all did, I want to marry every single one of these characters. Except for Remy, he’s too young, but I want to be his friend. I’ll be your reading friend, Remy). When reading Furyborn, it took me the longest to get “into” her character, mostly because I am such a hoe for court intrigue, so Rielle’s palace-oriented plot stole the show for me in the beginning.But. By the end of Furyborn, I was also ready to let Eliana step on me, and now she can just good ol’ fashioned do whatever she wants to me. I think Eliana really found her voice in Kingsbane, and by that I don’t mean that she became gloriously stubborn–she’s always been gloriously stubborn.
What I’m trying to say is that the relationship between Eliana and her power (which, similarly to Rielle and her own connection to the empirium, is an actual, tangible relationship), really started to shine. Even as she remains wary of the power she was given because of her mom (who, as we know from the prologue of Furyborn, might not be the Most Stable Person Ever), she starts to discover her own place within her role as the Sun Queen. She makes it her own in a way that I think Rielle struggled with – which is probably why she had such a hard time in Kingsbane (oh, but don’t worry! Eliana also has a hard time in Kingsbane! Claire Legrand spares no one!).
❧Characters: Audric & Simon❧
Someone I want to bring attention to is Audric, who I feel sometimes gets lost behind the hunky glory of our favorite glowerer, Simon. THIS BOY (prince, god [no that’s not a spoiler just my opinion], whatever you want to call him). He freaking deserves the world. And we know, courtesy of Furyborn‘s mindblowing prologue, he doesn’t get it (BRB CRYING). This entire book, even when things were going okay for Audric, I wanted to wrap him in a hug. I love the dark broody Simon types, but there’s something about the sensitive, loyal, dare I say golden-retriever personality that Audric has (and does best) that I just find myself so drawn to.
Also he’s, like, a sex god and that’s?? Never?? A?? Bad Thing?? (Oh, yeah, btw if you loved the schmexiness of Furyborn, you will not be disappointed by the I-better-start-fanning-myself-and-hoping-nobody-looks-over-my-shoulder-because-yeah-I’m-definitely-reading-this-sexy-time-scene-in-public romance of Kingsbane. I get that sex in YA is somewhat of a hot topic, but as a teenage girl, I have to say there’s nothing more valuable than being made aware of the fact that it’s NOT ALL ABOUT THE GUY and YOU DESERVE PLEASURE TOO and CONSENT IS IMPORTANT.
Thanks for coming to my TEDTalk).
Anyway, the book is literally called KINGSbane and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which king that’s in reference to. And *I cry* I just love Audric so much. The friendship between Audric, Rielle, and Ludivine was one of my favorite parts of Furyborn, and while shit definitely hits the fan in Kingsbane, I still found him to be the most supportive, loyal cheerleader Rielle has ever had, and I loved him even more for it.
Simon: Still sexy. Still broody. Still mysterious. There’s a lot that we find out about Simon in Kingsbane, so if you were hoping we’d learn more about The Wolf, you will be delighted by Kingsbane, because we learn a lot. Oh, boy do we learn a lot. I feel like I can’t talk much about Simon, because he’s so important to the story, and anything I say might be a spoiler, so I’m just going to leave it at that. Simon’s still sexy. Simon’s still mysterious. And, yeah, fine, sure, whatever, maybe I have a softspot for the Wolf. Maybe.
Corien: The relationship I have with Corien is complex. I want to scream that I hate him while we get married. Which is messed up, but so is he, so whatever. We do learn more about Corien in Kingsbane, and there are actually a lot of angelic revelations to look forward to! He’s still that Draco Malfoy-type where you’re like “Garrrrrhhhhh why are you so wicked and even worse why is it a turn on.” Like, that’s his character. I don’t know whether to fan myself or punch him in the nose.
And, finally, that ending. Listen, the entirety of Kingsbane is just one giant rollercoaster, a constant ride of HHHHWTFHHHH that leaves your stomach all topsy-turvy. But then Claire Legrand hits us with the ending, and it’s like being ejected from the rollercoaster into open air. Like parachuting without a parachute. I was crying. My roommate was staring at me. I attempted to make myself feel better with a milkshake but even ice cream couldn’t undo that ending. I wish I’d been prepared, y’all. But this is Claire Legrand we’re talking about, so at the end of the day, none of us will ever be prepared.
Legrand still delights with her impeccable world-building (the headings for each chapter, with the journal entries and letters and everything? Those are one of the most underrated parts of these books), and her characters really find their places within the hearts of the readers. There’s drama, suffering, agony–and that’s only on the part of the reader! I couldn’t have asked for a better buildup to the Empirium Trilogy’s finale (I hate saying that, it can never be over).
I don’t even know how I’m expected to wait for book 3. Things like murder and torture are illegal and yet no law is sparing me the agony of having to cool my jets and actually suffer for a whole year. Inconceivable. Even still, Kingsbane was everything I was hoping for and so much more.