Cruel Crown

Cruel Crown

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Red Queen. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Cruel Crown is an anthology that was written by Victoria Aveyard and first published in 2016. It collects the short stories Queen Song (2015) and Steel Scars (2016), as well as the first four chapters of Glass Sword. The stories are both set within the universe of the Red Queen, a world where ordinary humans (Reds) are slaved by a race of people with super powers (Silvers). While the short stories are prequels, they are designed to be read between Red Queen (2015) and Glass Sword (2016).

Queen Song reveals entries from the secret diary of Coriane, daughter to the House Jacos and mother of Prince Cal. The story follows her from her early teens, growing up in isolation with only her brother Julian and best friend Sara for company. When she meets Tiberias, heir to the Nortan throne, she finally experiences true happiness. However, as Tibe proposes to her, she finally learns how dangerous Silver society really is.

Steel Scars follows Diana Farley, a young captain in the Scarlet Guard, as she receives her first real mission. Farley’s job is to lead a covert team around Norta, forming a web of contacts that can be trusted to traffic people, arms and secrets behind enemy lines. However, her plans start to derail as she meets a deserter by the name of Shade Barrow. Shade has a secret, one that Farley believes could turn the tide against the Silvers once and for all.

First off, I’d just like to comment again on the reading order of these stories. As I said before, the recommended point to read them is after Red Queen but I’m not sure that I agree with that. While Queen Song does fit after Red Queen, as it further elaborates on Cal’s backstory as revealed in this novel, I think that Steel Scars is actually better read after Glass Sword. While it is Red Queen’s direct prequel, it does also reveal some things that are not mentioned in the main series until the second book. However, the spoilers are minor and won’t ruin too much if you choose to read Steel Scars first.

Of the two stories, I thought that Queen Song was by far the most effective. It tells the story of Cal’s mother, showing her relationship with various significant characters from Red Queen. The short story offers a new perspective on the characters of Julian, Tibe, Sara and Elara by showing them in their youth, from the point of view of a brand new narrator. It’s also the first point when the series has been told from the perspective of a Silver, which I did think would be interesting, however it wasn’t as different as I’d hoped. Coriane is portrayed as being a bit of a Red sympathiser and so isn’t as royalist as the Silvers of Red Queen.

However, Coriane is still a very complex character and I found myself captivated by her story. While the tale was disappointing short and felt a bit rushed in places, it was still a very engaging read. I did feel for Coriane as a character – a girl who wanted to be recognised for her skills and not just her prospects as a wife. Although Red Queen reveals that her story does not end happily, it was fascinating to see the tragedy play out from her own perspective as it emphasised her increasing paranoia and depression.

My only real problem with Queen Song was its ending. While Coriane seemed to be gaining strength and confidence over the course of the short story, she suddenly loses all of this character growth over the last few pages. While this is inevitable to tie in with Red Queen, it still felt incredibly abrupt. I also felt that the story rushed over some of the details and so didn’t entirely make sense in places. The largest incident of this was the fact that it never explained why Coriane’s powers had no effect on Elara. I assume that it’s just because Elara is scarily powerful but this is a guess as the information is never given on page.

I was far less enamoured by Steel Scars. I think this could partially a personal thing as military fiction just isn’t my bag, however I did also feel that the novella didn’t have any substance (despite being almost twice the length of Queen Song. It merely focused on Farley travelling from place to place. There was little action and we didn’t really learn anything new about Farley or the Scarlet Guard beyond what has already been revealed in the main series. It even disregarded some of the things that were raised in Red Queen, such as Farley’s ethnicity. It’s established that she is a Lakelander and therefore looks nothing like the Nortans. Yet she can somehow blend into a Nortan town without anyone noticing? You’d think they’d react to the appearance of one of their country’s enemies.

The story was also broken up by frequent military command memos which I found to be very difficult to understand. While the occasionally refer to the events of Red Queen which run parallel to this story, more often than not they seemed to be relatively insignificant. They were packed with code names (which were often hard to decipher, given that none of the Guard use them while speaking with each other) and references to the deaths of characters that have never appeared on page. Personally, I felt that these memos didn’t really do anything but detract from what was going on which made the story very hard to read.

Farley also seemed very different to how she appeared in the main series. She was younger than I thought (seriously, she’s only twenty-two? I thought she was at least ten years older than that) and is also far less sure of herself. The story also introduced a whole bunch of secondary characters who were largely unimportant. Most of them were killed off page before they could even say a word. This was particularly disappointing with regards to the lesbian couple. Aveyard spent the best part of three pages introducing Indy and talking about her relationship with a fellow Guard, only to have her ignobly killed off in one of the command memos a page later.

Due to the length of this collection, I don’t really have a lot more to say. If you’re a huge fan of the series, I would definitely recommend that you read the stories (particularly Queen Song). However, beyond this, they don’t have a lot of appeal. They’re not a good place to start if you’ve never picked up one of Aveyard’s novels and (obviously) if you didn’t like Red Queen there’s nothing here for you. At least they don’t really offer any new information so you can still fully appreciate the main series without having read either of them.

Cruel Crown can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on

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